List of birds of South Africa

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This article concerns the list of birds from South Africa (country). For the list of birds from Southern Africa (region), see List of Southern African birds.
Southern bald ibis, a vulnerable endemic species

South Africa is a large country, ranked 25th by size in the world, and is situated in the temperate latitudes and subtropics. Due to a range of climate types present, a patchwork of unique habitat types occur, which contribute to its biodiversity and level of endemism. Offshore, South Africa's territory includes the Prince Edward Islands in the Subantarctic Indian Ocean, while the submerged though ecologically important Agulhas Bank is for most part inside its territorial waters.

858 species have been recorded including 31 endemics and nine species introduced by humans.

This list's taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families and species) and nomenclature (common and scientific names) follow the conventions of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, and reflects all changes to that work until January 2006. Taxonomic changes are on-going. As more research is gathered from studies of distribution, behaviour and DNA, the order and number of families and species may change. Furthermore, different approaches to ornithological nomenclature have led to concurrent systems of classification (see Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy).

Mainland and territorial waters[edit]

The South African list encompasses the combined areas of darker blue, presented here in separate lists for clarity


Order: Struthioniformes   Family: Struthionidae

The ostrich is a flightless bird native to Africa. It is the largest living species of bird. It is distinctive in its appearance, with a long neck and legs and the ability to run at high speeds.

Common name Binomial Status
Ostrich Struthio camelus Resident breeder

Ducks, geese and swans[edit]

Order: Anseriformes   Family: Anatidae

The family Anatidae includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl, such as geese and swans. These are birds adapted to an aquatic existence, with webbed feet, flattened bills, and feathers that are excellent at shedding water due to an oily coating.

Common name Binomial Status
White-faced whistling duck Dendrocygna viduata Migratory breeder
Fulvous whistling duck Dendrocygna bicolor Migratory breeder
White-backed duck Thalassornis leuconotus Resident breeder
Mute swan Cygnus olor Introduced; feral populations established are now extinct
Knob-billed duck Sarkidiornis melanotos Migratory breeder
Egyptian goose Alopochen aegyptiaca Resident breeder
South African shelduck Tadorna cana Resident breeder
Spur-winged goose Plectropterus gambensis Resident breeder
African pygmy goose Nettapus auritus Resident breeder
African black duck Anas sparsa Resident breeder
Yellow-billed duck Anas undulata Resident breeder
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Introduced
Cape shoveler Anas smithii Resident breeder
Northern shoveler Anas clypeata Rare/accidental
Red-billed teal Anas erythrorhyncha Migratory breeder
Northern pintail Anas acuta Rare vagrant from the Palearctic
Hottentot teal Anas hottentota Migratory breeder
Garganey Anas querquedula Rare vagrant from the Palearctic
Cape teal Anas capensis Resident breeder
Southern pochard Netta erythrophthalma Migratory breeder
Maccoa duck Oxyura maccoa Resident breeder; near threatened


Order: Galliformes   Family: Numididae

The guineafowl are a family of birds native to Africa. They typically eat insects and seeds, are ground-nesting, and resemble partridges, except with featherless heads.

Common name Binomial Status
Helmeted guineafowl Numida meleagris Resident breeder
Crested guineafowl Guttera pucherani Resident breeder

Pheasants and partridges[edit]

Order: Galliformes   Family: Phasianidae

The Phasianidae are a family of terrestrial birds consisting of quails, partridges, snowcocks, francolins, spurfowls, tragopans, monals, pheasants, peafowls and jungle fowls. In general, they are plump and have broad, relatively short wings.

Common name Binomial Status
Chukar partridge Alectoris chukar Introduced
Coqui francolin Peliperdix coqui Resident breeder
Crested francolin Dendroperdix sephaena Resident breeder
Red-winged francolin Scleroptila levaillantii Resident breeder
Grey-winged francolin Scleroptila africanus Near-endemic resident breeder
Shelley's francolin Scleroptila shelleyi Resident breeder
Orange River francolin Scleroptila levaillantoides Resident breeder
Red-billed spurfowl Pternistis adspersus Resident
Cape spurfowl Pternistis capensis Endemic resident breeder
Natal spurfowl Pternistis natalensis Resident breeder
Red-necked spurfowl Pternistis afer Resident breeder
Swainson's spurfowl Pternistis swainsonii Resident breeder
Common quail Coturnix coturnix Resident breeder
Harlequin quail Coturnix delegorguei Migratory breeder
Blue quail Coturnix adansonii Migrant visitor
Indian peafowl Pavo cristatus Introduced; feral populations established


Order: Podicipediformes   Family: Podicipedidae

Grebes are small to medium-large freshwater diving birds. They have lobed toes and are excellent swimmers and divers. However, they have their feet placed far back on the body, making them quite ungainly on land.

