Habitat Shots

The “Habitat Shots” section presents a selection of our most prized “birds in their environment” photographs.

Habitat shots, birdscapes or “birds in their environment” images must rank as some of the most difficult photographs to master. In essence, they are small in the frame photographs of birds taken in a setting that exemplifies (or eludes to) their natural environment, and hopefully tell a story to the audience.

This genre of bird photography combines the art of landscape photography (texture, lighting, composition…) with the challenges of bird photography (movement, focus, eye contact…). It also affords the photographer more expression, as there is lots of subjectivity in these images i.e. they often evoke completely different responses from different people.

I personally find habitat shots the most satisfying to take, given this combination of challenge and creativity. They provide context and tell a narrative, and are definitely my favourite genre of bird photography.

To enlarge each photograph, click on the thumbnail.


A Narina Trogon sits motionless low down in the canopy of lowalnd forest in Coutada 11, Mozambique. “The Holy Grail” ~ An African Pitta stands alert on top of a low hanging branch in the lowland forests of Coutada 11, Mozambique. “Eagle’s Eye View” ~ A Verreaux Eagle glides over the cliffs of the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. A female, Green Twinspot perches in her typical forest habitat in Magoebaskloof. (The forests here are dark and damp with occasional light streaming through the dense canopy. Lichen and moss cover the trees and their branches. A Burnt-necked Eremomela feeds low down in the canopy of an acacia tree on the Zaagkuildrift to Kgomo Kgomo birding route. A Lesser Swamp Warbler sits amongst tall reeds on the edge of a wetland at Marievale Bird Sanctuary. An African Harrier Hawk (or Gymnogene) raids a weaver’s nest in search of eggs or chicks at Nambiti Game Reserve, South Africa. “Early Morning Owlet” ~ As the early morning sun lights up the background, a petite, Pearl-spotted Owlet perches on a magnificent tree in the heart of the Waterberg. “Busy Builder” ~ A male, Thick-billed Weaver building its nest in typical reedbed habitat, close to water. A Marsh Owl looks out across his bushveld habitat at the start of the Zaagkuildrift to Kgomo Kgomo birding route. A Spotted Crake skulks from one wetland to the next at Marievale Bird Sanctuary near Nigel, South Africa A male, Drakensberg Rockjumper looks out on his boulder strewn, mountain side habitat at the top of Naude’s Nek. A male, Red-collared Widowbird serenades nearby females from his carefully selected perch in the high altitude grasslands of Rietvlei Nature Reserve. A Lizzard Buzzard, with a lizzard in his talons, sits in his typical broad-leaved woodland habitat “Motionless” ~ A Squacco Heron sits motionless while fishing in a wetland channel at Marievale Bird Sanctuary, Gauteng, South Africa. A male, Narina Trogon stops for a brief moment in his valley forest habitat, before flying down to join his partner below. Purple Heron A Common Waxbill perches for a brief moment amongst a field of flowers at Rietvlei Nature Reserve. “The Flight of the Bumblebee” ~ A male, Yellow-crowned Bishop bursts from the cover of his tall, grassland habitat in search of a nearby female. A Black Crake emerges from its dense reed habitat to investigate a dead crab. Courting White-throated Swallows select an open perch in one of the reed enclosed, waterways of Marievale Bird Sanctuary. A skulking, Eastern Nicator stops for a brief second in the thick, green landscape of Hluhluwe Game Reserve before moving off with its chosen bird party. A Capped Wheatear stands tall next to its nest on the baron plains of Kgomo Kgomo. “A Robin’s Magical Garden” ~ A Bearded Scrub Robin in his magical garden on the banks of the Blyde river. A Tawny-flanked Prinia collects nesting material in his thick grass and reed environment at Umndoni Golf Course, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Malachite Kingfisher / Marievale Bird Sanctuary, Nigel, South Africa / February 2019 An Egyptian Plover stands alert on the banks of the Benoue River in Cameroon. A male, Malachite Sunbird helps himself to nectar in a Wakkerstroom garden. A Long-tailed Widowbird displays over the beautiful farmlands that surround the town of Devon in south east Gauteng. A striking, male Drakensberg Rockumper standing characteristically on a rock amongst a field of beautiful, yellow flowers. A Marsh Owl looks out across his bushveld habitat at