At Classic Overland, our love for safaris in Africa is as infectious as our love for Defender Classics. When visiting vibrant South Africa, what we look forward to most is getting behind the wheel of a Defender born and bred in Africa and taking it out on a photo safari through the Kruger National Park.
Besides seeing the big 5, as well as other mammals, reptiles, insects, and plant life, Kruger National Park’s birdlife is something truly spectacular. What makes these soaring beauties unique is that they don’t live in isolation. Birds interact with other animals, insects, and plant life, which just adds to the magic of capturing the wild side of Africa.
The beauty of a bird safari at the Kruger doesn’t stop there. While paying close attention to these feathered flying beauties, you’ll find yourself spotting plenty of other amazing and rare animal sightings along the way. The number of times we’ve stopped on a birding safari to take a closer look at a rare or fascinating bird only to have a leopard wander across the road right in front of our vehicle has happened more time then you think!
Why visit the Kruger National Park
If South Africa’s next on your bucket list, and a birding safari on your to-do list, then the Kruger National Park is your point of entry. The park spans a surface area of 7,580 mi² where over 500 species of birdlife can be found — some of which can only be found here.
Some of the more common residents include the ubiquitous hornbills, starlings, vultures, rollers, bee-eaters, shrikes, and kingfishers.
While the Kruger National Park is famous for the “Big Five”, it’s also known for its iconic “Big Six” birds, which are indigenous to the region.
We’ve listed all 6 of them here:
- Kori Bustard
The Kori Bustard is Africa’s heaviest flying bird, weighing in at up to 40 pounds! Its visible features include a brown back, grey neck and is covered in a black and white pattern. Their diet consists of insects, small reptiles and mammals, other bird eggs, grass, seeds, and berries.
- Martial Eagle
As the largest eagle in Africa, the martial eagle weighs in at almost 14 pounds. With a wingspan of up to 8 feet and eyesight that can spot potential prey up to 3 miles away, this is a predator not to be messed with. Their diet varies as it depends on prey availability and opportunity. One study in Kruger National Park found that 45% of their diet was made up of birds, particularly Egyptian geese and game birds, including the kori bustard. Mature martial eagles have white feathered legs and very large black talons. The upper-parts are dark brown and the belly white with black streaks.
- The Lappet-faced Vulture
The Lappet-faced Vulture is the largest vulture in Africa and dominates other vultures during feeding. This imposing, broad-winged scavenger bird has a huge yellowish meat-hook bill, capable of tearing hides and tendons and breaking bones of carcasses. Its overall color is a brownish-black with some whitish feathers on its upper legs. Another identifier is its bare pink head and the fleshy folds of skin, called lappets, on each side of its neck. A white bar on the underside of the wing is visible when in flight or when its wings are outstretched. Its preferred habitat is in dry savannas or deserts with minimal tree coverage.
- Pel’s Fishing-Owl
The Pel’s fishing owl is the second-largest owl in Africa weighing in between 4.4 and 5.2 pounds. They are a lovely ginger brown to russet color and have black spots on both their wings and bellies. Another distinguishing feature is a dark stripe on its tail feather, as well as its white throat, which is usually covered by tan feathers. These owls would normally hunt at night and feed almost exclusively on frogs and fish. They are shy and are therefore seldom seen, so seeing one is always a thrilling event.
- Southern Ground Hornbill
The Southern Ground-Hornbill is the largest hornbill species in the world, weighing between 4.9 and 13.7 pounds and measuring between 35.4 and 50.8 inches long. These birds are black in color with bright red skin around their eyes and throat. Females can be recognized by a bright blue stripe under the chin. Its preferred habitat is in grasslands with some trees. Its diet consists of insects, small reptiles, frogs, snails, and small mammals.
- Saddle-Billed Stork
At five feet tall, the Saddle-billed Stork is the tallest stork in the world. Its head, lower back, and wings are covered in iridescent black feathers while its upper back, chest, and stomach appear a crisp white. Its long beak is red with a black and yellow bar between the eyes. Its preferred habitat is in wetlands; both open and wooded. Its main diet consists of frogs, fish, and crabs, although it has also been seen feeding on small reptiles and other birds.
Adventure awaits in Africa
The Kruger is a special place for us and has been the centerfold of our visits to South Africa for many years. If it’s an adventure out in the wild that you seek, South Africa’s Kruger National park is your point of entry.