September 13

Silvan Safari Blog: Birdlife at Silvan


September 13, 2021

Summer is fast approaching at Silvan. And while for most of our guests, that means doubling up on the G&Ts, for us, there’s an entirely different sense of excitement that comes with the season. Along with October arrives the influx of migratory bird species to the Greater Kruger region, and we are spoiled with an incredible array of birdlife at Silvan. Here are some of our favourite feathered friends that we encounter around the lodge.

Dawn Chorus Choir

The raucous call of the helmeted guineafowl is a sure sign of the breaking dawn. Image Credit Mark Hill

The time when we feel most aware of the presence of Silvan’s spectacular birdlife is, without a doubt, during the dawn chorus. The early bird may get the worm, but they sure let you know about it here in the Sabi Sand. Our most regular culprits are the Natal spurfowl and helmeted guineafowl, whose calls are the signature sounds of the bush bursting into life.

Brightly Coloured Beauties

silvan birdlife lilac breasted roller
Nothing says Kruger safari like seeing a lilac-breasted roller.

Always a favourite among birders and non-birders alike are the species that stand out. Bright colours or bold patterns that catch the eye are always popular. At Silvan, we’re lucky to have guaranteed sightings of probably the most iconic bird of any Kruger safari, the lilac-breasted roller.

silvan birdlife white bellied sunbird
Male white-bellied sunbirds flit around like airborne jewels.

Nearer to the lodge, we enjoy the metallic, shimmering white-bellied sunbirds flitting around the aloe bushes. The beautiful males call out noisily and chase each other, making them easy to spot. Competition for the attention of suitable mates is clearly very serious business.

Silvan’s Signature Species

silvan birdlife european bee-eater
Silvan’s signature bird species, the European bee-eater.

Another popular guest, although they only grace us with their presence in the summer, is the European bee-eater. These beautifully vibrant birds are quite literally woven into the very fabric of Silvan. Guests will notice some subtle and not-so-subtle tributes to these captivating characters throughout the lodge.

Waiting at the Water’s Edge

silvan birdlife goliath heron
The Goliath heron can stand up to 1.5m tall.

Watercourses are a great place to keep an eye out for birdlife, and at Silvan, they offer a wide variety of species. Keep an eye out for the enormous Goliath heron that stands almost as tall as some of our guides. You can typically see them hunting along riverbanks or dam shores.

Another regular sighting is the spectacular hovering pied kingfisher. These busy birds hang almost motionless in the air before plunging into the water to catch fish.

silvan birdlife pied kingfisher
Pied kingfishers are busy characters that make for great entertainment when they hunt for food.

One can expect with relative certainty to see a selection of waterbirds that naturally gravitate towards dams and rivers. The luckiest of guests may encounter shyer species such as the saddle-billed stork or the black-crowned night heron.


silvan birdlife african hawk eagle
The African hawk-eagle is one of Silvan’s most fearsome predators. Image Credit: Kyle Olivier.

Some of the most impressive birds to be seen at Silvan are the various raptor species found here. With an abundance of different prey species available to them, there’s little wonder that they thrive.

A personal favourite of mine is the African hawk-eagle. Supremely styled for its bushveld habitat, this gorgeous bird is not our most regular sighting. Using its long yet broad wings and long tail, it combines the ability to soar like larger eagles and the dynamic chasing hunting typical of the goshawk and sparrowhawk species to sublime effect.

silvan birdlife bateleur
The bateleur is among the most striking of all raptors.

The striking bateleur is another gorgeous resident of the Greater Kruger area. Seen more often in flight than perched, you can easily identify them by their rocking and rolling flight pattern. The word “bateleur” is French for “juggler” and refers to this diagnostic flight style. Their bright red and yellow facial markings are somewhat unusual in birds of prey which are typically duller. The combination of these markings and their adult plumage takes seven to eight years to develop fully and are a sign of complete maturity.

Our Owls

silvan birdlife verreauxs eagle owl
The Verreaux’s eagle-owl is southern Africa’s largest owl species. Image Credit: Kyle Olivier

In recent years, it has been a privilege to have regular sightings of Verreaux’s eagle-owls nesting close to camp. The pair have become very relaxed around vehicles allowing for great photography and close-up sightings of these beautiful birds. We’re hoping they return to their nesting site for the coming breeding season once more. However, their somewhat smaller but equally beautiful cousin, the African barred owlet, has been keeping us entertained in the meantime!

These usual suspects aren’t all there is to see and enjoy in the Sabi Sand. Keeping an eye on the sky adds another level to a safari experience, and the birdlife at Silvan entertains without fail.

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About the author 

Brad Mitchell

With a deep-set love of the outdoors and making moments count in all aspects of life, nothing makes Brad happier than taking in sunrises and sunsets. He can often be found either running, surfing or playing sports somewhere in Cape Town. Having grown up a stone's throw from Kruger, Brad jumped at the chance to live in the Cape and has never looked back since! With a background in all things Marketing, he is driven by creativity and turning crazy ideas into real-life actions!

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