the start of the Zaagkuildrift to Kgomo Kgomo birding route. A Pennant-winged Nightjar after a brief thunder shower in the miombo woodlands of Dzanlanyama Forest. “Sunbird Babbler” ~ A Pied Babbler tries to be a sunbird amongst flowering succulents in the Dinokeng Nature Reserve. A Little Stint patrols the beach front at Umngazi River Bungalows in the Eastern Cape. A Cuckoo Finch perches amongst the invasive Pom Poms at Rietvlei Nature Reserve. An endangered, Rudd’s Lark steps out onto a grass track in the middle of his dense, dew-filled, grassland habitat. A Western Cattle Egret sits on his favourite perch as the sun rises over the grasslands of Rietvlei Nature Reserve. A male, Drakensberg Rockjumper stands in his typical, upright stance on a moss covered boulder in early morning light. A Lesser Swamp Warbler creeps to the top of a prominent reed at Marievale Bird Sanctuary. A Ground Woodpecker sits charecteristically on a boulder on the slopes of the Sani Pass. A female, Cuckoo Finch in her “cisticola rich”, grassland habitat. A Bronze-winged Courser stands alert on a dirt track through the broad-leaved woodlands of north east Cameroon. An Orange River Francolin skulks through thick grass on the edge of a wetland in south east Gauteng. An exquisite Malachite Sunbird blending in to the hilltop tangles at Giant’s Castle in the Drakensberg. A pair of Wattled Crane stand in unison, as they watch over their pristine grassland habitat in Ntsikeni Nature Reserve. A Red-collared Widowbird calls from his carefully selected perch in the high altitude grasslands of Rietvlei Nature Reserve. A sub adult, Bearded Vulture (sub-adult) soars over his Drakensberg kingdom. A Pied Kingfisher fishing from his favourite, rocky perch on the east coast of South Africa. “Cisticola in the Cosmos” ~ A Leveillant’s Cisticola sings his heart out in the Cosmos of Devon’s Farmlands. A male, Cape Rockjumper sings from his rocky perch at the top of Swartberg Pass near Prince Albert A Common Waxbill perches for a brief moment amongst a field of flowers at Rietvlei Nature Reserve. A Barrow’s Korhaan raises his voice on the open plains of Direkiesdorp near Wakkerstroom. A male, Green Twinspot perches on a mossy branch in his dark and gloomy forest habitat. A female, Violet-eared Waxbill comes down to drink at a puddle in the red sands of the Kalahari. A Violet-eared Waxbill perches out in the open of its dry, acacia habitat. A male, Drakensberg Siskin sits on a boulder amongst boulders at the top of Naude’s Nek. “Acacia Chat” – A Familiar Chat sits precariously on a classic, acacia thorn branch in the Waterberg. A European Bee-eater in its “spring time” grassland habitat. A curious, Yellow-streaked Greenbul peers at me from his vantage point in the canopy (near Woodbush Forest, Magoebaskloof) An Orange-breasted Bush-shrike stops for a brief moment in the canopy before continuing on her way at Mabula Game Reserve, South Africa. An endemic, Cape Siskin sits deep within his mountain fynbos habitat on the southern tip of Africa. A Sickle-winged Chat looks out over his rocky terrain at the top of Naude’s Nek. A Blacksmith Lapwing walks purposefully across the open landscape of a Transkei beach. A male, Coqui Francolin cross a red-solied, farm road to take cover in thick roadside grassland. An African Rail stands upright and alert between two wetlands hoping that he will have time to feed on a newly found crab shell. A Black-crowned Tchagratakes a short break from skulking to perch on a small acacia tree in Monyane Private Game Reserve. An Orange Ground Thrush scans her territory from a moss strewn branch in a forest adjacent Benvie Garden in the Karkloof A Malachite Kingfisher fishes from a suitable vantage point at Marievale Bird Sanctuary. A Rosy-throated Longclaw stands alert in his grassland paradise at the Nebila Peninsula near Hluhluwe. A Bar-throated Apalis perches momentarily in its broad-leafed woodland habitat in the Waterberg, South Africa. An African Rail skulks from one side of the wetland to another at Marievale Bird Sanctuary near Nigel, South Africa An Ovambo Sparrowhak enjoys the early morning sun on her urban perch near Rosebank, South Africa A male, Cape Rockjumper perches precariously at the top of Sir Lowry’s Pass in the Western Cape, South Africa. “Drakensberg Display”~ A male, Pin-tailed Whydah displays from his favourite perch with the Central Drakensberg in the background. A Bar-throated Apalis perches momentarily in its broad-leafed woodland habitat in the Waterberg, South Africa.
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