Birds of Knysna

Birds of the Knysna Estuary

The Knysna Estuary has the highest biodiversity of any estuary in South Africa - which is one reason why it’s been declared The Knysna Hope Spot by Mission Blue (which defines Hope Spots as special conservation areas that are critical to the health of our oceans - Earth’s blue heart).

The Estuary’s various habitats provide excellent birding throughout the year.

Knysna’s salt marshes

Salt marshes - the pantries of the seas - are favourite hunting grounds for many of our waders and sea birds.

One favourite birding spot: Woodbourne marsh, alongside George Rex Drive (just opposite the causeway to Leisure Isle) for species like sandpipers, stilts, herons, malachite kingfisher, pied kingfisher (kingfishers nest in the embankments on the west side of the marsh).

Sea birds

The Knysna Estuary attracts many birds of the sea (pelagic species rarely visit except after violent storms). Look out for kelp gull, white-breasted gannet, Cape gannet, and large, permanent colonies of cormorants - particularly at The Heads.

African black oystercatcher

The African Black Oystercatcher is one of South Africa’s good news conservation stories, and the Knysna Estuary is one of its favourite habitats. Please see our article on Oystercatchers here.


The Estuary is home to a number of African fish eagles. Look out for them upriver of the White Bridge (the N2). Other commonly-seen species include African harrier-hawks, black-shouldered kites, jackal buzzards and mountain buzzards.

Birds of the urban shore

The Knysna Estuary is surrounded by urban areas, fynbos, scrub forest (on the Western Head) pen grasslands (particularly at the sports fields at Loerie Park on George Rex Drive) and various other habitats. This greatly increases the number of bird species which you can see in the area.

Well-established, wooded urban areas attract fruit-eaters like the elusive Knysna loerie (which is actually a common resident of urban gardens - especially where fruit and berries are present). These areas also attract woodland species like the Knysna warbler and Knysna woodpecker as well as migrants such as cuckoos (including the emerald cuckoo and the red-chested cuckoo or piet-my-vrou).

Grassland species - hadedas, herons, dikkops, plovers - are attracted to lawns and sports fields in the town.

Partial checklist of birds of the Knysna Estuary

Download this checklist in pdf format here

Listed by Robert's number, with common names in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa (where available).

55 White Breasted Cormorant Witborsduiker; Ugwidi
56 Cape Cormorant Trekduiker; Ugwidi
58 Reed Cormorant Rietduiker; Ugwidi
62 Grey Heron Bloureier; Isikhawalimanzi
63 Blackheaded Heron Swartkopreier; Isikhawalimanzi
67 Little Egret Kleinwitreier
71 Cattle Egret Bosluisvoël; Ilanda
91 Sacred Ibis Skoorsteenveër
94 Hadeda Ibis Hadeda; Ing'ang'ane
96 Greater Flamingo Grootflamink 
102 Egyptian Goose Kolgans; Ilowe
104 Yellowbilled Duck Geelbekeend; Idada
126 Yellowbilled Kite Geelbekwou Untloyiya
127 Blackshouldered Kite Blouvalk; Umdlampuku
148 African Fish Eagle Visarend; Ingqolane
150 Forest Buzzard Bosjakkalsvoël
152 Jackal Buzzard Rooiborsjakkalsvoël; Indlandlokazi
169 Gymnogene Kaalwangvalk
203 Helmeted Guineafowl Gewone Tarentaal; Impangele
208 Blue Crane Bloukraanvoël; Indwe
244 African Black Oystercatcher Swarttobie
255 Crowned Plover Kroonkiewiet; Igxiya
258 Blacksmith Plover Bontkiewiet
294 Avocet Bontelsie
312 Kelp Gull Swartrugmeeu; Ingaba-ngaba
322 Caspian Tern Reuseseeswael
328 Arctic Tern Arktiese Sterretjie
349 Rock Pigeon Kransduif; Ivukuthu
350 Rameron Pigeon Geelbekbosduif; Izuba
352 Redeyed Dove Grootringduif; Indlasidudu
354 Cape Turtle Dove Gewone Tortelduif; Ihobe
370 Knysna Lourie Knysnaloerie; Igolomi
377 Redchested Cuckoo Piet-my-vrou; Uphezukomkhono
384 Emerald Cuckoo Mooimeisie; Intananja
386 Diederik Cuckoo Diederikkie; Umgcibilitshane
391 Burchell's Coucall Gewone Vleiloerie; Ubikhwe
392 Barn Owl Nonnetjie-uil; Isikhova
400 Cape Eagle Owl Kaapse Ooruil
402 Giant Eagle Owl Reuse Ooruil; Ifubesi
405 Fierynecked Nightjar Afrkaanse Naguil; Udebeza
411 European Swift Europese Windswael; Ihlabankomo
415 Whiterumped Swift Witkruiswindswael; Ihlabankomo
424 Speckled Mousebird Gevlekte Muisvoël; Indlazi
428 Pied Kingfisher Bontvisvanger; Isaxwila
429 Giant Kingfisher Reuse Visvanger; Uxomoyi
430 Halfcollared Kingfisher Blouvisvanger; Isaxwila
435 Brownhooded Kingfisher Bruinkopvisvanger; Undozela
451 Hoopoe Hoephoep; Ubhobhoyi
484 Knysna Woodpecker Knysnaspeg; Isinqolamthi
488 Olive Woodpecker Gryskopspeg
527 Lesser Striped Swallow Kleinstreepswael; Inkonjane
536 Black Sawwing Swallow Swartsaagvlerkswael; Unomalahlana
541 Forktailed Drongo Mikstertbyvanger; Intengu
545 Blackheaded Oriole Swartkopwielewaal; Umkro
550 Whitenecked Raven Withalskraai; Ihlungule
566 Cape Bulbul Kaapse Tiptol
572 Sombre Bulbul Gewone Willie; Inkwili
598 Chorister Robin Lawaaimakerjanfrederik; Ugagasisi
601 Cape Robin Gewone Janfrederik; Ugaga
645 Barthroated Apalis Bandkeelkleinjantjie; Ugxakhweni
690 Dusky Flycatcher Donkervlieëvanger; Unomaphelana
698 Fiscal Flycatcher Fiskaalvlieëvanger; Icola
700 Cape Batis Kaapse Bosbontrokkie; Ingedle
708 Bluemantled Flycatcher Bloukuifvlieëvanger; Igotyi
710 Paradise Flycatcher Paradysvlieëvanger; Ujejane
713 Cape Wagtail Gewone Kwikkie; Umcelu
732 Fiscal Shrike Fiskaallaksman; Inxanxadi
736 Southern Boubou Suidelike Waterfiskaal; Igqubusha
769 Redwinged Starling Rooivlerkspreeu; Isomi
775 Malachite Sunbird Jangroentjie; Ingcungcu
783 Lesser Doublecollared Sunbird Kleinrooibandsuikerbekkie
785 Greater Doublecollared Sunbird Rooibandsuikerbekkie
792 Black Sunbird Swartsuikerbekkie; Ingcungcu
796 Cape White-eye Kaapse Glasogie; Intukwane
803 Cape Sparrow Gewone Mossie; Undlunkulu
804 Greyheaded Sparrow Gryskopmossie
813 Cape Weaver Kaapse Wewer; Ihobo-hobo
850 Swee Waxbill Suidelike Swie

Text: Martin Hatchuel www.thistourismweek.co.za