Common name Binomial Status
Little grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis Resident breeder
Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus Resident breeder
Black-necked grebe Podiceps nigricollis Resident breeder


Order: Phoenicopteriformes   Family: Phoenicopteridae

Flamingos are large gregarious wading birds found in both the Western and Eastern Hemispheres. Flamingos filter-feed on shellfish and algae. Their oddly shaped beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they consume and, uniquely, are used upside-down.

Common name Binomial Status
Greater flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus Migratory breeder
Lesser flamingo Phoeniconaias minor Migratory breeder; near threatened


Order: Sphenisciformes   Family: Spheniscidae

The penguins are a group of aquatic, flightless birds living almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere. Most penguins feed on krill, fish, squid and other forms of marine life caught while swimming underwater.

Common name Binomial Status
King penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus Rare oceanic vagrant
Southern rockhopper penguin Eudyptes chrysocome Rare oceanic vagrant; near threatened
Northern rockhopper penguin Eudyptes c. moseleyi Rare oceanic vagrant; vulnerable
African penguin Spheniscus demersus Resident breeder; endangered
Macaroni penguin Eudyptes chrysolophus Rare oceanic vagrant; vulnerable


Order: Procellariiformes   Family: Diomedeidae

The albatrosses are among the largest of flying birds, with those from the genus Diomedea having the largest wingspan of any extant bird.

Common name Binomial Status
Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos Regular oceanic migrant; endangered
Indian yellow-nosed albatross Thalassarche carteri Regional breeder; endangered
Grey-headed albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma Rare oceanic migrant; endangered
Buller's albatross Thalassarche bulleri Rare oceanic vagrant; near-threatened
Shy albatross Thalassarche cauta Regular oceanic migrant; near threatened
Black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophrys Regular oceanic migrant; near threatened
Sooty albatross Phoebetria fusca Rare oceanic vagrant; endangered
Light-mantled albatross Phoebetria palpebrata Rare oceanic vagrant; near-threatened
Southern royal albatross Diomedea epomophora Rare oceanic vagrant; vulnerable
Northern royal albatross Diomedea sanfordi Rare oceanic vagrant; endangered
Wandering albatross Diomedea exulans Oceanic migrant; vulnerable
Laysan albatross Phoebastria immutabilis Oceanic vagrant; near threatened

Shearwaters and petrels[edit]

Order: Procellariiformes   Family: Procellariidae

The procellariids are the main group of medium-sized "true petrels", characterised by united nostrils with medium septum and a long outer functional primary.

Common name Binomial Status
Southern giant petrel Macronectes giganteus Regular oceanic migrant
Northern giant petrel Macronectes halli Regular oceanic migrant
Southern fulmar Fulmarus glacialoides Oceanic migrant
Antarctic petrel Thalassoica antarctica Rare oceanic vagrant
Cape petrel Daption capense Regular oceanic migrant
Kerguelen petrel Lugensa brevirostris Rare oceanic vagrant
Great-winged petrel Pterodroma macroptera Regular oceanic migrant
Soft-plumaged petrel Pterodroma mollis Regular oceanic migrant
Barau's petrel Pterodroma baraui Rare oceanic vagrant; endangered
White-headed petrel Pterodroma lessonii Rare oceanic vagrant
Atlantic petrel Pterodroma incerta Rare oceanic vagrant; endangered
Blue petrel Halobaena caerulea Rare oceanic vagrant
Fairy prion Pachyptila turtur Rare oceanic vagrant
Broad-billed prion Pachyptila vittata Rare oceanic vagrant
Salvin's prion Pachyptila salvini Rare oceanic vagrant
Antarctic prion Pachyptila desolata Regular oceanic migrant
Slender-billed prion Pachyptila belcheri Rare oceanic vagrant
Jouanin's petrel Bulweria fallax Rare oceanic vagrant; near threatened
Grey petrel Procellaria cinerea Rare oceanic vagrant; near threatened
White-chinned petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis Regular oceanic migrant; vulnerable
Spectacled petrel Procellaria conspicillata Rare oceanic vagrant; vulnerable
Streaked shearwater Calonectris leucomelas Rare oceanic vagrant
Cory's shearwater Calonectris diomedea Regular oceanic migrant
Flesh-footed shearwater Puffinus carneipes Regular oceanic migrant
Great shearwater Puffinus gravis Regular oceanic migrant
Wedge-tailed shearwater Puffinus pacificus Rare oceanic vagrant
Sooty shearwater Puffinus griseus Regular oceanic migrant; near threatened
Manx shearwater Puffinus puffinus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in South Africa
Balearic shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus Rare oceanic vagrant; critically endangered
Little shearwater Puffinus assimilis Occasional oceanic migrant

