Pilanesberg National Park | 25 Aug 2014 | By Sun International

Birdwatching 101

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence.” Robert Lynd

The first documented use of the term “birdwatching” was in 1901. However, as early as 1602, Shakespeare himself paid tribute to the hobby briefly mentioning “a-birding” in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Today birdwatching is enjoyed around the world with avid twitchers travelling far and wide to catch a glimpse of a new species. Birdwatching enthusiasts describe the hobby as a lifetime ticket to the theatre of nature. For an amazing introduction to the “theatre of nature” look no further than the Sun City Resort and Zambia’s pride, the Zambezi Sun.

The Pilanesberg Game Reserve, located only a few minutes away from Sun City’s best hotels, is a famous birding destination in South Africa. Great for those who want to easily tick off hundreds of species on their “life list”. The Pilanesberg is famously home to the African Cuckoo and the vulnerable African Grass Owl, not mentioning the hundreds of other species that you are likely to encounter. Further afield, Victoria Falls is a picture-perfect location for a beautiful birding adventure. Guests of the Zambezi Sun can expect to spot local species including: the Half-Collared Kingfisher, Thick-Billed Weaver and African Finfoot.

Did you know? Bird Life International identified the Victoria Falls as important birding location due to the unique species and habitat surrounding the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls.

To make the most of your birdwatching adventure while staying at the excellent Zambezi Sun or the Sun City Resort (or maybe even both!), here are the best tips, tricks and tools for birding success:

Keep your eye on the prize

It might seem obvious, but the best way to ensure birding success is to actually watch the particular bird once it is in sight. There can be no birdwatching without the “watching” part! The tendency is to want to flick through your field guide to identify the species or get the right camera angle, but resist the urge and simply watch. If only for a few moments, pay close attention to the details of the bird and perhaps jot down a few notes or make a quick sketch.

Birdwatching means listening too

The name might indicate otherwise, but birdwatching is also about the auditory aspect. For beginners, it is helpful to remember that many species are more easily identified by ear rather than by eye. The only trouble with bird vocalisations is that they are easy to forget and often hard to describe. However, it is easy to watch while listening, and with practice and learning it becomes easier and more enjoyable to distinguish both visual and auditory cues.

Polite birding 101: Speaking of auditory cues, remember to turn your cell phone off when birding. Birds are easily disturbed and any additional noise can scare them off. Also, keep conversations to a minimum as it can make it difficult to hear distant bird songs.

‘I like the way you move’

Birdwatching includes studying the movements of the bird and paying attention to the often overlooked details. When on the trail, ask yourself:

  • How does the bird jump from branch to branch?
  • How does the bird hold its tail, and if it walks, is the walk unique in any way?

Studying the movements of the bird also means that if the bird flies away, this is not a reason to be frustrated, rather critical information can be gleaned from its flight and so there is a good part of goodbye birdy.

Did you know? Sun City has its very own Bird Sanctuary allowing guests a rare opportunity to see magnificent birds of prey up close.

Lastly, before embarking on a birdwatching adventure with Sun City or the Zambezi Sun, remember to pack the following:

  • A comprehensive field guide to suit your experience level and destination.
  • A good pair of binoculars is essential.
  • A notebook and pen.
  • Your camera and patience! Birdwatching is a rewarding hobby for those familiar with the adage: “good things come to those who wait”.