John White
by on October 8, 2019
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The rare birds of Kruger National Park is a list of South African species that are generally only seen in Kruger National Park. For example, 2,956 of the 2,981 (99%) of Yellow-billed Oxpecker sightings were seen in Kruger National Park. So, it’s safe to say that Kruger is the place to visit if you want a good chance to tick the Yellow-billed Oxpecker on your life list. Although some of these species may be commonly seen in Kruger National Park, all of them will not be commonly seen anywhere else in South Africa.

The lists are compiled from over 13 million SABAP2 records and are divided into two components. The first is a list of birds that are uncommonly seen outside of Kruger but pretty commonly seen within the park. The second is a list of species that are rarely seen in South Africa but when they are, most sightings of them are in Kruger National Park. It is this second list that will be the focus of the article as these are difficult birds to see even for those of us who have visited Kruger multiple times.

List 1: Birds not often seen outside of Kruger but commonly seen in Kruger

Common Name SA Count KNP Count KNP %
Yellow-billed Oxpecker 2,981 2,956 99%
Mosque Swallow 1,852 1,825 99%
Brown-headed Parrot 8,282 8,033 97%
Greater Blue-eared Starling 10,150 9,706 96%
White-crowned Lapwing 2,344 2,219 95%
Hooded Vulture 3,315 3,130 94%
White-headed Vulture 1,890 1,746 92%
Saddle-billed Stork 5,083 4,552 90%
Steppe Eagle 478 426 89%
Southern Ground Hornbill 4,300 3,795 88%
Mourning Collared Dove 3,324 2,927 88%
Bateleur 15,861 13,748 87%
Northern Carmine Bee-eater 3,314 2,670 81%
Stierling's Wren-Warbler 2,739 2,165 79%
Square-tailed Nightjar 1,982 1,545 78%
African Barred Owlet 1,184 922 78%
Dusky Lark 887 684 77%
Tawny Eagle 7,219 5,393 75%
Lesser spotted eagle 1,460 1,089 75%
Retz's Helmetshrike 3,183 2,309 73%
Verreaux's Eagle-Owl 2,927 2,120 72%
Senegal Lapwing 1,440 1,027 71%
Ethiopian Boubou 2,112 1,504 71%
Dark Chanting Goshawk 2,033 1,441 71%
African Scops Owl 4,181 2,950 71%
Marabou stork 5,323 3,735 70%
Lappet-faced vulture 3,642 2,543 70%

List 2: Birds rarely seen in South Africa but mostly seen in Kruger National Park

Common Name SA Count KNP Count KNP %
Northern Wheatear 12 12 100%
Egyptian vulture 4 4 100%
Southern Hyliota 5 5 100%
Miombo Blue-eared Starling 3 3 100%
African Hobby 1 1 100%
Racket-tailed Roller 167 166 99%
Dickinson's Kestrel 129 128 99%
Böhm's Spinetail 273 269 99%
Arnot's chat 171 166 97%
Pennant-winged nightjar 128 124 97%
Orange-winged Pytilia 78 73 94%
Mottled Spinetail 141 120 85%
African Golden Oriole 81 67 83%
Three-banded Courser 320 263 82%
Senegal Coucal 162 129 80%
Collared Palm Thrush 13 10 77%
Madagascan Cuckoo 7 5 71%

 

Where are these rare birds (List 2) normally seen within Kruger National Park?

Most of the birds in List 2 are normally seen in the far North of Kruger in the in the Makuleke Contract Park and Pafuri section of the park that lies between the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers. See the sighting locations for each species at the bottom of the post.

Heatmap of birds rarely seen in South Africa but mostly seen in Kruger National Park
Heatmap of birds rarely seen in South Africa but mostly seen in Kruger National Park

 

Visiting the Makuleke Contract Park and Pafuri section of Kruger

The only issue with visiting this area of Kruger is there are only two rest camps in the area, Pafuri Camp and The Outpost, both of which are pretty expensive private camps.