Storm petrels[edit]

Wilson's storm petrel 'pattering' on the ocean surface

Order: Procellariiformes   Family: Hydrobatidae

The storm petrels are relatives of the petrels and are the smallest seabirds. They feed on planktonic crustaceans and small fish picked from the surface, typically while hovering. The flight is fluttering and sometimes bat-like.

Common name Binomial Status
Wilson's storm petrel Oceanites oceanicus Regular oceanic migrant
Grey-backed storm petrel Garrodia nereis Rare oceanic vagrant
White-faced storm petrel Pelagodroma marina Rare oceanic vagrant
European storm petrel Hydrobates pelagicus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in South Africa
White-bellied storm petrel Fregetta grallaria Rare oceanic vagrant
Black-bellied storm petrel Fregetta tropica Occasional oceanic migrant
Leach's storm petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in South Africa
Matsudaira's storm petrel Oceanodroma matsudairae Rare oceanic vagrant


Order: Phaethontiformes   Family: Phaethontidae

Tropicbirds are slender white birds of tropical oceans, with exceptionally long central tail feathers. Their heads and long wings have black markings.

Common name Binomial Status
White-tailed tropicbird Phaethon lepturus Rare oceanic vagrant
Red-billed tropicbird Phaethon aethereus Rare oceanic vagrant
Red-tailed tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda Rare oceanic vagrant


Order: Ciconiiformes   Family: Ciconiidae

Storks are large, long-legged, long-necked, wading birds with long, stout bills. Storks are mute, but bill-clattering is an important mode of communication at the nest. Their nests can be large and may be reused for many years. Many species are migratory.

Common name Binomial Status
African openbill Anastomus lamelligerus Resident breeder; migrates during dry seasons
Black stork Ciconia nigra Resident breeder
Abdim's stork Ciconia abdimii Migratory; winters in South Africa
Woolly-necked stork Ciconia episcopus Resident breeder
White stork Ciconia ciconia Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in South Africa
Saddle-billed stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis Resident breeder
Marabou stork Leptoptilos crumeniferus Resident breeder
Yellow-billed stork Mycteria ibis Resident breeder; undertakes irregular migrations


Order: Suliformes   Family: Fregatidae

Frigatebirds are large seabirds usually found over tropical oceans. They are large, black or black-and-white, with long wings and deeply forked tails. The males have coloured inflatable throat pouches. They do not swim or walk and cannot take off from a flat surface. Having the largest wingspan-to-body-weight ratio of any bird, they are essentially aerial, able to stay aloft for more than a week.

Common name Binomial Status
Great frigatebird Fregata minor Rare oceanic vagrant
Lesser frigatebird Fregata ariel Rare oceanic vagrant

Boobies and gannets[edit]

Breeding colony of Cape gannets

Order: Suliformes   Family: Sulidae

The sulids comprise the gannets and boobies. Both groups are medium to large coastal seabirds that plunge-dive for fish.

Common name Binomial Status
Brown booby Sula leucogaster Rare oceanic vagrant
Red-footed booby Sula sula Rare oceanic vagrant
Cape gannet Morus capensis Migratory breeder; vulnerable
Australian gannet Morus serrator Rare oceanic vagrant


Order: Suliformes   Family: Phalacrocoracidae

Phalacrocoracidae is a family of medium to large coastal, fish-eating seabirds that includes cormorants and shags. Plumage colouration varies, with the majority having mainly dark plumage, some species being black-and-white and a few being colourful.

Common name Binomial Status
Great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Resident breeder
Cape cormorant Phalacrocorax capensis Resident breeder; endangered
Bank cormorant Phalacrocorax neglectus Resident breeder; endangered
Reed cormorant Microcarbo africanus Resident breeder
Crowned cormorant Microcarbo coronatus Resident breeder; near threatened


Order: Suliformes   Family: Anhingidae

Darters are often called "snake-birds" because of their long thin neck, which gives a snake-like appearance when they swim with their bodies submerged. The males have black and dark-brown plumage, an erectile crest on the nape and a larger bill than the female. The females have much paler plumage especially on the neck and underparts. The darters have completely webbed feet and their legs are short and set far back on the body. Their plumage is somewhat permeable, like that of cormorants, and they spread their wings to dry after diving.

