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.

Stay at Liz at Lancaster Guest House

Get the most out of your Johannesburg visit! Liz Delmont, owner & on-site manager is the right person to give you the low-down & point you in the right direction. Johannesburg In your Pocket describes her as “a maven on all things Joburg”. The guesthouse notice board is constantly updated with her recommendations on how best to spend your time in the city!

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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

46 thoughts on “Johannesburg’s urban forest is home to wonderful bird-life

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

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

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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…

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Hi,
    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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

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

  20. 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.

  21. 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!

  22. 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.


  24. 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?

  25. 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?

  26. Hi there,
    We’re on a farm in Gauteng, near Walkerville. We now have a bird here (quite a lot) that has a solid metallic blue hue from head to tail. in the sun, some shiny green also reflects. It’s quite large almost the size of a Myna?? Thank you

  27. Hi Liz. Are there any reliable roosting sites in Bryanston where one can see green pigeons?

  28. Hi Steve,
    Not that I know of I’m afraid. I know people have seen them here in Craighall Park but as to roosting sites – sorry, Can’t help!

  29. Hi Liz
    I have on 2 occasions had about 6-7 Pied Starlings in my White Stinkwood. They are very vocal and it was their beautiful chirping/song that alerted me to their presence. Do you perhaps know if they are common in the Germiston area or maybe just passing through with the changing season. Also once had a Brown/Red winged starling on my feeder.

  30. There are I think pied starlings at Marievale Bird Sanctuary. You are lucky to have then come to your garden. I’ve never seen pied starlings in Joburg but have seen red-winged starlings. We are getting an increasing variety of birds in Joburg. It’s wonderful. Thanks for your info and comment.

  31. Spotted 4 to 6 of them in my garden in Randburg today. Noisy chirpers they are. Went to see what the fuss was about and 1 took off… the rest followed. Exactly like louries which we have a lot of but very lime green and somewhat bigger… wow ?

  32. They are very beautiful but long term are going to cause a problem (as they have in the UK and Holland) as they are so noisy, dominant and are very adaptable. Threatening the song birds in the UK. Sad as they are so stunning to look at. Love the sunlight on that green and turquoise.

  33. Hi Liz,

    I live in JHB and am particularly interesting in viewing glossy starlings. Might you have any suggestions on where I can go to specifically view these birds?


  34. This is tricky as one never knows where they are breeding and nesting. At our guesthouse Liz at Lancaster in Craighall Park we put fruit out on the bird tray and they often come to feed. They are in a lot of suburban gardens but where exactly you would see them am not sure. Good luck with spotting them.

  35. Am in Morningside, and I have lots of trees in the garden, however, I have a humongous pecan but tree just by my porch, and here is where I saw the red ringed parakeets, such beautiful coloured and extremely shy birds.I have so far counted 14 of them so far. Amongst lots of other bird species. Liz, thanks for the info on these beautiful birds. I googled wild parakeets in Jhb and saw your lovely write up on them.

  36. Interested to know the type of Lovebirds I see in Sandton in spring when I stay at the Maslow hotel. Last time I was there there were 10 or so feeding in the poplar trees in the car park. Rosy faced? Not parakeets and too small for parrot.

  37. They are rose-ringed parakeets. Not indigenous. Originally escaped aviary birds. Very adaptable. Breeding prolifically in the wild and of course are gregarious and very noisy. All over Amsterdam and in parks in London. Threatening the song birds as they are so noisy.

  38. I’m in Bryanston and am sure I just saw a dikkop in my driveway
    Big, brown spotted with long legs.
    Is this possible?

  39. We have a gorgeous little pin tailed wydah, coming to our seed feeder. It is a small as the red headed finches, has a very long black tail and bright red beak. Body is black and white. In Fairmount, Near Sandringham dip. Melany

  40. Hi, I am shortly to go into assisted care due to failing health, where, sadly, no pets are allowed. I have always had pets, and as a widow, they have been my main companions. so far I have homes for my dachshund and my ginger tomcat, but I am determined to find the perfect home for my beautiful turquoise male Indian Ringneck who loves company but would not be good in a home with children. He has NEVER been out of his cage because of cats, and is therefore not tamed to be handled, but loves to give kisses through the bars. He decided years ago that peanuts in their shells were the ideal staple diet for him, and has refused sunflower seeds since then. Otherwise he enjoys fruit, lettuce, even cheese, but as any bird lover will know – avocado pear is lethal to them. He sometimes calls the name of an old dog I had – Fritzi, and he says “Hello my darling”. The right new parent would have to be familiar with this kind of bird and be at home most of the time to provide constant company, also to be prepared to buy his beautiful big parrot cage on a pedestal with wheels, for R1000. Therefore he is best suited for a pensioner who would interact with him. I would need to meet with potential owners, who need preferably to be in and around the Roosevelt Park/East Town areas near Northcliff Corner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *