As the country’s only dedicated bird conservation NGO, it is important for BirdLife South Africa to keep in touch with the public and inform them about important bird conservation matters.

BirdLife South Africa therefore distributes a free, monthly electronic newsletter to its members and other interested people. The newsletter contains interesting articles about birds, BirdLife South Africa’s work, and other relevant information.

If you would like to receive this attractive and informative e-newsletter, all you need to do is it provide us with your contact details by completing the subscription form.

If you wish to submit an article or if you would like copies of previous issues of the e-newsletter, please contact BirdLife South Africa on email

Birding Big Day 2018 – Registrations Open!


Registration for Birding Big Day 2018 is now open. BBD 2018 will be held on Saturday 24 November 2018. BBD is all about enjoying the wonderful bird diversity we have in South Africa and to raise funds for conservation.


For more information about BBD please visit


The link to the BirdLasser online map: 


We will post regular updates on the Facebook events page: (


For more information about BirdLasser please see or email them at


IBA team meeting


As members of the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) team are scattered around South Africa, the annual team meeting is a great platform for getting to know each other better and exchanging and discussing ideas. Last month the IBA team, together with the Advocacy Programme team, held the meeting and breakaway at Kurisa Moya ( in Magoebaskloof.


Team members made presentations on the status of their projects and as a group they talked about various challenges they face and workshopped potential solutions. Such challenges included trying to get better political buy-in for the IBA’s work and influencing policies to help provide incentives for landowners to engage in conservation activities on their properties.


The team is striving to work more effectively across programmes and with conservation NGOs, including in our new partnership with Conservation Outcomes. Its successes since the last meeting were also celebrated: 21 000ha within IBA project sites have been secured as private protected areas and another 31 000ha have been designated conservation areas in the past year.


Team-building was an element of the meeting and there’s no better way to achieve it than by birding, on this occasion in the beautiful indigenous forests of the Wolkberg Forest Belt IBA where forest specials such as Knysna Turaco, Black-fronted Bush-shrike and Olive Woodpecker were seen. The team returned home energised, inspired and ready for another year of working to protect South Africa’s important bird habitats.



African Birdlife magazine


Readers of the September/October issue of African Birdlife will find a sober – and sobering – account by Peter Ryan of the effects of plastic pollution, especially on birds. It’s a subject that Peter has studied for much of his adult life and one that is now firmly in the world conservation spotlight.


Also in this issue are articles on drongo and white-eye identification, the African Fish Eagles of Lake Naivasha and, closer to home, the Swift Terns of the V&A Waterfront, and the kingfisher–mangrove connection – as well as the usual crop of competitions, news, sightings, SABAP2 and more.

Conservation leaders: the next generation


The development of human capital has increasingly become a concern for the conservation community in South Africa. How do we ensure that there are enough well-qualified, suitably experienced and passionate people to continue to carry the flame for biodiversity conservation in this country? This is the question the current leaders of conservation organisations have begun to ask themselves.


Enter the new IUCN Tomorrow’s Leaders Today initiative, which forms part of the response to this question and aims to develop young conservationists and teach them new skills so that they are ready for the rigours of leadership. The IUCN partner organisations were asked to nominate potential candidates and from these a core group of 22 participants was selected. The first and perhaps most important consideration was that this group represented the demographics of South Africa, embodying the transformation which all are hoping for, both in our country and within the environmental sector.


The four-day workshop included sessions where participants were pulled out of their comfort zone and expressed their visions for the future of the environment through acting or dance. Another session focused on the biggest drivers of change for humanity and how these may impact conservation. One particularly interesting session involved the participants asking the workshop leaders what they felt were the toughest challenges facing biodiversity conservation. Transformation of the sector, overcoming conflict and improving collaboration, and how to rise above politics were some of the issues discussed.