Common name Binomial Status
African darter Anhinga rufa Resident breeder


Order: Pelecaniformes   Family: Pelecanidae

Pelicans are large water birds with a distinctive pouch under their beak. As with other members of the order Pelecaniformes, they have webbed feet with four toes.

Common name Binomial Status
Great white pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus Migratory and resident breeding populations
Pink-backed pelican Pelecanus rufescens Resident breeder


Order: Pelecaniformes   Family: Scopidae

The hamerkop is a medium-sized bird with a long shaggy crest. The shape of its head with a curved bill and crest at the back is reminiscent of a hammer, hence its name. Its plumage is drab-brown all over.

Common name Binomial Status
Hamerkop Scopus umbretta Resident breeder

Bitterns, herons and egrets[edit]

The Goliath heron is the world's largest species of heron

Order: Pelecaniformes   Family: Ardeidae

The family Ardeidae contains the bitterns, herons and egrets. Herons and egrets are medium to large wading birds with long necks and legs. Bitterns tend to be shorter necked and more wary. Members of Ardeidae fly with their necks retracted, unlike other long-necked birds such as storks, ibises and spoonbills.

Common name Binomial Status
Great bittern Botaurus stellaris Resident breeder
Little bittern Ixobrychus minutus Resident breeder
Dwarf bittern Ixobrychus sturmii Resident breeder
Grey heron Ardea cinerea Resident breeder
Black-headed heron Ardea melanocephala Resident breeder
Goliath heron Ardea goliath Resident breeder
Purple heron Ardea purpurea Resident breeder
Great egret Ardea alba Resident breeder
Intermediate egret Mesophoyx intermedia Resident breeder
Little egret Egretta garzetta Resident breeder
Little blue heron Egretta caerulea Rare nearctic vagrant
Slaty egret Egretta vinaceigula African migrant visitor; vulnerable
Black heron Egretta ardesiaca Migrant breeder
Cattle egret Bubulcus ibis Resident breeder
Squacco heron Ardeola ralloides Resident breeder
Rufous-bellied heron Ardeola rufiventris Resident breeder
Striated heron Butorides striata Resident breeder
Black-crowned night heron Nycticorax nycticorax Resident breeder
White-backed night heron Gorsachius leuconotus Resident breeder

Ibises and spoonbills[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes   Family: Threskiornithidae

Threskiornithidae is a family of large terrestrial and wading birds which includes the ibises and spoonbills. They have long, broad wings with 11 primary and about 20 secondary feathers. They are strong fliers and despite their size and weight, very capable soarers.

Common name Binomial Status
Glossy ibis Plegadis falcinellus Migratory breeders
African sacred ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus MIgratory breeder
Southern bald ibis Geronticus calvus Endemic resident breeder; vulnerable
Hadada ibis Bostrychia hagedash Resident breeder
African spoonbill Platalea alba Resident breeder


Order: Accipitriformes   Family: Sagittariidae

The secretarybird is a bird of prey easily distinguished from other raptors by its long crane-like legs.

Common name Binomial Status
Secretarybird Sagittarius serpentarius Resident breeder; vulnerable


Order: Accipitriformes   Family: Pandionidae

The Pandionidae family contains only one species, the osprey. The osprey is a medium-large raptor which is a specialist fish-eater with a worldwide distribution.

Common name Binomial Status
Osprey Pandion haliaetus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in South Africa

Eagles, hawks, kites, and allies[edit]

Order: Accipitriformes   Family: Accipitridae

Accipitridae is a family of birds of prey, which includes hawks, eagles, kites, harriers and Old World vultures. These birds have powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs, powerful talons and keen eyesight.