You can drive through from Punda Maria Rest Camp, however, private vehicles are not permitted on the dirt roads to the North of the main road to Pafuri Gate. The only vehicles allowed on these roads (with the best birding in my opinion) are the Pafuri Camp and The Outpost safari vehicles. My wife and I stayed at The Outpost as part of our honeymoon and were lucky enough to get a sighting of the Bohm’s Spinetail and the Dickinson’s Kestrel – definitely worth the money!

Bohm’s Spinetail in the North of Kruger National Park
Bohm’s Spinetail in the North of Kruger National Park

 

Dickenson’s Kestrel in the North of Kruger National Park
Dickenson’s Kestrel in the North of Kruger National Park

 

What is SABAP2 (aka Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2)?

“SABAP2 is a citizen science project that is driven by the energy of several hundred volunteers who are mapping the distribution of birds across several southern African countries. SABAP2 is the follow-up project to the Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), which took place from 1987-1991. The second bird atlas project started on 1 July 2007 and is still growing. The project aims to map the distribution and relative abundance of birds in southern Africa and includes: South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, eSwatini, Zimbabwe, Zambia. To gather data, volunteers select a geographical ‘pentad’ on a map and record all the bird species seen within a set time frame, in order of species seen. This information is uploaded to the SABAP2 database and is used for research and analysis by several different agencies, including the South African National Biodiversity Institute, BirdLife South Africa, as well as academics and students at various universities.” ADU

 

How did I generate these lists from the SABAP2 data?

The purpose of the analysis was to see which South African bird species are almost exclusively seen within Kruger National Park. To do this I downloaded the latest SABAP2 data from GBIF.org (7 October 2019) GBIF Occurrence Download https://doi.org/10.15468/dl.9k98vu, all 13 million records of it! Working with this much data is not a simple task so I had to import the 6.7GB csv file into a database and manipulate the data from there.

The first step in compiling the lists was to count the number of SABAP2 observations of each species in South Africa. The second step was to count the number of SABAP2 observations for each species in Kruger National Park. The third step was to simply divide the number of Kruger observations by the number of South African observations to find the proportion of observations originating from Kruger. For example, SABAP2 has 129 records for Dickinson's Kestrel and 128 of these records are from the Northern sections of Kruger National Park.

 

What about the rest of the countries in the Southern African Region?

The SABAP2 dataset that I used only includes observations from South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. No observations were included from Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe or Mozambique. So, if you are prepared to travel out of South Africa, then some of the species in these lists (especially the second list) may be easier to see elsewhere in Southern Africa. If, however, you are working on maximising your South African life list, then the ‘Birds rarely seen in South Africa but mostly seen in Kruger National Park’ list will be a good place to focus your attention.

 

Heatmaps of rare bird sightings (List 2) within Kruger National Park

Heatmap of Racket-tailed Roller sightings in Kruger National Park
Racket-tailed Roller sightings in Kruger National Park

 

Heatmap of Dickinson's Kestrel sightings in Kruger National Park
Dickinson's Kestrel sightings in Kruger National Park

 

Heatmap of Böhm's spinetail sightings in Kruger National Park
Böhm's spinetail sightings in Kruger National Park

 

Heatmap of Arnot's chat sightings in Kruger National Park
Arnot's chat sightings in Kruger National Park

 

Heatmap of Pennant-winged nightjar sightings in Kruger National Park
Pennant-winged nightjar sightings in Kruger National Park

 

Heatmap of Orange-winged Pytilia sightings in Kruger National Park
Orange-winged Pytilia sightings in Kruger National Park

 

Heatmap of Mottled Spinetail sightings in Kruger National Park
Mottled Spinetail sightings in Kruger National Park

 

Heatmap of African Golden Oriole sightings in Kruger National Park
African Golden Oriole sightings in Kruger National Park

 

Heatmap of Three-banded Courser sightings in Kruger National Park
Three-banded Courser sightings in Kruger National Park

 

Heatmap of Senegal Coucal sightings in Kruger National Park
Senegal Coucal sightings in Kruger National Park

 

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