The Birds in Reserves Project, or for short BIRP, started in 1992 and is run as a National “Citizen Science” project by the Animal Demography Unit (ADU), based at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The primary aim of the project is the collection of bird occurrence data, specifically inside South African protected areas (PAs). The process is fairly simple; volunteers go out to any PA and simply make a list of all the bird species observed. Data can be collected up to a maximum of seven days. This project is well suited for people that simply want to contribute their sightings (within protected areas) to a worthwhile cause. Equally, the BIRP project can serve as an avifaunal baseline monitoring tool for all protected areas, whether big or small. The data is submitted to the ADU, processed and made available on this website.

The data collected serves a variety of users; private, recreational, institutional and academic. The project is supported and endorsed by both the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) as well as BirdLife South Africa (BLSA).

The menu on the left provides you with a host of functions in order to obtain information from this site. Species summaries, site summaries, observer summaries including other project related information are available. We also encourage decision makers and managers to use the data available to help them make informed planning and management choices. We hope that this site will serve you as a valuable conservation assessment tool.

If you would like to become involved in the BIRP project, we would dearly like to hear from you. Your contributions will certainly benefit bird conservation in South Africa. Please download the BIRP instruction booklet which contains all the relevant information pertaining to this project. Alternatively contact the project coordinator (telephone 021 650 4698).

We encourage you to use the BIRP information for personal or recreational use; including education, research and conservation purposes. For these applications the data will be provided free of charge. This information may not be incorporated into other websites, or used for commercial gain. Please contact the project coordinator for further details. Effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the data, but the ADU cannot guarantee that all data are correct. If you are aware of any errors or omissions in the data, please contact the project coordinator.

Latest news

2014-05-27 Richard Sherley 
Colour Rings on Swift Terns 

Swift Terns are one of the few locally-breeding seabirds whose numbers are increasing. To help understand the main factors driving the positive trend of this species, a team of researchers from the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology and the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town marked 500 Swift Terns chicks from Robben Island in April 2013 and 2014 with metal and individually engraved colour rings. In 2013 members of the public reported how these birds dispersed, providing information on the fledging success, survival and dispersal of juvenile Swift Terns, which were re-sighted from Namibia to the Eastern Cape. 

Gathering dispersal records is a time consuming but important task that relies on assistance from volunteers across southern Africa. 

Rings in 2014 are orange and yellow (with black text) and green and blue (with white text), and are engraved with an “A” followed by a letter and a number (e.g. AU2). Rings from 2013 are yellow and white (with black text) and green and blue (with white text), and bear a code of one letter and one number (e.g. U2).  The majority of the colour rings are top-down and all are on the right leg. Click here for more information on the rings.

If you see any ringed birds please record their location as accurately as possible (ideally GPS), the date and time of sighting, ring colour, letters on the ring (if legible) and age class (juvenile or immature). If a bird is found dead, please also record the number of the metal ring. 

Please send the information to Davide Gaglio:

Thanks for your help!


2013-06-27 Doug Harebottle 
Twenty years of CWACing the Bot River Estuary 

The 25th of July1993 marked the first Coordinated Waterbird Count (CWAC) for the Bot River Estuary, one of the largest estuarine systems in the Western Cape. It was one of the first wetland sites to be counted soon after the CWAC programme was launched in 1992. The 6th of July 2013 will mark the 20th anniversary of these counts which have been coordinated by Mariana Delport of the Tygerberg Bird Club.  Counts and observers have undergone various changes through the years. Says Mariana, "The first count was originally scheduled for 17 July 1993, but due to bad weather conditions it was postponed to 25 July 1993.  Initially we only counted the Bot River Estuary (known locally as the Botriviervlei), but from 1995 we included the nearby Kleinmond Estuary as the two systems are closely linked."

The CWAC pioneers, made up of four teams, included Mariana Delport, Willie D’Hondt, Colin Jones, Jurie and Adele Fourie, Anton Nel, Mossie Smit, John and Debbie Philogene, Margaret McCall, Talitha le Seur, Brian Vanderwalt, Ann Rickets, Libby Kerr, Brenda Anderson and Beverley Patterson. From this group Mariana and Beverly remain as active counters! Additional counters from Kleinmond, Hermanus, Somerset West and Cape Town have given of their time to assist with the counts over the last 20 years. 

Most counts have taken place twice a year (February and July), but from January 2003 until December 2006, all sections were counted to monitor the changes within a full breaching cycle of the estuary. The results were included as a chapter in Doug Harebottle's PhD thesis and which had important conservation outcomes for the estuary's waterbirds. Quarterly counts were then done for another three years. Mariana comments, "This called for some dedication, especially for us driving all the way from Cape Town, sometimes in adverse weather conditions!"

This is an incredible data set and probably one of the longest running series of waterbird counts for a South African estuary. Mariana says, "Looking at the results of the past 20 years, not much has changed since 1993. Numbers of Red-knobbed Coot, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveler, Red-billed Teal, grebes, flamingos, terns, shorebirds, have varied seasonally as well as based on the breaching regime of the sand bar at Meerensee". But she adds, "...some species, such as Red-knobbed Coot and Great Crested Grebe have seen gradual declines in  numbers and in more recent years we have seen an increase in the number of Blue Crane along the upper reaches of the lagoon, which is great.  Occasionally some rarities make their appearance, like Osprey, Black Harrier, Common Black-headed Gull and African Openbill."


The ADU salutes Mariana, her team and the Tygerberg Bird Club for taking ownership of this important wetland as a CWAC site over the past twenty years. It takes dedication and commitment to sustain monitoring at these levels. Like Stan Madden and the Blesbokspruit wetlands, Mariana has been the stalwart and champion for the Bot estuary CWACs.

We are also extremely grateful to all the citizen scientists who have given up their time, petrol and effort to help with these counts. Ensuring continuity for these counts is vital to understand the long-term dynamics of waterbird populations and everyone's contributions makes a difference; in Mariana's words "Let’s continue for another 20 years!"



2013-06-11 Doug Harebottle 
Atlas bash to Loeriesfontein, Northern Cape, 8-11 August 2013 

This comes from Garth Shaw, one of our avid Western Cape atlasers...

"Flower season in the Northern Cape is a bucket list thing to do! What better way to enjoy the flowers than to atlas a couple of pentads in flower season! Join the Loeriesfontein bash over the long weekend of 8-11 August and contribute a couple of virgin pentads to the SABAP2 database.

The bash will be based in Loeriesfontein as there are a high number of virgin pentads in the region, and there is a good road network making atlasing possible even in sedan type vehicles. Willing atlasers will also be able to "sleep a night on the road" by joining the group on the Thursday evening, but then "sleeping out" on Friday night either in a neighbouring town, or by camping on farmers ground (obviously with the farmers permission) before joining the group again on the Saturday evening.

Although pentad lists might not be long, the area is potentially host to a number of specials including Namaqua and Cinnamon-breasted Warblers, Black-eared Sparrowlark, Red, Sclater’s and Stark’s Larks, Tractrac Chat, Burchell’s Courser, Ludwig’s Bustard, as well as most of the typical karoo species like Karoo Korhaan, Karoo Long-billed Lark, Karoo Eremomela amongst others.

This might be a good chance for out-of-towners to push their atlasing life list that little bit higher!"

If you are interested in joining the bash, please send an email to Garth at There is also a Facebook events page for this bash - click hereto take a peek.

See you in Loeriesfontein!