There are six truly special birds in the Fynbos biome, which are restricted to it. They are mainly associated with mountainous country, but a some will adapt to urbanisation.
Most birders visiting the Cape want to see the unique (endemic ) species but to get good sightings of all six you'll need to do a bit of work and have at least two days on your hands.
We start off with what is possibly the most popular one of them all, the Orange-breasted Sunbird which is an absolutely stunning little creature. These nectivorous bird's are closely associated with the native Ericaceae and Proteaceae species of the fynbos biome. They are confiding little birds and the brightly coloured males are real head-turners during the breeding season. Mid-winter to early spring breeders, their nesting is timed with the peak flowering period in the fynbos, when sugar rich nectar is most abundant. Their curved beaks are perfectly designed to penetrate the tubular . Good places to observe them include in and around Cape Town include the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Cape of Good Hope and Table Mountain and Lion's Head to name a few places.
The male Orange-breasted Sunbird is exquisite looking
The Cape Sugarbird, another nectivorous species, has a similar relationship with the fynbos to that of the Orange-breasted Sunbird. The males adorn long-tails, about 40cm long which makes them easy to identify. The females tail is a bit shorter than that of males but both sexes have the yellow vent, making them easy to recognise. They feed and nest within flowering Proteas bushes, and lay beautifully marked golded-brown eggs which are heavily scrolled around the thick-end. Cape Sugarbirds occur in mountain and lowland fynbos from sea level to high altitudes. Their discordial buzzing calls alert one to their presence and they are one of the more familair birds to Cape Town's general population.
A male Cape Sugarbird
Cape Sugarbird female
Cape Siskins are a yellowish-brown, canary-like species which also occur in Mountain Fynbos. These often over-looked little birds are encountered while hiking the Cape's mountains and sometimes within lowland fynbos. Their wing-tips are marked with distinctive white spots, usually seen in flight or if the bird is perched with it's back to one and is sitting in good light. Good places to see Cape Siskin around Cape Town include Cape Point, Table Mountain, Lion's Head, Chapman's Peak and Rooiels near Betty's Bay. They are wide-spread throughout the Cape mountain chain and are likely to be noticed moving about the fynbos in small flocks if one is paying attention to the avifauna around one.
One of the more difficult species to encounter and a "birders bird" is the Protea Canary (Protea Seedeater). A highly desired species amongst most bird-listers, these drab canaries can be tricky to cross paths with. Their movements are influenced by bush fires and they are normally association with Proteas, in which they nest and who's seeds they feeds on. Not much is known about their breeding habits and a patchy distribution within higher altitude country side makes this the least familiar of the the six species to birders and nature lovers. The black chin, white supercilium and heavy whitish-pink bill are a diagnostic combination of physical features. Good places to look for Protea Canaries within an hour or two of Cape Town include Jonkershoek Nature Reserve near Stellenbosch, Bainskloof Pass and Witzenberg Valley Pass above Ceres.
Protea Canary, a "birders bird"
Without a doubt the skulkiest of the fynbos endemics, the Victorin's Warbler, a lover of thickly vegetated steep slopes and drainage lines, is one of the harder fynbos endemics to actually see well. When not calling, this richly coloured warbler can prove a challenging bird to add to your list. It's call is not unlike the Cape Grassbird, a more obliging species and being familar with the two calls will help you in your quest to see Victorin's Warbler. A good strategy to follow when looking for this bird is as follows:
A) know the birds habitat preferences, something that applies to most birds in fact.
B) make and early start and be in the area before 8am
C) position yourself in the vicinity of a calling bird, while being able to see a good portion of the habitat and wait patiently. Views are not normally prolonged, but can be at very close range.
Good places to look for this bird include Bainsklood Pass, Overberg Mountains around Hermanus and the Hottentot's Holland Mountains. Victorin's Warblers usually favour south facing slopes where the moisture content is higher and are a treat to locate, observe and listen too!
Victorin's Warbler, a skulker of note!
Finally endemic number six and the one, many visiting birders to the Cape would consider their no 1 target species, the enigmatic Cape Rockjumper! These birds are just full of character and a combination of powerful song, rich contrasting rufous, black and white plumage and interesting antics, make for a very popular bird. These Mountain Fynbos specialists generally occupy higher-lying ground, covered with large rocks and boulders. They also occur very close to sea-level in the Hottentot's Holland Mountains just east of Cape Town, an easy birding day tour from Cape Town and one of a number of birding days tours Fangs and Feathers runs out of Cape Town.
Other good places for them include Bain's Kloof Pass, Overberg Mountains and the Grootwinterhoek Mountains to name a few. Nesting in rock crevices, these birds are confiding while feeding fledged young and should always be approached with caution to minimise disturbance. On our birding day tours, we elect not to use playback for this species, as it can usually be found through patient observation and being familiar with its distinctive call. This applies to most of the fynbos specials and reponsible use of call playback is always advocated in any environment.
if you have some time on your hands and you plan visits to the various areas mentioned above and explore these species favoured habitat types, you should manage views of these special fynbos birds and add them to your bird list!
Cape Rockjumper male
A female Cape Rockjumper