bee-eater in the Kruger

15 Birds of the Kruger National Park

I like birds as much as the next person, but I am not a Birder with a capital B. In fact, I’ve been known to make fun of Birders occasionally. (Sorry, Birder friends. You make me laugh sometimes.)

I did, however, catch a hint of birding fever on my recent Kruger trip, and came away with more bird pictures than I know what to do with.

Lilac-breasted rollerThe lilac-breasted roller, one of the most common birds in the Kruger and also one of the most beautiful.

So I’ve decided to throw them all into a blog post. If you’re a serious South African Birder, you won’t find any dramatic surprises here. Most of the birds pictured are common in the Kruger. But I think you’ll find the photos pleasing all the same.

15 Birds of the Kruger

I’ll start with the birds we saw most often and work my way up to the rarer sightings.

1) Glossy starling

Glossy starling birds of the KrugerA glossy starling waits patiently for crumbs at the table outside our chalet.

Glossy starlings, or greater blue-eared starlings, are all over the Kruger, especially in the rest camps where they are prolific scavengers of human food. They’re very naughty and also ridiculously beautiful.

2) Southern yellow-billed hornbill

Yellow-billed hornbill - birds of the KrugerA southern yellow-billed hornbill, also viewed at a rest camp.

Similar to glossy starlings, yellow-billed hornbills love to hang out at rest camps and beg for food. They are hard to resist because they’re so damn cute. (I did resist though, as humans should never feed animals in the Kruger. More on that in a future post.)

3) Francolin

Francolin in KrugerI think this is a Natal francolin but it could also be a crested francolin. Corrections are welcome, Birders.

Francolins are all over the park; in fact it’s quite a challenge to avoid running them over in the road because they rarely fly and don’t move out of the way very fast. I snapped a picture of this one because it’s unusual to see a francolin in a tree.

4) Guineafowl

Guinea fowlSimilar to the francolin, I liked this particular gunieafowl because it was in a tree.

I love guineafowl. They also love to hang out in the road. We have them in Joburg too, on the Melville Koppies.

5) Lilac-breasted roller

Lilac-breasted rollerLilac-breasted rollers love to sit still in trees right next to the road, which makes them a dream to photograph.

Lilac-breasted rollers look totally different from every angle. They’re most amazing when they fly off and flash the cerulean blue undersides of their wings.

6) African fish eagle

African fish eagleThe African fish eagle, most noble of the Kruger birds.

African fish eagles are easy to spot in the Kruger but that doesn’t make them any less magnificent. If you’re lucky, you might even catch one with a fish in its talons.

7) Kori bustard

Kori bustards in KrugerThese birds are so freaking cool-looking.

Kori bustards are the heaviest flying birds in Africa. I think they’re really beautiful although they’re always hanging out in tall grass so it’s hard to catch a glimpse of their whole bodies.

8) Ostrich

Not the sharpest photo, but I kind of like the impressionist painting vibe. And look at that face!

We saw quite a few ostriches, always from a distance, but this one actually ran toward us down the middle of the road. Ostriches don’t fly.

9) Burchell’s Coucal

Burchells Coucal - birds of the KrugerThis Burchell’s coucal, also called a rainbird, is a bit scruffy looking but they are beautiful birds.

We have Burchell’s coucals in Joburg but I’ve never managed to see one, although I’ve heard their beautiful calls. We saw lots of them in the Kruger. Some people say they like to call just before it rains; I supposed that’s why they’re also called rainbirds.

10) Southern ground hornbill

Southern ground-hornbillSouthern ground hornbills, true to their name, stick close to the ground.

We spotted quite a few southern ground hornbills — I think they possess an interesting combination of ugliness and beauty — throughout the trip. (Again, southern ground hornbills are difficult to photograph through the tall grass they frequent.)

11) White-backed vulture

Whitebacked vulturesVultures hover above the scene of a lion hunt.

White-backed vultures perched in a tree are often a sign that an animal has been killed nearby. It’s easy to go speeding past the vultures, looking for the kill, but the vultures are beautiful and fascinating in their own right. They are also critically endangered.

12) Yellow-billed stork

Yellow-billed storksYellow-billed storks hanging out at their nest.

The yellow-billed stork would make a great cartoon character. Look at the size of that nest!

13) African scops owl

African scops owl at Satara Rest CampAn African scops owl who lives at the Satara Rest Camp in central Kruger. It steadfastly refused to open its eyes, despite the crowd of people taking photos of it.

As the South Africans say, owls are my best. I’ve never met an owl I didn’t love and this little African scops owl, who was perched in a tree just outside Satara Rest Camp reception, was no exception.

14) Dark chanting goshawk

Dark chanting goshawkA dark chanting goshawk (I think) with its head turned all the way around to the back of its body.

Ray and I were quite proud of our dark chanting goshawk sighting; it was the last bird we spotted before leaving the park, on a side road leading to a watering hole. We’re 90% sure it was a dark chanting goshawk, although according to our book it looks very similar to a gabar goshawk.

15) White-fronted bee-eater

White-fronted bea-eaterI saved this photo for last because it’s my favorite.

The white-fronted bee-eater is such a lovely little bird, and this one posed so nicely for us right next to the car window. We spotted it in a forested area in the Pafuri region of the Kruger, in the very far north of the park. Definitely my favorite bird of the week.

These photos represent only a fraction of the number of birds we saw over the course of the week, but birds are hard to photograph and I don’t have the patience of a true Birder. Maybe I’ll get more bird-serious on our next trip.

For anyone curious, I shot all of these pictures with my Canon EOS 6D and a Canon 70-300mm f4-5.6 lens.

One more Kruger post to come.

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  • Reply Tenney Mason August 8, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    Wow. Great photos. I think you are much more of a birder than you realize.

    • Reply 2summers August 8, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      Perhaps you’re right. Birding is very contagious.

  • Reply Mr Bunny Chow August 8, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    My father is a professional birder and occasional blogger I make fun of him too

    • Reply 2summers August 8, 2017 at 3:09 pm

      Hahaha. I’ll check out his blog!

  • Reply Expatorama August 8, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    I’m going to send a link to your post to my MIL back in the UK, she’s a birder with a capital B and is particularly taken with the birds here in SA, it will make her day.

    • Reply 2summers August 8, 2017 at 3:32 pm

      Aw, thanks. I hope she enjoys it.

  • Reply autumnashbough August 9, 2017 at 3:10 am

    I love how colorful so many of the birds! In SoCal, we have exactly 1 colorful type of blue jay and 1 yellow western oriole. Every year I wait to see Mr. Fussy Yellow Oriole arrive back from Mexico and splash in my fountain. 🙂

    • Reply 2summers August 9, 2017 at 8:36 am

      Haha. Well it must be super exciting when he finally shows up! But yes, it’s really incredible how many colorful birds we have here, especially in places like Kruger. There are a ton of beautiful ones right here in Joburg too.

  • Reply Lani August 13, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Auhhhh-mazing! Thanks for the bird tour!

    • Reply 2summers August 13, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      Thanks. African birds really are pretty amazing 🙂

  • Reply Antón David Pérez Rodríguez November 8, 2017 at 10:33 am

    Hi! You got the francolin right 🙂 The starling in turn is a greater blue-eared one, not a Cape one. There are Cape starlings in Kruger as well, but the GBES are the most abundant ones. They look painfully similar, though, but one can easily see in yours the telltaling dark ear patch.
    Also, your owl looks quite similar to mine; even the branch 😉

    • Reply 2summers November 9, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      Hmm, yes, could that be the same owl?

      Thanks for the correction 🙂

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