Wetlands matter for THESE Overberg birds

Wetlands are known for their role in purifying water and preventing floods. But here in the Overberg – as around the world – they also provide an extremely important habitat for birds.

There are many secretive rallid species that hide in wetlands here, such as Baillon’s Crake (Porzana pusilla), Red-chested Flufftail (Sarothrura rufa), African Rail (Rallus caerulescens) and Black Crake (Amaurornis flavirostra).

But many of these species have been hard hit by the loss of wetland habitats. In the Agulhas Plain, for example, nearly 25% of all wetlands have been lost in past decades.

Many conservation organisations and authorities are doing excellent work in rehabilitating and restoring wetlands – and in some instances, even expanding them. And there is some anecdotal evidence showing that the number of bird species, as well as the number of individuals, are increasing as a result.

As an example, the De Hoop Vlei, a Ramsar site, is protected by CapeNature, and lies within the De Hoop Nature Reserve. The Heuningnes Estuary, also a Ramsar site, is located in the De Mond Nature Reserve (a CapeNature reserve). The Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area is a non-profit organisation working to protect the Nuwejaars wetlands. And the Bot-Kleinmond Estuarine System forms part of a provincial nature reserve, and was declared a Ramsar site in 2017.

Here are some of the special bird species you could see hiding in, or making use of Overberg wetlands:

The African Marsh Harrier (Circus ranivorus)

The African March Harrier may be listed as Least Concern by the IUCN globally, but it is regionally Endangered. This harrier has been impacted by the loss of wetlands, as well as by invasive alien encroachment in wetlands. Today they’re an increasingly common sight in the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area, in particular in wetlands that have been rehabilitated.

Image: LoveGreen Communications

African Grass Owl (Tyto capensis)

The African Grass Owl is largely dependent on wetlands (as well as grasslands). And given the loss of wetlands here, they’re listed as Vulnerable regionally. There appears to be a very small remnant population in the Agulhas Plain – but little is known about them. Therefore, in a project supported by the OCG and Fynbos Trust, Bionerds are researching this species in the Agulhas Plain, to better understand their numbers, threats, and look at conservation measures needed to protect them.

Image: Bionerds

Lesser Flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor)


This species is listed as Near Threatened both globally and regionally. The breeding sites of the Lesser Flamingo in particular are under threat, in most instances from proposed mining activities. Birds also collide with powerlines and are impacted by polluted wetlands and water. They can be seen at a number of wetlands and lakes throughout the Overberg.

Image: LoveGreen Communications


Spotted Teal (Spatula hottentota)

This is not the best photo of a Spotted Teal. But it’s included here because they’re not a common sight in the Overberg – even though they’re listed as a species of Least Concern. Their numbers are decreasing, according to the IUCN, with wetland conversion rated as one of the main threats. Keep a lookout for them at small and hidden wetlands and pools throughout the Overberg.

Image: Mick D’Alton

Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus)

This pelican is regionally listed as Vulnerable in the South African Red Data Book, with the loss of wetlands and pollution affecting population numbers. They can be seen at the De Hoop Vlei at certain times of the year (this vlei sometimes hosts up to 400 individual Great White Pelicans), on the Agulhas Plain, and in the Kleinmond wetlands.

Image: LoveGreen Communications