The diversity of the region is linked to the region’s climatic and associated habitat diversity. The Soutpansberg Mountains receive high annual rainfall and are blanketed in well-developed tracts of indigenous forest. These forests support a wealth of sought-after specials including the Blue-spotted Wood Dove, African Broadbill, Eastern Nicator, Gorgeous Bush Shrike, Orange Ground Thrush, Crested Guineafowl and Barratt’s Warbler. To the north, the climate is noticeably more seasonal and the habitat is drier in these parts, dominated by Baobab country, extensive mopane woodlands, and South Africa’s only known patch of Brachystegia woodland. Top specials within these areas include the Mottled Spinetail, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Meves’s Starling, Three-banded Courser, and Southern Hyliota. The region is drained by the Limpopo River (and its tributaries), along which it is possible to find the sought-after Pel’s Fishing Owl, Saddle-billed Stork, and White-crowned Lapwing while its extensive floodplains support a wealth of waterbirds and the localized Lemon-breasted Canary. The western part of the region, towards the Mogalakwena River, is dry bordering the Kalahari and thus species such as the Southern Pied Babbler, Kori Bustard, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and Pale Chanting Goshawk can be found.
Given the size of the Soutpansberg birding route, together with the sheer habitat diversity, we have divided the region into nine different birding areas. Each birding area has its own unique climatic and/or habitat elements and thus each supports its own unique assemblage of bird species. Within each, there are a variety of accommodation options and birding sites to visit.
The Albasini Dam is the biggest waterbody in this area. From the north, one can visit the Department of Water Affairs Picnic Site which has a fair bit of waterfront and an extensive piece of sour bushveld. Birding around the dam is best done by boat and it is possible to find such sought-after specials as the White backed Night-Heron and African Finfoot. The nearby Levubu region is one of South Africa’s richest sub-tropical fruit farming areas. The little town of Levubu itself is the centre of this area and caters for the farming community in the district. The area has two major rivers, the Lotonyanda River and the Levubu river.
Both are fringed by Lowveld Riverine Forest and Semi-deciduous Mixed Forest and are alive with birds. Access to the rivers is difficult as much of this area is under private ownership. Nevertheless, the area has an impressive species total of over 300 birds. It abounds with Purple-crested Turaco and African Green Pigeon, while other key species to look for include the Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Crested Guineafowl, Brown-necked (Grey-headed) Parrot and the Gorgeous Bush Shrike. Allow at least a day in this region to target all key species.
Brown-necked (Grey-headed) Parrot, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Magpie Mannikin, African Green Pigeon