Common name Binomial Status
Black-winged kite Elanus caeruleus Resident breeder
African harrier-hawk Polyboroides typus Resident breeder
Palm-nut vulture Gypohierax angolensis Resident breeder
Bearded vulture Gypaetus barbatus Resident breeder
Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus Presently a rare vagrant; confirmed breeding prior to 1923; endangered
European honey buzzard Pernis apivorus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in South Africa
African cuckoo-hawk Aviceda cuculoides Resident breeder
White-headed vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis Resident breeder; vulnerable
Lappet-faced vulture Torgos tracheliotos Resident breeder; vulnerable
Hooded vulture Necrosyrtes monachus Resident breeder; endangered
White-backed vulture Gyps africanus Resident breeder; endangered
Rüppell's vulture Gyps rueppellii Rare migrant visitor; endangered
Cape vulture Gyps coprotheres Resident breeder; vulnerable
Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus Resident breeder; near threatened
Black-chested snake eagle Circaetus pectoralis Resident breeder
Brown snake eagle Circaetus cinereus Resident breeder
Southern banded snake eagle Circaetus fasciolatus Resident breeder; near threatened
Bat hawk Macheiramphus alcinus Resident breeder
Crowned eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus Resident breeder; near threatened
Martial eagle Polemaetus bellicosus Resident breeder; vulnerable
Long-crested eagle Lophaetus occipitalis Resident breeder
Lesser spotted eagle Aquila pomarina Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in southern Africa
Wahlberg's eagle Aquila wahlbergi Migratory breeder
Booted eagle Hieraaetus pennatus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in southern Africa
Ayres's hawk-eagle Hieraaetus ayresii Summer migrant
Tawny eagle Aquila rapax Resident breeder
Steppe eagle Aquila nipalensis Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in southern Africa
Verreaux's eagle Aquila verreauxii Resident breeder
African hawk-eagle Aquila spilogaster Resident breeder
Lizard buzzard Kaupifalco monogrammicus Resident breeder
Dark chanting goshawk Melierax metabates Resident breeder
Pale chanting goshawk Melierax canorus Resident breeder
Gabar goshawk Micronisus gabar Resident breeder
Western marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus Rare Palearctic vagrant
African marsh harrier Circus ranivorus Resident breeder
Black harrier Circus maurus Resident breeder; vulnerable
Pallid harrier Circus macrourus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in southern Africa; near threatened
Montagu's harrier Circus pygargus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in southern Africa
African goshawk Accipiter tachiro Resident breeder
Shikra Accipiter badius Resident breeder
Little sparrowhawk Accipiter minullus Resident breeder
Ovambo sparrowhawk Accipiter ovampensis Resident breeder
Rufous-breasted sparrowhawk Accipiter rufiventris Resident breeder
Black sparrowhawk Accipiter melanoleucus Resident breeder
Black kite Milvus migrans Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in southern Africa
Yellow-billed kite Milvus aegyptius parasitus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in southern Africa[1][2]
African fish eagle Haliaeetus vocifer Resident breeder
Steppe buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in southern Africa
Forest buzzard Buteo oreophilus trizonatus Resident breeder
Long-legged buzzard Buteo rufinus Rare vagrant
Augur buzzard Buteo augur Occasional visitor
Jackal buzzard Buteo rufofuscus Resident breeder


Order: Gruiformes   Family: Otididae

Bustards are large terrestrial birds mainly associated with dry open country and steppes in the Old World. They are omnivorous and nest on the ground. They walk steadily on strong legs and big toes, pecking for food as they go. They have long broad wings with "fingered" wingtips and striking patterns in flight. Many have interesting mating displays.

Common name Binomial Status
Kori bustard Ardeotis kori Resident breeder; near threatened
Ludwig's bustard Neotis ludwigii Resident breeder; endangered
Stanley bustard Neotis denhami Resident breeder; near threatened
White-bellied bustard Eupodotis senegalensis Subspecies E. s. barrowii is a resident breeder[1]
Blue korhaan Eupodotis caerulescens Endemic resident breeder; near threatened
Karoo korhaan Eupodotis vigorsii Resident breeder
Rüppell's korhaan Eupodotis rueppellii Occasional visitor
Red-crested korhaan Lophotis ruficrista Resident breeder
Black bustard Afrotis afra Endemic resident breeder; vulnerable
White-quilled bustard Afrotis afraoides Resident breeder
Black-bellied bustard Lissotis melanogaster Resident breeder

Rails, crakes, gallinules and coots[edit]

Order: Gruiformes   Family: Rallidae

Rallidae is a large family of small to medium-sized birds which includes the rails, crakes, coots and gallinules. Typically they inhabit dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps or rivers. In general they are shy and secretive birds, making them difficult to observe. Most species have strong legs and long toes which are well adapted to soft uneven surfaces. They tend to have short, rounded wings and to be weak fliers.