The workshop’s loosely structured programme created a ‘safe space’ that allowed us to delve into these hard questions without prejudice or emotion, which a good leader will no doubt be required to do. The cherry on the top was that the young leaders were asked to imagine how this programme should be developed, thereby charting the course for our own development.


It was a privilege to have been given a few days to step away from the duties in which we are all ensconced and to consider the bigger picture for conservation in South Africa. Strangers left the workshop as friends, confident in a bright future for the conservation of our nation’s natural heritage.












Images by Kristi Garland and David Mbuza

Searching for snake eagles


From 23 October to 4 November, Dr Melissa Whitecross, Threatened Species Project Manager for the Terrestrial Bird Conservation Programme, led a survey team comprising BirdLife South Africa-trained community guide Sphamandla Junior Gabela and volunteer Caroline Howes to the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal in search of Southern Banded Snake Eagles. The survey forms part of BirdLife South Africa’s work to conserve this species, which was uplisted to Critically Endangered in South Africa during the production of The 2015 Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.


Since the original type specimen was collected near Durban and first described to science by Johan Jakob Kaup in 1850, the Southern Banded Snake Eagle has experienced a large range contraction. Today, the most southerly limit at which the species is regularly seen is the Tugela River mouth, although individuals are occasionally observed south of this location.


Southern Banded Snake Eagles forage in the ecotone between indigenous coastal forest and lowland grasslands. An individual will perch overlooking a patch of coastal grassland and swoop down to catch prey, which may be a snake, lizard or frog, or occasionally a rodent. Once the prey has been caught, the bird retreats into the cover of the dense forest canopy. Since much of the coastal and sand forest along the northern coastal plain of KwaZulu-Natal has been transformed into sugar cane fields, plantations and human settlements, ecotones between coastal forest and grasslands have been lost, leading to a decline in the species.


Dr Shane McPherson led the previous Southern Banded Snake Eagle survey for BirdLife South Africa and identified a nest site within one of the natural forest patches that snake their way through the Mtunzini plantation owned by Mondi. This discovery has guided the BirdLife South Africa team to investigate whether plantations can be utilised as a conservation space for raptors, especially the Southern Banded Snake Eagle.


BirdLife South Africa is working to understand whether Southern Banded Snake Eagles are persisting across this landscape of transformed habitats. By partnering with Forestry South Africa, the team is surveying several plantations owned mainly by Sappi, Mondi and SiyaQhubeka to assess the presence and diversity of raptors within the composite of plantation and natural forest along the northern KwaZulu-Natal coastline. In addition to searching for Southern Banded Snake Eagles, the survey team managed to atlas 22 full protocol cards for the Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) in several pentads that had received little coverage. A full summary of its atlasing efforts can be read at The team successfully located several Southern Banded Snake Eagles and has learnt a lot about the ecology and history of the area. The survey is planned for a total of three years and Melissa is currently analysing the data collected in order to develop ecological niche models for the Southern Banded Snake Eagle in southern Africa.

BirdLife South Africa has also partnered with Eskom through the Ingula Partnership to understand how to mitigate the threat of electrocution to perching Southern Banded Snake Eagles. Owing to the loss of the ecotone of coastal forest and grassland, many raptors have taken to perching on power-line infrastructure and are at risk of electrocution if the line is not sufficiently insulated. BirdLife South Africa and Eskom are coming up with cost-effective strategies to reduce this electrocution risk within the protected area network of northern KwaZulu-Natal.


A big thank you must go to Sphamandla Junior Gabela, whom we dubbed ‘Mr Eagle-eyes’, for his enthusiasm and dedication during the survey. Junior was trained by BirdLife South Africa through our community guides programme and has a wealth of knowledge about the birds of Zululand. We highly recommend getting in touch with him if you are visiting the Zululand region; his ability to find the special birds of the region is unparalleled.


For more information about Junior, go to



Selçuk Aslan, the Seabird Project Officer (Doğa, BirdLife Turkey), gives the opening address of the observer workshop in Foça, Turkey. Credit: Bronwyn Maree