Return to SA Birding Main Site
Although it is one of the leading western cape tourist destinations, with over 650,000 visitors a year, Kirstenbosch still manages to offer a worthwhile diversity of forest and cape mountain Fynbos birding in a truly beautiful, relaxed and easily accessible environment. It remains the best spot close to cape Town to see some of the more common mountain fynbos and forest endemics and also supports a number of other species not easily seen elsewhere on the Peninsula. Some 528 Ha in extent, with 36Ha of cultivated south african flora and the remainder indigenous forest, Kirstenbosch offers literally hours and hours of birding. However, a short, diverse and none to strenuous walk of two to three hours will produce many of the birds you are looking for and give you a pretty good overview of the gardens as a whole.



The mountain fynbos endemics, Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird, are prolific in the cultivated protea and erica patches in the south western corner of the gardens. Cape Spurfowl, Cape Batis and Southern Boubou are also common and the endemic Forest Canary is sometimes present – be careful though to separate it from the superficially similar immature Cape Canary. Cape Grassbird is often heard and seen. .If you wish to venture up Nursery Ravine or Skeleton Gorge you may be rewarded with Cape Siskin at the top and with the distinctive call of Knysna Warbler along the way. There are one or two sites at Kirstenbosch for this sought warbler, but it is best found at the Die Hel site on the M41 near Constantia Nek – see directions below.



Botanical garden, montane fynbos, indigenous forest.



An extensive, well maintained series of roads and footpaths takes you are far as you wish to walk in the gardens and forests. There are regular waterpoints in the gardens and very adequate toilet facilities. The lower section of the garden is generally very busy. There are shops, restaurants and a magnificent conservatory at or near the main entrance



1. A two to three hour walk through the upper section of the gardens and briefly into the indigenous forest will give you a useful introduction to both mountain fynbos and forest habitats. In summer, count on seeing about forty birds along this walk.

Enter the gardens at the upper Rycroft gate and take the main pathway toward the mountain. Follow the signs to the Contour Path and Nursery Ravine. The first section of the path, particularly when the shrubs and trees are in flower or in fruit, supports African Olive-Pigeon, Speckled Mousebird and other common fruit eaters.

As you move toward the mountain more and more protea and erica begin to appear ( note the Silver tree – largest of the proteas and endemic to the cape Peninsula). Soon displaying and feeding Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird begin to show themselves, the male Cape Sugarbird being particularly obtrusive. Southern Boubou is common all along this stretch. Search the mulched large garden beds along the path for Lemon Dove which is becoming increasingly common in the gardens themselves. Spotted Thick-knee also use these beds to rest up during the day.

Take a right turn at the waterpoint intersection signposted Ericas, Dell and bath and Restaurant, and follow the track down into the gardens. If you wish to continue to enjoy spectacular close ups of the sugarbird and both Orange-breasted Sunbird and Southern Double-collared Sunbird take the Erica detour marked on the map.

From here, take the Skeleton Gorge route into the forest. The short walk beside the Nursery Stream will give you an indication of what forest birding on the Peninsula has to offer – not, comparatively speaking, a lot. However, you should enjoy Cape Batis and African Paradise-Flycatcher (the latter in late spring and summer). Forest Canary is also found along this stretch though it is also found in the gardens themselves. You will inevitably hear Red-chested Cuckoo calling incessantly in the summer months but, regretfully, seeing one is quite another matter. Equally incessant in call, throughout the year, and throughout the gardens, is Sombre Greenbul which is also surprisingly difficult to see sometimes. When emerging from the forest make your way down toward the well-marked and delightful Dell, taking care to search the tall tree canopies for roosting Spotted Eagle-Owl. These are best found in the Camphor Avenue near the Restaurant where you can enjoy a wellearned cup of tea.

It is best to do this walk in the morning when the birds are most active. Listen out then for the distinctive call of the African Goshawk circling high above the gardens.

2. If you want to add a few more to the list explore the small wetland area in the north east of the gardens where you may find the odd cisticola, weaver or bishop but these are not really "Kirstenbosch" birds and you will do far better looking for them elsewhere.

3. For an early morning Knysna Warbler hunt travel all the way along Rhodes Drive to Constantia Nek where you turn left and drive about 800 meters down into the Constantia Valley. Park at the sign-boards to the Die Hel Trail. Follow the track in about 500 meters and listen for the distinctive, explosive call of the warbler. You will best need a recording of the call to bring the bird closer. Spring and early summer is the best time for this.



Take the M3 from cape Town and travel about 10 km to the Newlands Avenue/Rhodes Drive intersection. Turn right into Rhodes drive and travel a further 1.5 kms to the main garden entrance. If you wish to access via the upper gate travel a further 1km in the direction of Hout Bay/Constantia Nek. The route and all gates are well sign-posted.

The entrance fee is R27 for adults and R15 for students with student cards. Fees for school children (6-18 years old) are R5. Children under 6 years old. Gates open at 08H00 and close at 19H00 (September – March) and 18H00 (April – August). For more information telephone +27 21 799 8783.

Security note: Remote trails should be avoided.

South African Botanical Garden Website

Richard Grant 2001
BirdWatch Cape
Tel/Fax +27 21 762 5059
Cell: +27 72 212 9303

Birdwatch Website

Afton Grove

Copyright © 2008 SA Birding cc