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About us

The Cape Birding Route website has been developed based on the book Essential birding, authored by Callan Cohen and Claire Spottiswoode. Please read more about the website, the book and who we are below.

About the Cape Birding Route Website

This site is maintained by three South African birders: two ornithology research students, Callan Cohen and Claire Spottiswoode, and an experienced ornithologist, Dr Peter Ryan. We run Birding Africa, a consulting and specialist guiding company, and are endeavouring to encourage ecotourism and international birding interest in Africa, and more specifically our home region around Cape Town.

Birding and ornithology are both hobbies and a career to us, and we hope that these pages will impart to both locals and prospective visitors some of our enthusiasm for this extraordinarily biodiverse region and its landscapes, fauna and flora. Below is a summary of our activities; please see the the Birding Africa website > Our Tour Leaders for more details.

About the Book - Essential Birding: Western South Africa

Essential Birding was born out of frequent requests by both local and visiting birders for assistance: what are the best areas to visit, where are the best sites for the endemic birds, and how can we see them during a short visit to the region? We have done our best to answer these questions.

The region covered by this book combines the Western and Northern Cape provinces of South Africa, loosely referred to as the Cape. Our purpose is to provide the best sites for the region’s characteristic birds and to link these together into practical routes suitable for a short visit to the region. Each route forms a chapter (see map on contents page), beginning with a regional map and introduction, and followed by site accounts accompanied by individual maps. At the beginning of each chapter is a short list of its most sought-after species (‘Top Birds’), and the chapter is completed by a more detailed discussion of ‘Select Specials’. In the latter, we have aimed to give the reader a feel for the best places to visit and techniques to employ in searching for these species (asterisked* page numbers alongside bird names in the text refer to these ‘Select Specials’ pages). The annotated bird list at the end of the book lists all the species that have been recorded in the region, together with their alternative and scientific names, references to text citations, and status along each of this book’s nine routes. Read international and local book reviews.

Callan Cohen & Claire Spottiswoode


Callan Cohen and Claire Spottiswoode were born and educated in Cape Town and became dedicated birders at a very young age.
They are deeply interested in evolutionary biology and are currently research students at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of Ornithology at the University of Cape Town, respectively specialising on the systematics and biogeography of the Bustard family, and behavioural ecology of an endemic starling. They each graduated with distinction in Zoology, Botany and Applied Maths from the University of Cape Town, and are contributors to several books (including The Atlas of Southern African Birds, The Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa and Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa 7th edition in prep.) and popular and scientific journals.

Callan and Claire are also highly experienced African birders, and countries that they have birded extensively include South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Morocco, Malawi, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Madagascar and the Comoro Islands, and have made brief forays into the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. One of Callan, Claire and Peter's highlights was their involvement in the rediscovery of the Namuli Apalis Apalis lynesi in northern Mozambique, not seen since its discovery in 1932.

In particular, they have an intimate knowledge of Southern Africa and were successively the youngest people to see the landmark 800 species in this region (Callan at age 21 and Claire at 18). They currently hold the record for not only the most bird species seen in western South Africa in 24 hours (over 220), but have also seen over 40% of Southern Africa's endemics and near-endemics in one day based near Cape Town. However, they're also dedicated natural historians and have a passion for all things natural, notably mammals, frogs, reptiles, and the plants of the Cape Floral Kingdom and Karoo semi-desert.

Callan Cohen

Claire Spottiswoode

In their more than 11 years of operation as Birding Africa, the specialist bird guiding company they founded in 1997, they've personally guided over 300 birders, as well as working for prestigious UK, USA and Scandinavian bird tour companies, such as Sunbird, Zegrahms Eco Expeditions and the Danish Ornithological Society. Callan is certified as a Specialist Ornithological and Natural History Guide with SATOUR (South African Tourism), and has been vice-chairman of the Cape Bird Club, Africa's largest bird club.

Peter Ryan

  Peter is a lecturer at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, and has also taught ornithology at the University of California. He joined Birding Africa in early 2001, bringing his huge experience of leading numerous African birding tours since 1982.

A keen birder, Peter has birded on all seven continents is a long-standing member of the South African Rarities Committee. He's also co-editor of the current revision of Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa, and is presently also working on a field guide to the birds of the Afrotropics, as well as having published widely in books and popular and scientific journals.

His research interests include the evolutionary ecology of birds, notably the endemic buntings at Tristan da Cunha and African larks and warblers. Peter is one of the Southern Oceans' most experienced seabirders, having made numerous visits to Gough Island, Tristan da Cunha, the Prince Edward Islands and Antarctica, and regularly guiding on Cape Town pelagics. He currently also works on reducing seabird mortality on longlines.

Peter Ryan

This website is maintained by Birding Africa.
Please do not use any text, images or content from this site without permission.
© Birding Africa 1997-2009
4 Crassula Way, Pinelands, 7405, Cape Town, South Africa

17 March 09: We are deeply saddened by the passing, after a short illness, of Dr. Steven Piper, one of our favourite guides. We'ld like to extend our deepest condolensces to Steven's family. Steven was a larger than life character with a passion for birding. He had so much energy and devoted a great deal of his time to ringing and teaching, and leading expeditions up to Lesotho. We wish his family comfort and strength.

Raptor Watch in Cape Town on 14 March 09

Wildlife at the office of The Cape Birding Route, Birding Africa and Cape Town Pelagics.