I am getting itchy feet and so have been trawling through my archives to bring you another selection of South African birds far away from my regular garden offerings.

Kori Bustard

African Pied Wagtail

African Redeyed Bulbul

Whitebacked Vulture

Crimsonbreasted Shrike

Redheaded Finch



When travelling away from home I thoroughly enjoy seeing birds that are not common in the area where I live. The African Red-eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus nigricans) is a delightfully cheerful bird that I am always pleased to catch sight of. Its eponymous red eye-ring seems to ‘lift’ it out of the ordinary.

I have usually encountered them either singly or in pairs – which I believe are monogamous – and enjoyed observing this pair perched in a bush.

Of course I am being unfair to the lovely Dark-capped Bulbuls (formerly Black-eyed Bulbuls) that regularly grace our garden.

The African Red-eyed Bulbuls are more common in the drier parts of the country – as long there is water nearby and enough natural cover for them. Their bright yellow vent is easily visible – another aspect they have in common with their black-eyed cousins.

Like the bulbuls in my garden, the African Red-eyed Bulbul eats fruit, nectar, insects, spiders and sometimes even seeds. This one is about to eat a fallen raisin.



Bulbuls are among the more cheerful birds that visit our garden: they are lively, loud, and quite cheeky in their antics. I grew up with the Black-eyed Bulbuls (now known as Dark-capped Bulbuls) for they are common in the eastern regions of South Africa.

They are often seen either in pairs or small parties that make short work of any fruit on offer. These birds also eat insects, flower petals and nectar – often visiting the nectar feeder in the garden.

It is the bright orange eye-ring of the African Red-eyed Bulbul that makes it look so attractive. They are more common in the drier western and central parts of the country. This one was photographed at the Augrabies National Park.

I am always happy to see the cheerful Cape Bulbuls with their conspicuous white eye-rings. They inhabit the Karoo and can also be seen in the Addo Elephant National Park.

Then there is another favourite bird which is heard in our garden more often than seen. It used to be called a Sombre Bulbul, but now goes by the moniker of Sombre Greenbul. They are difficult to see because their dull olive green and grey colouring helps them to blend into the thick bush that they favour.

It is in the Kruger National Park that I have made the acquaintance of another bulbul that has had to change its name: the Terrestrial Bulbul is now a Terrestrial Brownbul!


A number of South African birds have ‘red’ in their name, although this appellation does not necessarily refer to bright red feathers such as those of the Scarlet-chested Sunbird, this one seen in the Kruger National Park:

Or the Black-collared Barbet, as seen in my garden:

Instead, these birds have red in their name because it is a defining feature of their appearance. Among them are the African Red-eyed Bulbul, which has reddish eye-rings and is a common resident in the drier northwest region of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. This one was photographed in the Augrabies Falls National Park:

The Red-knobbed Coot, this one photographed in Cape Town, not only has two distinctive red knobs – which turn bright red during the breeding season – on its head but red eyes too. They are common resident water birds in South Africa and, interestingly, do not have webbed feet!

Delightful birds to watch are the Red-headed Finches. While they tend to live in the dry savannah areas, I photographed this one in Boksburg:

Hornbills are comical birds and the Kruger National Park hosts several varieties, among which is the Red-billed Hornbill. Although it is one of the smaller hornbills, the Red-billed Hornbill is one of the characteristic birds in the park:

While there are many more birds with ‘red’ in their name, such as the Red-eyed Dove, Red-necked Spurfowl, and the Red-winged Starling, I leave you with a particularly interesting bird, the Red-billed Oxpecker – also photographed in the Kruger National Park. This one is feasting on ticks on an impala:

NOTE: Click on a photograph for a larger view.