Common name Binomial Status
Corn crake Crex crex Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in southern Africa
African rail Rallus caerulescens Resident breeder
African crake Crex egregia Visiting summer breeder
Black crake Amaurornis flavirostris Resident breeder
Baillon's crake Porzana pusilla Resident breeder
Spotted crake Porzana porzana Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Striped crake Aenigmatolimnas marginalis Visiting breeder
Purple swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio Subspecies P. p. madagascariensis is a resident breeder[1]
Allen's gallinule Porphyrio alleni Occasional visiting breeder
American purple gallinule Porphyrio martinicus Rare vagrant from the Nearctic
Common moorhen Gallinula chloropus Resident breeder
Lesser moorhen Gallinula angulata Migratory breeder
Red-knobbed coot Fulica cristata Resident breeder


Order: Gruiformes   Family: Sarothruridae

Common name Binomial Status
Buff-spotted flufftail Sarothrura elegans Migratory breeder
Red-chested flufftail Sarothrura rufa Resident breeder
Streaky-breasted flufftail Sarothrura boehmi Rare migratory vagrant
Striped flufftail Sarothrura affinis Resident breeder
White-winged flufftail Sarothrura ayresi Occasional visitor; critically endangered


Order: Gruiformes   Family: Heliornithidae

Heliornithidae is a small family of tropical birds with webbed lobes on their feet similar to those of grebes and coots.

Common name Binomial Status
African finfoot Podica senegalensis Resident breeder


Order: Gruiformes   Family: Gruidae

Cranes are large, long-legged and long-necked birds. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back. Most have elaborate and noisy courting displays or "dances".

Common name Binomial Status
Grey crowned crane Balearica regulorum Resident breeder; endangered
Blue crane Anthropoides paradiseus Resident breeder; vulnerable
Wattled crane Bugeranus carunculatus Resident breeder; vulnerable


Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Chionidae

Common name Binomial Status
Snowy sheathbill Chionis alba Rare oceanic vagrant


Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Burhinidae

The stone-curlews and thick-knees are a group of largely tropical waders in the family Burhinidae. They are found worldwide within the tropical zone, with some species also breeding in temperate Europe and Australia. They are medium to large waders with strong black or yellow-black bills, large yellow eyes and cryptic plumage. Despite being classed as waders, most species have a preference for arid or semi-arid habitats.

Common name Binomial Status
Water thick-knee Burhinus vermiculatus Resident breeder
Spotted thick-knee Burhinus capensis Resident breeder

Avocets and stilts[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Recurvirostridae

Recurvirostridae is a family of large wading birds, which includes the avocets and stilts. The avocets have long legs and long up-curved bills. The stilts have extremely long legs and long, thin, straight bills.

Common name Binomial Status
Black-winged stilt Himantopus himantopus Resident breeder
Pied avocet Recurvirostra avosetta Resident breeder


Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Haematopodidae

The oystercatchers are large and noisy plover-like birds, with strong bills used for smashing or prising open molluscs.

Common name Binomial Status
Eurasian oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus Rare Palearctic vagrant
African oystercatcher Haematopus moquini Resident breeder; near threatened

Plovers and lapwings[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Charadriidae

The family Charadriidae includes the plovers, dotterels and lapwings. They are small to medium-sized birds with compact bodies, short, thick necks and long, usually pointed, wings. They are found in open country worldwide, mostly in habitats near water.

Common name Binomial Status
Grey plover Pluvialis squatarola Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
American golden plover Pluvialis dominica Rare Nearctic vagrant
Pacific golden plover Pluvialis fulva Rare vagrant
Long-toed lapwing Vanellus crassirostris African vagrant
Blacksmith lapwing Vanellus armatus Resident breeder
Spur-winged lapwing Vanellus spinosus Rare vagrant
White-headed lapwing Vanellus albiceps Resident breeder
Senegal lapwing Vanellus lugubris Resident breeder
Black-winged lapwing Vanellus melanopterus Resident breeder
Crowned lapwing Vanellus coronatus Resident breeder
African wattled lapwing Vanellus senegallus Resident breeder
Lesser sand plover Charadrius mongolus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Greater sand plover Charadrius leschenaultii Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Caspian plover Charadrius asiaticus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Kittlitz's plover Charadrius pecuarius Resident breeder
Common ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Three-banded plover Charadrius tricollaris Resident breeder
White-fronted plover Charadrius marginatus Resident breeder
Chestnut-banded plover Charadrius pallidus Resident breeder; near threatened


Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Rostratulidae

Painted-snipe are short-legged, long-billed birds similar in shape to the true snipes, but more brightly coloured.

