Limpopo Birding Routes

Capricorn Letaba Birding Hotspots

The Lowveld

Thick-billed Cuckoo – Jody de Bruin

This is the most easterly section of the CLBR with an average altitude of about 450masl. The region is characterised by a mixture of homogenous Mopane woodland, mixed Bushwillow woodland and closed Knobthorn savannah. These habitats are intersected by many wooded drainage lines such as the Letsitele and Letaba Rivers. Many of the Lowveld speciality birds are found here with the most notable species being Arnot's Chat, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Southern Carmine Bee-eater (in the summer months), Greater Blue-eared Starling, Retz’s Helmet-Shrike, Stierling's Wren-Warbler and African Barred Owlet.

Its proximity to the large conservation areas of the Lowveld makes this region a haven for large raptors such as Martial, African Hawk and Tawny Eagles, Bateleur and five of the southern African Vulture species. The Letaba River and its tributaries act as a conduit, drawing in large water birds such as African Openbill, Yellow-billed Stork, White-backed Night-Heron, Goliath Heron and Saddle-billed Stork.

Retz's Helmet-Shrike - Derek Engelbrecht
Hans Merensky Nature Reserve

This provincial nature reserve, adjacent to the Eiland Holiday Resort, has many of the Lowveld´s best qualities including fine tracts of Mopane and mixed broad-leaved woodland, riverine thicket, saline patches and dolerite ridges. A 10km stretch of the Great Letaba River forms the northern boundary of the reserve. The special here is Arnot´s Chat, which is best looked for in the mature Mopane woodland along the tourist drive in the main portion of the reserve. Other Lowveld birds of interest in the reserve include Greater Blue-eared Starling, Brown-headed Parrot, Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Bennett´s Woodpecker, Cuckoo Hawk, African Hawk Eagle, Southern White-crowned Shrike and Stierling´s Wren-Warbler. The trail that runs along the river is good for Retz´s Helmet-Shrike, Thick-billed Cuckoo (summer), Yellow-throated Petronia and Red-headed Weaver. There is good camping and chalet accommodation at the Eiland Holiday Resort and a rustic trail camp within the reserve itself.

Directions: Travel on the R71 from Tzaneen towards Phalaborwa. Cross the Letaba River and pass the Letsitele turn-off, then turn left on the R521 towards Eiland. Follow this road and see the Hans Merensky Nature Reserve entrance on the right after about 30km.

The Junction – Marianne McKenzie
The Junction

This is a perfect roadside stop along the R71 between Tzaneen and Phalaborwa to take a refreshing break as it is situated right on the banks of the Letaba River under a canopy of shady trees. It has a pub and a restaurant, which serves breakfasts and light meals. The river and riverine vegetation supports Goliath and Purple Heron, Little Egret, Thick-billed Weaver, African Jacana and Red-faced Cisticola while the tropical gardens hold White-browed and Red-capped Robin-Chat, Woodland Kingfisher (summer), Purple Indigobird and Red-backed Mannikin.

Directions: Travel on the R71 from Tzaneen towards Phalaborwa, just before crossing the Letaba River, see the Letsitele filling station and turn-off to The Junction on the right. Follow the signs to the left on the small road that runs parallel to the R71.