The Graskop/Sabie areas are truly a birder's
paradise. Not only is there a huge variety of the more common bird
species, but a number of globally and nationally threatened species also
occur in the area.
Three IBAs (Important Bird Areas) have been identified in the Graskop area.
This page deals exclusively with the rare bird species of these IBAs.
Copyright: SA Tourism
Blyde River Canyon
Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
Escarpment & Forests
Parking your vehicle in remote areas or walking
alone in the grassveld, forests or plantations is not recommended.
Please be sensible
Data Book Categories
50% chance of going extinct in 5
20% chance of going extinct in 20 years
10% chance of going extinct in 100 years
Likely to become Vulnerable in the near future
Aim of the IBA Programme
The function of the IBA programme is to identify and
protect a network of sites, at a biogeographic scale, critical for the
long-term viability of naturally occurring bird populations, across the
range of those bird species for which a site-based approach is appropriate.
Blyde River Canyon
Located 8 km north of Graskop, the Blyde River
Canyon (700 m deep in places) stretches for nearly 20 km as it cuts a
spectacular path through the granite of the great South African
escarpment. This 50 000 ha IBA site includes the Blyde River
Canyon Nature Reserve and the Swadini and Manoutsa portions of the
Mpumalanga Drakensberg escarpment, which falls outside the reserve, and
the forestry-owned areas of Mariepskop, Salique, Hebron, Welgevonden and
Secure parking for your
vehicle is available at Burke's Luck Potholes. Enquire
at the Nature Conservation offices as to where you may or may
not walk in the nature reserve.
The vegetation varies from large patches of high-altitude Afromontane
forest in the valleys; to forest-related bush clumps along the edge of
the escarpment; to open tree savanna; to montane grassveld on the open
This is the only site in South Africa that supports breeding Taita
Falcon. One pair of the critically endangered Blue Swallow still
breed here, and occasionally additional birds are found foraging or
moving through the area. The cliffs of Manoutsa hold over 660
pairs of the vulnerable Cape Vulture, making it the world's fourth
largest colony. The gorges also hold breeding pairs of the Black
Stork and Peregrine Falcon (both near-threatened species), as well as
the Cape Eagle Owl.
The quiet backwaters of the river support the vulnerable Pel's
Fishing Owl, Whitebacked Night Heron and African Finfoot, and the
near-threatened Halfcollared Kingfisher. The surrounding grassland
supports the endangered Blackrumped Buttonguail; the vulnerable Striped
Flufftail, Stanley's Bustard, Blue Crane, Ground
Hornbill, Grass Owl and
Bald Ibis (which breed within the reserve along the cliff gorges); the
near-threatened Secretarybird; as well as the Buffstreaked
Chat. Gurney's Sugarbird occur on the protea shrubs on the hillslopes.
The forest and forest edge supports the near-threatened Crowned
Eagle, Orange Thrush and Bush Blackcap, as well as Forest
Buffspotted Flufftail, Cinnamon Dove, Knysna Lourie,
Olive Bush Shrike, Chorister Robin, Brown Robin, Swee Waxbill and
Forest Canary. The near-threatened Bat Hawk has been recorded in the
thick riverine woodland and it is possible that the vulnerable
Delegorgue's Pigeon still exists here. The vulnerable Martial
Eagle is frequently seen soaring over bushveld dominated parts of the
reserve, which also holds Whitethroated Robin and Gorgeous Bush
Other common sightings include Grey Cuckooshrike, Kurrichane
Starred Robin, Yellowthroated Warbler and Whitebellied Sunbird.
Grasslands (IBA No. ZA009)
This 10 000 ha site lies within South Africa's mistbelt region and
consists of two patches of fragmented grassveld, separated from one
another by a plantation. The first grassland patch lies immediately
west of Graskop. The second patch lies 8 km
north of Graskop.
Secure parking for your
is available in Graskop town,
as well as
at the Berlyn Peacock Tavern, near
the Berlyn Falls.
The terrain consists mainly of gently undulating sour grassveld with
some hilly terrain, rocky outcrops and sheer cliffs. Shrub
thickets occur along the rivers and patches of fynbos elements are also
present. Isolated forest are restricted to the valleys.
Encroachment by exotic plantation trees is a common site.
These two fragmented grassland patches hold the second largest
population of breeding Blue Swallow in South Africa. The
vulnerable Stanley's Bustard and Ground Hornbill, as well as
grassland species such as the Buffstreaked Chat and the near-threatened
Blackwinged Plover and Broadtailed Warbler occur here.
Info on the Blue Swallow:
Trust-Blue Swallow Working Group
Mandy McNamara 082 530 1230
The protea shrubs are hosts to Gurney's Sugarbird. Swee Waxbill
and Forest Canary are fairly common sightings. The endangered
Blackrumped Buttonguail and the vulnerable Striped Flufftail may also
occur on this site.
Mac-Mac Escarpment & Forests
This 35 000 ha site is located within the South African mistbelt,
between the towns of Graskop and Sabie. This IBA consists of the Mariti,
Waterhoutboom, Mac Mac, Frankfort, Bergvliet, Kripkraal, Rietfontein,
Waterfal, Tweefontein and Ceylon plantations. It includes the
Sabie River in the south and the Mac Mac river in the north. The
Bridal Veil falls, Lone Creek falls, the Mac Mac falls and the Mac Mac
Pools are also within the boundaries of this IBA.
The Secretary Bird
day-walk at the Mac Mac Pools is part of this IBA.
Secure parking for your vehicle is available at the Pools (you
pay a nominal fee at the entrance gate).
This site consists of a patchwork of commercial plantations that still
hold superb patches of fragmented indigenous forest, as well as some
remaining grassland and sheer cliffs. Other habitat types include
rocky outcrops, gullies, streams, mountain slopes and patches of fynbos.
This area is important for some cliff-nesting species, such as the
near-threatened Black Stork and Peregrine Falcon. The rivers
running through the area support small populations of the vulnerable
Whitebacked Night Heron and African Finfoot.
The remaining grasslands hold a relatively large population of the
vulnerable Ground Hornbill. Other grassland specials include the
endangered Blackrumped Buttonguail and the vulnerable Striped
Flufftail. Buffstreaked Chat also occur in the grasslands, whilst
Sugerbird are found in association with protea shrubs.
The forest patches are the most interesting natural habitat within
the complex, supporting the near-threatened Crowned Eagle,
Thrush and Bush Blackcap as well as Forest Buzzard, Knysna
Chorister Robin, Brown Robin, Barratt's Warbler, Swee Waxbill and
Other species include the vulnerable Grass Owl and Ground
and the near-threatened Ground Woodpecker, Blackwinged
Halfcollared Kingfisher and Broadtailed Warbler. Rare visitors to the
area include the critically endangered Blue Swallow, the vulnerable
Bald Ibis, the near-threatened Secretarybird and the Blackbellied Glossy
Commercial afforestation in the
Graskop area has transformed the grasslands so dramatically
that very little of the natural landscape remains.
Afforestation totally altered the species composition as well
as the macro-structure of the natural vegetation. In
addition, the concentration of a large number of trees had a
profound effect on the hydrology of the area, resulting in the
drying up of streams and wetlands. Furthermore, the
effects of habitat fragmentation, changed burning regimes,
road construction and altered drainage patterns all
cumulatively impact negatively on bird diversity.
There is conclusive evidence that commercial afforestation
has already had a major impact on grassland birds, and the
potential for further negative impacts on endemic and
threatened species is serious.