Rufous-tailed scrub robin draws twitchers to City reserve

birdOver the past month, bird lovers have travelled great distances to be able to tick the rufous-tailed scrub robin off their must-see bird list. The bird was first spotted in the Zeekoevlei at the False Bay Nature Reserve last month. This small scrub robin does not usually occur any closer to South Africa than Kenya, but found the habitat provided at the City’s reserve to its liking. Read more below:

To date, more than 900 birders have flocked to view the rufous-tailed scrub robin spotted by Peter Steyn and André Demblon on 17 July. A month later this rare bird, which has never been recorded in South Africa before, continues to be the centre of attention, drawing twitchers from all over the country to the City’s False Bay Nature Reserve. It is likely that the bird arrived around May and will depart around September. The False Bay Nature Reserve is one of the City’s three identified Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, is a site of global significance for bird conservation, and is the City’s only Ramsar site (a wetland of international importance).

‘Many birders have traveled from as far afield as Kwazulu-Natal, Gauteng and Mpumalanga. Some bird enthusiasts even came from Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to view this vagrant bird. Vagrant birds are basically lost individuals that turn up well out of range and it is for this reason that we are very excited that the rufous-tailed scrub robin chose to make the False Bay Nature Reserve its temporary home as we continue to build on the reserve’s status as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area and a Ramsar site.

‘Many birders have traveled from as far afield as Kwazulu-Natal, Gauteng and Mpumalanga. Some bird enthusiasts even came from Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to view this vagrant bird. Vagrant birds are basically lost individuals that turn up well out of range and it is for this reason that we are very excited that the rufous-tailed scrub robin chose to make the False Bay Nature Reserve its temporary home as we continue to build on the reserve’s status as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area and a Ramsar site.

‘Besides the many bird species that are resident or regular seasonal visitors to the False Bay Nature Reserve, the site is considered as a hotspot for vagrant birds in birding circles,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning, Councillor Johan van der Merwe.

Birds are known to be effective indicators of biodiversity hotspots, so Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) such as the False Bay Nature Reserve hold large and representative proportions of other species too. The conservation of IBAs therefore ensures conservation of other biodiversity and ecosystems and also supports human well-being. The Rietvlei section of Table Bay Nature Reserve and the Steenbras Nature Reserve are the City’s other IBAs.

The IBA Programme is an international Birdlife Partnership initiative, with over 120 birdlife partners – making it the largest nature conservation network in the world. IBAs are sites of global significance for bird conservation, identified nationally. The criteria are based on presence of threatened species, and large concentrations of congregatory species are referred to collectively as IBA ‘trigger’ species.

The ‘trigger’ species at the FBNR IBA include globally threatened species such as the African black oystercatcher, the lesser flamingo and Cape cormorant, as well as regionally threatened species such as the greater flamingo, great white pelican, African marsh harrier, lanner falcon and Caspian tern, among others.

‘The Rondevlei section of the False Bay Nature Reserve has six bird hides and a vlei side trail. This is a popular bird-watching location in Cape Town. Plans are under way to refurbish and improve the bird hides, as well as make them universally accessible (i.e. disabled-friendly).