Wakkerstroom is situated in a Grassland and Wetland Region of South Africa and is well known by birders worldwide for the number of specialty and endemic birds, and it hosts the South African Birdlife Centre. Experienced guides are available to take birders on guided drives or walks. But even beginner birders will find the town rewarding as there are over 370 bird species to be spotted. 

The town and its surrounds are designated an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) because the sheer variety of habitats providing an unprecedented opportunity to see endemics. South Africa has 13 unique bird species, and you can spot nine of them in and around Wakkerstroom. The area is mostly comprised of high-altitude grassland, but there are also gorges, cliffs, mist belt forests, farm dams and, of course, the wetland itself.

The Wetland:

Wakkerstroom is situated on one of the southern hemisphere’s largest natural wetlands. Approximately 1000 hectares of protected area that includes 4 bird hides.  It hosts a large number of inland water birds, reed birds and shallow water waders including Red-knobbed Coot, Common Moorhen, Yellow-billed Duck, White-backed Duck, South African Shelduck, Southern Pochard, Little Grebe, African Rail, Black Crake, African Swamphen, African Spoonbill, Grey Heron,  Squacco Heron, Reed Cormorant, Black-headed Heron, Black-crowned Night-heron, African Yellow Warbler, Lesser Swamp Warbler and Little Rush warbler. Then there’s the beautiful kingfishers (Malachite, Pied, Giant and Half-collared.)

A variety of wetland raptors could be seen including the African Marsh Harrier, the African Fish Eagle and Marsh Owl who can be sighted year-round. In the summer months, you could come across the Western Marsh Harrier or Black Harrier. All 5 of the South African species of the Harrier visit Wakkerstroom at certain times of the year.

If you are really lucky, you might come across some very rare special birds in these wetlands like the special Red-Chested Flufftail, or one of the Crakes (African, Baillon’s or Corn Crake.)

The Grasslands:

The area surrounding the wetlands make up some of South Africa’s second most vulnerable habitat – the high-altitude grasslands. Wakkerstroom is one of the best places to see these grassland biome specials, making it an international destination for interest groups.  Found in the area are the Rudd’s Lark, Botha’s Lark, Yellow Breasted Pipit, Blue Korhaan and Southern Bald Ibis. (All of the Southern Africa’s Ibis species can be spotted in the region at times too).

The rarest bird in the region is the Botha’s Lark. Its Critically Endangered due to the encroachment on their habitat by farms and human development. In saying that, even with a local guide you will need to get out of the car and take a short walk in the fields to find them.  Grey Crowned Cranes, Secretary birds and large flocks Blue Cranes can be seen in the grasslands and farmland areas along with the Bustards, Sentinel Rock-Thrush, Coursers, Capped Wheatear, Eastern Long-Billed Lark, Buff-Streaked Chat and White-bellied Korhaan. And what would a trip to a grassland area be without viewing the  long-tailed widow birds, which hover over the grasslands and maize fields?  Or finding the Amur Falcons on telephone lines or swooping over fields after their long migration to South Africa from Russia.

The Forest patches:

Patches of forest allow one to see the Bush Blackcap, Chorister Robin-Chat, White-Starred Robin and Sombre Greenbul.