When you think of birding and great birding spots, the Karoo may not immediately spring to mind. Yet this arid region in the south-western part of South Africa has a rich avian diversity, with some endemic species that do not occur anywhere else in the world, and form a part of South Africa’s unique heritage.
The Karoo comprises of the Hantam mountains and the escarpment of the Great Karoo, which can be covered in snow in the winter, to the grasslands of Bushmanland, with Fynbos in the south, the dry Tankwa, the flowering glory of Namaqualand and deserts to the north.
It stretches from the Orange River in the East to the Atlantic Ocean in the West, a region of extremes and stark differences.
It is particularly rich in bird species for such an arid area, with over 407 bird species recorded in the Karoo, 294 of which are considered typical for the region as recorded by WRJ Dean in 1995.
Magic Hills Private Collection is situated in the Nama-Karoo region, which is one of two distinctly different biomes in the Karoo. It is a vast open arid area dominated by low shrub vegetation, rocky mountains and valleys.
There are 10 endemic bird species that occur in the Karoo and nowhere else in the world, species like the Karoo Korhaan, Sclater’s Lark, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler and Karoo Eremomela, which are guaranteed to entice keen birders to come and visit to see these “lifers”.
Large amounts of nomadic birds move in and out of the rainfall areas and there is also a variety of arid-zone species that share their distribution range in the Karoo. It boasts high species richness in larks. Although they are often overlooked because of their drab brown colours, they have beautiful calls that can easily be told apart.
Resident birds often become habituated round human habitats with Familiar Chats, Karoo Scrub Robins and Mountain Wheatear seldom far from the camps and lodges.
With your binoculars you can scour the shrubland and rocky hills for large raptors like the Martial and Verreax’s Eagle, the stately endemic Ludwig’s Bustard and the elegant Blue Crane, South Africa’s national bird.
In the seasonal dams and pans you will spot large congregations of ducks, flamingos and spoonbills while migrant waders like Curlew Sandpiper, Ruffs and Greenshanks trot along the water’s edge.
Moving further afield to add to your bird list, you can find many water birds along the Orange River and where the Karoo meets the ocean on the West Coast, you can attempt to finish off your birding list with a large variety of coastal birds. Magic Hills Private Collection forms part of the many landholders in the Karoo that are the true custodians of the landscape, which provides a home for the unique Karoo birds that occur here.