Birders and twitchers with a passion for identifying and observing the behaviour of Africa’s feathered species will thoroughly enjoy the Jaci’s Lodges Big Birding safari. Led by passionate birding specialists and guides Etienne Marais & Trevor Hardaker, with assistance from Jaci’s expert field guides, this unique safari will teach you how to recognise and name bird species by sight, sound and habitat.

More than 340 bird species have been recorded in the Madikwe Game Reserve, many of them near-endemic to Southern Africa, especially those of the arid west region. The terrain of the reserve offers avid bird watchers and anyone interested in birds and their behaviour an excellent opportunity to view the birds in their natural habitat, with good photographic opportunities adjunct to the birding.

The Big Birding safari only take place during November to coincide with the Bird Life Big Birding Day & when migrant species are visiting South Africa.



Etienne Marais

Etienne Marais has been birding for close on 47 years – having started out at the age of 7.  Etienne is a former council member of BirdLife South Africa and former Chairman of the Pretoria Bird Club (Now BLNG) Since 1998, Etienne has been leading birding tours throughout Southern Africa and has a particular love for Mozambique with over 45 birding tours to that country.

Etienne has been involved in the development of a number of birding routes in Southern Africa including the original Zululand Birding Route, the Vaal Birding Route and Mozambique Birding Route.  One of his passions is bird monitoring and he has been intensely involved with Bird Atlasing over the last decade and is currently Regional SABAP2 Atlas Co-ordinator for Mozambique.

Etienne’s special interests are bird calls, identification of LBJ’s, Raptors and Warblers. He runs regular “field courses” on palearctic warblers, LBJ’s and other tricky groups. He also has a special fascination for bird migration, not only in the global context but locally as well. Etienne was the leader of the first team in Southern Africa’s Birding Big Day that recorded over 300 species within 24 hours. (The Raiders of the Lost Lark)

Etienne is currently a Member of BirdLife SA National Rarities Committee, and the national Bird List Committee. He is co-author of the Chamberlain Guide to Birding Gauteng, with Faansie Peacock and was publishing partner for Chamberlain’s LBJ’s of Southern Africa  (By Faansie Peacock)

Etienne is Married to Alice and has two teenage children, which limit his travels a bit! When not birding he enjoys vegetable gardening and has a special interest in nutrition debates.

Trevor Hardaker

Trevor has had an interest in wildlife and, in particular birds, from a very young age and has spent a major portion of his life, both locally and abroad, looking at and enjoying birds continually working to improve his own knowledge of them. His interest covers many aspects of the hobby from birding close to home and enjoying the common species through to racing across the country to catch up with some rare species that has just made landfall somewhere and he is also actively involved with the Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) that is currently underway detailing the distribution of all the country’s bird species. Conservation is also very close to his heart and he regularly gets involved with various conservation projects to offer assistance where he can.

He is one of only 3 people who have seen more than 900 species in Southern Africa and is the youngest person, by some way, ever to have done so. He is currently the Chairman of BirdLife South Africa’s Rarities Committee, a panel of the top bird identification experts in the country that adjudicates all sightings of rare and out of range sightings in South Africa, whilst he also serves on the organisation’s List Committee which puts together the official bird list for South Africa.

Apart from local birding, he has also already birded on 6 of the world’s 7 continents and has also been invited to represent South Africa at the World Birding Rally in Peru twice already and at the Champions of the Flyway in Israel, both competitions where teams from across the world race against each other to see who can see the most species within a specified time.

He describes himself as passionate about birds (and all wildlife), but those close to him would rather have it referred to as obsessive or just plain crazy. We’ll leave it to the rest of you to decide…

Interesting ornithology, you say

Birding terminology to impress your friends

By profession, ornithologists study birds. They may or may not be keen birders.

You go birding with birders. Birdwatching is an acceptable term, but birdspotting is not. Birders are not fanatical. They have a keen interest in birds and may have a list or two of confirmed species sightings.

Twitchers are fanatical birders and list-keepers. Their readiness to jump at any rare sighting is described as twitching.

Birders and twitchers keep lists of the birds they have seen. Well-travelled birders may have country lists or a world list.

Amateur birders are more likely to have a life list. Fanatical twitchers will have regional lists. When a bird is identified and verified, it gets a tick on the list.

A rare bird, or a mega, gets a megatick.

Birders use bins (or binoculars).

A BOP is a bird of prey; an LBJ is a little brown job – a small, brown bird that resembles many other small, brown birds, mostly an immature or female bird.

Dimorphism is the difference in appearance and form between female and male individuals of the same species. In most cases the males of the species that display dimorphism are bright and colourful, while the females are drably dressed.

Collective nouns for birds

  • A kettle of hawks
  • A murder of crows
  • A paddling of ducks
  • A congregation of eagles
  • A charm of finches
  • An ascension of larks
  • A parliament of owls
  • A knot of sparrows
  • A gulp of swallows

Of the world’s 10 000 bird species, around 2 500 are endemic. If you want to see these birds, you’ll have to travel to where they live, since they don’t live anywhere else.

When approaching a possible sighting and the bird flies away, it’s called flushing. As in, “You flushed that bird out by driving too close to that tree.”

A pish is an imitation birdcall used by birders to attract species that they may not otherwise see. Pishing is when you make a “pish” sound through pursed lips. The call attracts other birds in the vicinity that come to see what the sound is about, or why the threatening calls are being made.

A scrape isn’t a scratch – it’s a type of bird’s nest. Simple in construction, a scrape is a shallow dent in the soil or vegetation that has a rim deep enough to keep eggs from rolling away. Sometimes lined with bits of leaves, feathers and shell, scrapes also camouflage the eggs. So who builds a scrape? Ostriches, duck species, shorebirds, falcons and sand grouse, among others.

Birds that eat fruit are frugivorous.

The lores is the space between the eye and the upper part of the bird’s bill, sometimes used to verify an identification in the event of an inconspicuous sighting.

By contrast, the poll describes the part of the head between the ears, or the top of the head.

A bird’s need to travel is known as zugunruhe. It’s best described as seasonal restlessness and most aptly applied to birds that migrate.