Common name Binomial Status
Greater painted-snipe Rostratula benghalensis Resident breeder


Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Jacanidae

The jacanas are a group of tropical waders in the family Jacanidae. They are found throughout the tropics. They are identifiable by their huge feet and claws which enable them to walk on floating vegetation in the shallow lakes that are their preferred habitat.

Common name Binomial Status
Lesser jacana Microparra capensis Resident breeder
African jacana Actophilornis africanus Resident breeder

Sandpipers and allies[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Scolopacidae

Scolopacidae is a large diverse family of small to medium-sized shorebirds including the sandpipers, curlews, godwits, shanks, tattlers, woodcocks, snipes, dowitchers and phalaropes. The majority of these species eat small invertebrates picked out of the mud or soil. Variation in length of legs and bills enables multiple species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food.

Common name Binomial Status
Terek sandpiper Xenus cinereus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Common sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Green sandpiper Tringa ochropus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Spotted redshank Tringa erythropus Rare Palearctic vagrant
Common greenshank Tringa nebularia Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Lesser yellowlegs Tringa flavipes Rare Nearctic vagrant
Marsh sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Wood sandpiper Tringa glareola Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Common redshank Tringa totanus Occasional Palearctic vagrant
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa; near threatened
Black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa Rare Palearctic vagrant; near threatened
Hudsonian godwit Limosa haemastica Rare Nearctic vagrant
Bar-tailed godwit Limosa lapponica Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Ruddy turnstone Arenaria interpres Breeds in the Palearctic and Nearctic and winters in Africa
Great knot Calidris tenuirostris Rare Palearctic vagrant; vulnerable
Red knot Calidris canutus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Ruff Philomachus pugnax Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Broad-billed sandpiper Limicola falcinellus Rare Palearctic vagrant
Curlew sandpiper Calidris ferruginea Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Temminck's stint Calidris temminckii Rare Palearctic vagrant
Long-toed stint Calidris subminuta Rare Palearctic vagrant
Red-necked stint Calidris ruficollis Rare Palearctic vagrant
Sanderling Calidris alba Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Dunlin Calidris alpina Rare Palearctic vagrant
Baird's sandpiper Calidris bairdii Rare Nearctic vagrant
Little stint Calidris minuta Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
White-rumped sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis Rare Nearctic vagrant
Buff-breasted sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis Rare Nearctic vagrant; near threatened
Pectoral sandpiper Calidris melanotos Rare Palearctic vagrant
Asian dowitcher Limnodromus semipalmatus Rare Palearctic vagrant; near threatened
Great snipe Gallinago media Rare Palearctic vagrant; near threatened
African snipe Gallinago nigripennis Resident breeder
Wilson's phalarope Phalaropus tricolor Rare Nearctic vagrant
Red-necked phalarope Phalaropus lobatus Rare Palearctic vagrant
Red phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa


Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Turnicidae

The buttonquails are small, drab, running birds which resemble the true quails. The female is the brighter of the sexes and initiates courtship. The male incubates the eggs and tends the young.

Common name Binomial Status
Small buttonquail Turnix sylvaticus Resident breeder
Black-rumped buttonquail Turnix hottentotta The subspecies T. h. hottentottus is a resident breeder

Crab plovers[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Dromadidae

Common name Binomial Status
Crab plover Dromas ardeola Occasional African vagrant

Pratincoles and coursers[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Glareolidae

Glareolidae is a family of wading birds comprising the pratincoles, which have short legs, long pointed wings and long forked tails, and the coursers, which have long legs, short wings and long, pointed bills which curve downwards.

Common name Binomial Status
Burchell's courser Cursorius rufus Resident breeder
Temminck's courser Cursorius temminckii African migratory breeder
Double-banded courser Rhinoptilus africanus Resident breeder
Three-banded courser Rhinoptilus cinctus Resident breeder
Bronze-winged courser Rhinoptilus chalcopterus Resident or migratory breeder, depending on population
Collared pratincole Glareola pratincola Migratory breeder
Black-winged pratincole Glareola nordmanni Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa; near threatened
Rock pratincole Glareola nuchalis Rare African vagrant


Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Stercorariidae

The family Stercorariidae are, in general, medium to large birds, typically with grey or brown plumage, often with white markings on the wings. They nest on the ground in temperate and arctic regions and are long-distance migrants.

Common name Binomial Status
South polar skua Stercorarius maccormicki Oceanic vagrant
Brown skua Stercorarius antarctica Wintering migrant
Pomarine skua Stercorarius pomarinus Occasional wintering migrant
Parasitic jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Long-tailed jaeger Stercorarius longicaudus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa


Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Laridae

Laridae is a family of medium to large seabirds, the gulls and kittiwakes. They are typically grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have stout, longish bills and webbed feet.

