Free State National Botanical Garden

About the Birding

Over 150 birds have been recorded in the Free State National Botanical Garden. Common species include African Red-eyed Bulbul, Malachite Sunbird, Karoo Thrush, Orange River White-eye and White-bellied Sunbird. The dam in the Garden provides important refuge for aquatic birds such as the Little Grebe, African Darter, cormorants, herons and ducks.

A series of signposted walking trails traverse the Garden to the wooded koppies, up onto the rocky outcrops with vistas that overlook the garden, and back down to the dam, the bird hide and open lawns. This bird hide is situated alongside the Garden dam at the bottom of the Garden View Hiking Trail.

Malachite Sunbird is attracted not only to flowering wild dagga (Leonotis leonoris) clumps during autumn (which may also attract Dusky Sunbirds in winter), but also to flowering aloe species on the hills and other flowering species in the gardens in winter. Karoo Scrub-Robin, Layard’s Tit-Babbler (Warbler), Long-billed Crombec, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Grey-backed Cisticola and Fairy Flycatcher may be seen from the well laid-out paths in the hilly areas. Ashy Tit and Common Scimitarbill are also occasionally encountered.

Waterbirds recorded at the dams and along the stream include Goliath Heron (occasionally observed on the small island in the larger dam), Purple Heron (in reeds), White-faced and Yellow-billed Duck and Little Grebe. Levaillant’s Cisticola, African Reed-Warbler, Common Waxbill and bishops are common in the reedbeds and long grass. African Paradise-Flycatcher may be found near the hide and Icterine Warbler may be heard singing in bush clumps in cultivated gardens in late summer.

See also De Swardt DH 2013 A comparative analysis of SABAP2 data for the Free State National Botanical Gardens and the Valley of Seven Dams Conservancy, Ornithological Observations, Vol 5:1-8 for further reading.

Key species:

African Red-eyed Bulbul, Malachite Sunbird, Karoo Thrush, Layard’s Tit-Babbler (Warbler), Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Grey-backed Cisticola, Ashy Tit, Common Scimitarbill, Fairy Flycatcher and Long-billed Crombec

About the Birding Site

The Free State National Botanical Gardens (FSNBG) represent one of South Africa’s botanical gardens managed under the auspices of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), with the primary aim to conserve a unique habitat, cultivate indigenous plant species and foster an appreciation for indigenous plant life amongst the general public.

The Gardens include three main birding habitats: cultivated gardens interspersed with natural bush clumps separated by grass lawns; northern hilly topography with indigenous vegetation, dominated by beautiful wild olive, karee and sagewood trees; and a drainage line with a large dam and a smaller dam along a stream, which separates the natural dolerite koppies (rocky outcrops) from the cultivated garden. This stream also drains part of the Valley of Seven Dams Conservancy to the east and south-east, bordering the suburbs of Pentagon Park and Hillsboro. The garden, on the outskirts of Bloemfontein, covers 70 hectares and spans a valley where native plant species, primarily from the Free State, Northern Cape and Lesotho are cultivated in the Garden, all set against a stunning woodland backdrop. Natural vegetation types present in the FSNBG include Winburg Grassy Shrubland (dominated by the wild olive, guarris, spike thorns, star-apple and karees) and Bloemfontein Karroid Shrubland (dominated by dwarf small-leaved karroid and succulent shrubs.

Key species:

African Red-eyed Bulbul, Malachite Sunbird, Karoo Thrush, Layard’s Tit-Babbler (Warbler), Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Grey-backed Cisticola, Ashy Tit, Common Scimitarbill, Fairy Flycatcher and Long-billed Crombec

Other Related Information

Access and facilities:
The Gardens are situated on the northern outskirts of Bloemfontein and are accessed via Rayton Road; directions are well signposted.
GPS Coordinates: -29.052970, 26.211780Directions to the garden and Free State National Botanical Garden’s map can be downloaded here:
https://www.sanbi.org/gardens/free-state/garden-information/garden-maps/

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
Admission costs and operational hours
https://www.sanbi.org/gardens/free-state/visitor-information/information/

The garden is a haven for other wildlife too, including 54 reptile species and about 32 mammal species.
Full bird-, reptile-, mammal-, and plant list for the Free State National Botanical Garden can be downloaded here:
https://www.sanbi.org/gardens/free-state/wildlife-and-biodiversity-4/

Entrance fee is payable (unless you Botanical Society member). The Zizi Restaurant is open Tuesday to Sunday.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
No Birder Friendly Establishments are currently available in the Bloemfontein area. However, a diverse array of accommodation options are available in Bloemfontein to suit all budgets and requirements.

Local guide information:
No Birder Friendly Tour Operators or local guides are currently available in the Bloemfontein area.

Text prepared by:
Dawie de Swart
Martin Benadie | Specialist Birding Guide

Key species:

African Red-eyed Bulbul, Malachite Sunbird, Karoo Thrush, Layard’s Tit-Babbler (Warbler), Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Grey-backed Cisticola, Ashy Tit, Common Scimitarbill, Fairy Flycatcher and Long-billed Crombec

Contact details:

Free State National Botanical Garden
Tel: +27 (0)51 436 3530/3612
Email: FSNBG@sanbi.org.za
Website: https://www.sanbi.org/gardens/free-state/

Download Checklist