The greater Tzaneen area encompasses the lower reaches of the Wolkberg and Northern Drakensberg Mountain Ranges and the hot sub-tropical regions around the town of Tzaneen. The altitude in this area ranges from 900masl to approximately 600masl, with the habitat changing from Afromontane to semi-deciduous forest and lush tropical and riparian thicket and forest. Various rivers that originate on the escarpment flow into the Tzaneen Dam, the largest body of water on the route, with the Letaba River being the most dominant watercourse.
This section of the birding routes, with its sub-tropical habitats, has a wealth of birds, the regional specialities being Magpie Mannikin, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Grey-rumped Swallow, African Finfoot, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Broad-billed Roller and Half-collared Kingfisher. The Tzaneen area is well known for its resident Bat Hawks of which there are at least two breeding pairs. In this transition zone between the Afromontane areas and the true Lowveld bushveld, birders have a chance of recording many more noteworthy birds such as Thick-billed Cuckoo, Orange-winged Pytilia and White-breasted Cuckooshrike.
The area below the Tzaneen Dam wall is a popular birding spot due to its interesting mix of habitats within a very restricted area. After entering Tzaneen on the R71 from Polokwane, turn left at the Lifestyle Centre. Travel along Voortrekker Street and pass through the Tzangeni security gate. The tangled tall grassland on the right often produces Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Cape Grassbird, Red-collared Widowbird and Yellow Bishop. Park at the T-junction and walk along the top of the dam for a quick look out over the dam, checking for large water birds like Goliath Heron, African Fish Eagle, Osprey or Yellow-billed Stork. More interesting birding lies below the dam wall. Turn right at the T-junction and drive down past the dam wall to the parking area just before the bridge. On the way down, scan the lawns opposite the wall for Long-billed and Plain-backed Pipit and Yellow-throated Longclaw. The large wild fig trees host many fruit-eating species such as Barbets, African Green Pigeon and Purple-crested Turaco. Look out for birds from the small bridge across the Letaba River below the sluice gates. Here one can often see African Pied and Mountain Wagtail, Red-faced Cisticola, Golden Weaver, Wire-tailed and Grey-rumped Swallow, Black Saw-wing and Half-collared Kingfisher. The thickets near the bridge area are home to Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Red-capped and White-browed Robin-Chat and Bearded Scrub Robin. Drive across the bridge and turn right just after the water purification works, then look for Brown-backed Honeybird, Tambourine Dove, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Black Cuckoo (summer) and several warbler species (summer) in a dense Acacia belt.
Directions: as described above.