Johannesburg’s urban forest is home to wonderful bird-life

Wide variety of birds in suburban Johannesburg gardens


Why is there such an abundance of bird life?

There are several reasons:

  • Johannesburg’s extraordinary number of trees it has developed its own micro-climate
  • there are number of green lungs in the form of golf courses and parks
  • there is an abundance of food and nesting opportunities in the leafy suburbs.
Parrots at Liz at Lancaster's birdfeeder

Parrots at  Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse birdfeeder

This has attracted an increasingly varied bird life to the city and its outskirts.

I grew up in Johannesburg and birds like starlings, loeries , hadedas, puff-back shrikes etc. were seldom if ever found in Johannesburg.  Now they are common visitors to our gardens.

The rose-ringed parakeet is another of these new inhabitants.   These beautiful green birds , with fabulous turquoise tail feathers get their names from the red neck-ring which the male has (seen on the top bird on the above).  They are noisy gregarious birds who announce their presence with loud squawks.  We have heard them often here at Liz at Lancaster both flying over and sitting on the bare branches of the neighbour’s  tree.

This last week however, two finally found the bird feeder in the garden and embarked on a major feedathon for about 20 minutes. The next morning they were back, but now,  like my sons, they had brought all their friends to partake of Liz at Lancaster’s fare! And now they fly in morning and evening like clockwork.

Although, it’s wonderful to see their glistening chartreuse green at the bird tray, they can apparently take over.  They aren’t indigenous to South Africa but, like elsewhere in the world, are escapees from aviaries and have established feral populations. There are  feral populations in London  and other parts of England, in  Europe and the U.S.   SOriginally from North Africa and India, these birds are very adaptable and have few natural enemies.

Apart from the standard doves, sparrows and pigeons, other birds which are regular feeders Liz at Lancaster’s bird tray are glossy starlings, crested barbets, red bishops, grey loeries (the grey go-away bird), masked weavers, bulbuls,  & Karoo thrushes amongst others.   And birds which come to the garden but feed on insects are Cape robins, puff-back shrikes, green wood-hoopoes, white-eyes and even a male paradise flycatcher seen on the right.  The black (now amethyst) sunbird loves the aloes and we hear green pigeons, the rain bird or Burchell’s Coucal, the Boubou shrike and at night the water dikkops (now called the spotted thick knee).

On quiet evenings we hear the spotted eagle owls which roost down at Delta Park.  Delta Park (5 blocks from Liz at Lancaster) has an amazingly prolific bird life.   Nearly 240 species have been recorded there.

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  1. Geoff
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Hi Liz,

    Have you figured out what these green birds are? I’ve been seeing them more and more often around jhb’s northern suburbs!

  2. Posted October 7, 2013 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Sorry about late reply. They are rose-ringed parakeets. Escaped from aviaries initially but now breeding in the wild.

  3. Maggie
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Hi Liz

    Just for interest sake, I spotted a pair of stunning light green long tailed birds (probably the rose-ringed parakeets) at Willson/Kings Park in Berario, Northcliff last weekend. They were a very light green? they flew about in the area where the Fairlands Spruit runs through Berario – Fairlands. Beautiful sighting – made my day!

    Have a lovely Easter! Will look out for them this weekend again…

  4. Posted June 14, 2014 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Hi Maggie, Sorry about the late reply. Yes – green long tailed birds can only be ther rose ringed parakeets. Thanks for feedback.

  5. John
    Posted July 12, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Good morning, any rose ringed parakeets in Bryanston area?

  6. HI Liz
    Posted September 15, 2014 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    HI Liz

    I live in Paulshof in the North of Johannesburg. Yesterday I spotted a green bird that looked like a parrot flying around my complex. I live close by to the Rietfontein Nature Reserve but I doubt that it came from there. It did not have a long tail like the above Rose-Ringed parakeet. What else could it be?

    My roommate has also spotted lovebirds sitting on the roof of the building. Do you think these are birds that have escaped aviaries?

  7. Posted September 16, 2014 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    Hi Helen, It is almost certainly a lovebird. They were originally aviary escapees like the rose-ringed parakeet and are breeding in the wild. I went for a bird walk in Delta Park with Geoff Lockwood a couple of years ago and we saw a love-bird and a parakeet that had teamed up as a pair. Geoff said that some species are even interbreeding.

  8. Posted September 16, 2014 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Hi John, I think they are all over Joburg. Interestingly I think they move to warmer slopes/facings/parts during winter as I definitely hear and see them less in winter. Would be interesting to know how far they move.

  9. Averil
    Posted March 14, 2015 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Have three green long tailed Indian ringnecks that have found my bird feeder … thought the first one was an escapee but too wild to be one; first sight of a human even through a windows and they are off ! … lovely to see; get so much pleasure from seeing them in my garden; have regular daily visits from our friends the hadeda’s, a group of about 4 red headed finches; little white eyes, crested barbets; black collared barbets, red bishops; the occasional lourie & glossy starlings that enjoy the fruit; bulbuls enjoy the seed and bread together with the weavers; a pair of white throated sunbirds visit to extract nectar from the flowers; and nested in my atrium last year but sadly my cat got their baby… copius amounts of doves/pigeons; once in a blue moon we get the green wood hoopoes flying in and off again; there are crows that occassionaly fly over; being not too far away from the Cottesmore Park & (klein jukskei)? river in Bryanston probably helps…

  10. Posted March 15, 2015 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for this feedback. You have an amazing variety of birds in your garden. I’ve never had red-headed finches but have had a paradise fly catcher. I love the way Joburg is attracting more and more birds to the garden suburbs.

