Birders’ paradise in Pretoria

The most famous book on South African birds is Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, first published in 1940. The book was so authoritative that all birds in South Africa are now identified by their “R” number, the number they were given in the book. The book is now in its seventh edition, published in 2005. A species list from this edition is available here.

Austin Roberts. Image via Wikipedia

The author of the book was Pretoria-born ornithologist Austin Roberts, son of a minister who became the best-known authority on South African birds.

Roberts worked for the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria for 36 years until his untimely death in a car accident in 1946.

In 1958 the Pretoria Municipality declared a bird sanctuary and nature reserve in the Muckleneuk area of the city and named it in honour of the famous son of the city.

Today the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary is a very popular place with birders and just about anyone else looking for a peaceful, restful place to relax. Very popular too is the Blue Crane Restaurant situated on the banks of the lake in the sanctuary.

The sanctuary is now home to some 170 species of birds, notably South Africa’s National Bird the Blue Crane (R208), and large numbers of water birds.

There is a beautiful hide from which the water birds especially can be watched, but also in summer large numbers of masked weavers (R815) and southern red bishops (R824) can be spotted.

The diorama display of birds

There is also a building housing a display of stuffed birds in a diorama.

A red-knobbed coot (R228) foraging for food in the lake.

The sanctuary covers some 11.8 hectares and is part of the Walkerspruit Open Space System. Two streams feed the lake.

Looking across the water towards the restaurant

Adjacent to the sanctuary there is also a beautiful recreation park with attractive walks and playground equipment to keep children occupied.

© Text and photos, unless otherwise indicated, copyright Tony McGregor 2011


  1. Sharon Richner says

    Dear Tony,
    I’m a freelance writer who has just been commissioned by a magazine to write a piece on 3 bird sanctuaries or birding areas in close proximity to major South African cities.

    During my research I came across the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary and am considering including it as one of the 3 sites featured in the article. I then found a gallery of photos and one of them linke dto your website.

    I’d welcome any detailed info you could give me on this site, regarding the variety of bird species that can be seen and the facilities that currently exist. I would also need to source photos showing some of the facilities and a few of the more interesting bird species.

    The magazine is called Explore South Africa, and they do pay for each photo used, so I would ensure that whoever provides the photos receives remuneration for any of their photos that appear in the article.

    My deadline for submitting the article is mid-May but I obviously need to get info as quickly as possible, so as to make a decision on whether to include this site or not. Look forward to hearing from you.

    Kind regards,
    Sharon Richner


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