Birds of South Africa’s pristine Lowveld landscape

Lilac-breasted Roller. Photo by Matt Mendenhall

I had the honor of traveling to South Africa in mid-November to visit two nature reserves. First, I checked out the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, which is located near the country’s southern coast. Here are 10 photos of birds from that leg of the trip, and now I’m excited to share 14 photos of birds from my second stop: eastern South Africa’s Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve. It lies within the 650-square-kilometer Sabi Sand Game Reserve, which shares a border with the vast Kruger National Park.

Sabi Sabi sits within the Lowveld, a wide-open landscape consisting of grasslands and scrub habitats and low, undulating hills, with an altitude of less than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) above sea level. The area is home to the “Big Five” — lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros — as well as zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, hippos, warthogs, and several grazing deer-like species (kudu, impala, steenbok, klipspringer, and others). No fewer than 500 bird species can be seen on the reserve. Thanks to my ranger, Lazarus Mahore, and tracker, Louis Mkansi, I saw or heard about 100 species in the three days I spent at Sabi Sabi. (A special shout-out to Sony for loaning me an excellent camera — the RX10 IV — for the trip!)

This collection of photos begins with the Lilac-breasted Roller above. We saw this species several times, always at a significant distance. Nevertheless, it was a treat to see the gorgeous mix of colors on this sub-Sahara African species.

Photo by Matt Mendenhall

African Green Pigeon

This stunning species is found on fruiting trees, especially figs. We spotted a small group of pigeons among several large fig trees. This bird was digging into the abundant fruits.

Click below to see more.

Read our newsletter!

Sign up for our free e-newsletter to receive news, photos of birds, attracting and ID tips, and more delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up for Free
Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and BirdWatchingDaily.com. He joined the staff of BirdWatching (formerly Birder’s World) in 2000 and has worn many hats over the years: reporter, story wrangler, photo editor, managing editor, and now editor. Originally from Omaha, he lives with his wife and two daughters in Milwaukee and holds a Bachelor’s in journalism from Marquette University. You can reach Matt at (617) 706-9098 and [email protected].

Matt Mendenhall on social media