  11. Allison
    Posted April 4, 2015 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Hi Liz,

    I have seen these parakeets flying over our area (Centurion) on a daily basis. I thought they were from an aviary but now believe they are wild after seeing your blog. I’m blessed to have regular daily visits from hadeda’s, white eyes, crested barbets, occasionally red bishops, many grey louries, glossy starlings, bulbuls, white bellied sunbirds and my favourites the violet wood hoepoes. At this time of year many green pigeons that feed on my firethorn berries, they are a delight to behold. (some pics on my Facebook page). We are so fortunate to have so many stunning birds in our garden. We very occasionally get the beautiful flycatchers.
    Thanks for your blog.

  12. carole
    Posted June 18, 2015 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Just saw two in Rietvlei nature reserve this morning

  13. chase
    Posted July 12, 2015 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    I have spotted these green parakeets in bedfordview jhb and Lyndhurst they seem a lot like my Indian ringneck parakeet, amazing I am happy that they are thriving in the wild.

    The love birds too I have spotted in sunninghill t
    Next door to the hotel school building I saw 3 sitting on the roof making a noise I was shocked never seen them in the wild surviving would love to find their nest and get a baby.

  14. David
    Posted July 21, 2015 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Hi Liz

    I have seen more than 30 of these indian ringnecks. mostly green,a couple of yellow and 2 blue. Around green arces office park daily. I got a feeling that someones aviary door was left open and they flew out. But I must say they have adapted to the Johannesburg climate very well. I have notice them for the past 2 years now.

  15. Megan
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I saw a few of these today at Camdeboo Spa opposite Irene dairy farm in Centurion. So glad I could find out what they are! Beautiful to see

  16. Morne Ferreira
    Posted May 5, 2016 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Saw a flock of possibly 40 flying over our building at SITA centurion at 06:40 this morning. 10 or so landed in acacia trees in our grounds and feasted on the seedpods of the trees. Flew off after a while. Very nice to see. Even called my boss who is also an avid birder to come and see.

  17. Stephen Raubenheimer
    Posted June 21, 2016 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    A pleasant surprise as green (turquoise) parrots are in my garden every day (in Kew), feasting off raw peanuts in feeders I hung in my garden 2 weeks ago. They are quite spectacular as they arrive in flocks of about 10 or so, and have a recognisable sharp tweet chatter.

  18. Jennifer Morgan
    Posted December 14, 2016 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Just wanted to tell you, I spotted a pair of Paradise Flycathers (Forest Town JHB), they nested in my garden last year but were chased away
    from the next by a violent storm. A neighbour mentioned hearing them but I did not get a visual. Today I saw one catching a butterfly (lots of
    antics to this) and decided to check further; Voila found the next, and the partner. I have had no lights (only plugs) for nearly a week, was supposed
    to call the municipality; Not going to do that now as their big truck could hit the tree/dead branch were the pair are (saw a little head pop up earlier
    as it was feeding.

    So yes, a nature lover am I, prepared to ‘sit with not lights’ while my Paradise Flycatchers raise their family. What a gift ….. Seen the Parqueets in
    Houghton, amazing…
    Thank you Jennifer

  19. Coen Deacon
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Good morning, Liz.
    Every morning and evening 2 or 3 will fly over my house in Riviera, Johannesburg. Very surprise to see them in the wild….. They must be nesting at Zoo Lake area.

  20. Posted December 28, 2016 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Wow Jennifer. That’s amazing. Particularly being prepared to have no lights to save the little chicks. Saw mother feeding 2 chicks in the Pilanesberg recently. Went back the next day but they had gone so they were obviously ready to fly.

  21. Posted December 28, 2016 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    They might even be nesting in a domestic garden or at the Zoo?

  22. Posted December 28, 2016 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Beautfiful as they are, they might well become a problem down the line :( Apparently in the UK they are chasing away the song-birds.

  23. Ruth
    Posted December 29, 2016 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    i have a brownish bird, double the seize of a weaver with a beige striped head in my garden building a nest like a weaver high up in the bamboo. what type of bird? in Emmarentia ridge.

  24. Jo
    Posted January 11, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Hi Liz. What do you put in your bird feeder to attract the Indian Ringnecks (that’s what I know them as)? I used to breed them in an aviary, fed largely on sunflower seeds. They are definitely in my area, and it would be wonderful to have them as wild visitors in the garden!

  25. Posted January 21, 2017 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    They love nuts. But they are not birds one should encourage as they are starting to take over and often chase other birds away as they are so dominant.

  26. eleanor
    Posted January 22, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink


  27. Megan
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Hi Liz, I’m trying to find out why it is that loeries get so hot under the collar about owls. I heard them in my jacaranda this morning, constantly calling “kwe” and doing a sort of warning “crrr”, and I thought “owl”. Sure enough, when I went to check, there was a spotted eagle owl trying to get some shut eye, with a gang of loeries thumping all around him in the branches. After a few minutes, he gave up and flew off, followed by the loeries who then set to harassing him from the next-door garden too. I saw the same thing a few years back. Any idea why the loeries do this?

  28. Posted February 26, 2017 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Hi Megan, See from another post owls that loeries commonly harass owls. Maybe it’s simply territorial. A bird bigger than a loerie presents threat to loerie?

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