Common name Binomial Status
Black-legged kittiwake Rissa tridactyla Rare Palearctic vagrant
Sabine's gull Xema sabini Migrant through Africa
Slender-billed gull Chroicocephalus genei Rare vagrant
Grey-headed gull Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus Resident breeder
Hartlaub's gull Chroicocephalus hartlaubii Resident breeder
Black-headed gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus Rare vagrant
Franklin's gull Leucophaeus pipixcan Rare Nearctic vagrant
Lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus Rare vagrant
Kelp gull Larus dominicanus Subspecies L. d. vetula is a resident breeder, sometimes called the Cape gull.[1]


Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Sternidae

Terns are a group of generally medium to large seabirds typically with grey or white plumage, often with black markings on the head. Most terns hunt fish by diving but some pick insects off the surface of fresh water. Terns are generally long-lived birds, with several species known to live in excess of 30 years.

Common name Binomial Status
Brown noddy Anous stolidus Rare migratory vagrant
Lesser noddy Anous tenuirostris Rare migratory vagrant
Sooty tern Onychoprion fuscata Rare migratory vagrant
Bridled tern Onychoprion anaethetus Rare migratory vagrant
Little tern Sternula albifrons Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Damara tern Sternula balaenarum Migratory breeder; near threatened
Gull-billed tern Gelochelidon nilotica Rare Palearctic vagrant
Caspian tern Hydroprogne caspia Resident breeder
Black tern Chlidonias niger Rare Palearctic vagrant
White-winged tern Chlidonias leucopterus Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Whiskered tern Chlidonias hybridus Resident breeder
Roseate tern Sterna dougallii Migratory breeder
Black-naped tern Sterna sumatrana Rare oceanic vagrant
Common tern Sterna hirundo Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Arctic tern Sterna paradisaea Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Antarctic tern Sterna vittata Migrant visitor
White-cheeked tern Sterna repressa Migratory vagrant
Greater crested tern Thalasseus bergii Resident breeder
Sandwich tern Thalasseus sandvicensis Breeds in the Palearctic and winters in Africa
Lesser crested tern Thalasseus bengalensis T. b. bengalensis winters in South Africa


A flock of African skimmers

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Rynchopidae

Skimmers are a small family of tropical tern-like birds. They have an elongated lower mandible which they use to feed by flying low over the water surface and skimming the water for small fish.

Common name Binomial Status
African skimmer Rynchops flavirostris Resident breeder; near threatened


























































Prince Edward Islands[edit]

The Prince Edward Islands, c. 1,750 km (1,087 mi) offshore in the roaring forties, are near-pristine and deemed the second most important sub-Antarctic archipelago in terms of breeding birds

Note: All but the accidentals are breeders
















See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h A race deemed a full species by some authorities
  2. ^ Johnson JA, Richard T. Watson and David P. Mindell (2005). "Prioritizing species conservation: does the Cape Verde kite exist?" (PDF). Proc. R. Soc. B 272 (1570): 1365–1371. doi:10.1098/rspb.2005.3098. PMC 1560339. PMID 16006325.  This mitochondrial study of Milvus kites, employing three genes, determined that the black kite (Milvus m. migrans) of the Eurasian clade differs significantly from the allopatric yellow-billed kite, where the latter could be further subdivided into two groups: those from southern Africa and Madagascar differing from those in central, west and east Africa. These taxa are all distinct, though near-related as in the Eurasian clade. The study revealed besides that the two yellow-billed kite taxa could potentially be assigned species status. In such a three-way split the yellow-billed kite of southern Africa would be named M. parasitus.
  3. ^ a b c d Isolated endemic race
  4. ^ Races C. o. olivacea and C. o. olivacina belong to the eastern taxon, Eastern olive sunbird. Males of this taxon have pectoral tufts but are genetically similar to the western taxon.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Species additional to mainland list
  6. ^ The race concerned, A. e. eatoni, is known as Kerguelen pintail
  7. ^ a b Breeder on Prince Edward Island only
  8. ^ Two species according to some authorities, namely the Atlantic and Indian yellow-nosed albatross. Both occur in South African waters, but only the latter is a regional breeder


  • Splitting headaches? Recent taxonomic changes affecting the British and Western Palaearctic lists - Martin Collinson, British Birds vol 99 (June 2006), 306-323

External links[edit]