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 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.) “Eagle’s Eye View” ~ A Verreaux Eagle glides over the cliffs of the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. 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. A Marsh Owl looks out across his bushveld habitat at the start of the Zaagkuildrift to Kgomo Kgomo birding route. “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 male, Narina Trogon stops for a brief moment in his valley forest habitat, before flying down to join his partner below. A male, Drakensberg Rockjumper looks out on his boulder strewn, mountain side habitat at the top of Naude’s Nek. A Spotted Crake skulks from one wetland to the next at Marievale Bird Sanctuary near Nigel, South Africa 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 “Drakensberg Display”~ A male, Pin-tailed Whydah displays from his favourite perch with the Central Drakensberg in the background. Squacco Heron / Marievale Bird Sanctuary, Nigel, South Africa / February 2019 A Common Waxbill perches for a brief moment amongst a field of flowers at Rietvlei Nature Reserve. A Rosy-throated Longclaw stands alert in his grassland paradise at the Nebila Peninsula near Hluhluwe. “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. Malachite Kingfisher / Marievale Bird Sanctuary, Nigel, South Africa / February 2019 A Brown Scrub Robin lurks in the shadows of its coastal forest habitat on the south coast of KwaZulu Natal. An Egyptian Plover stands alert on the banks of the Benoue River in Cameroon. A striking, male Drakensberg Rockumper standing characteristically on a rock amongst a field of beautiful, yellow flowers. A Cuckoo Finch perches amongst the invasive Pom Poms at Rietvlei Nature Reserve. A Long-tailed Widowbird displays over the beautiful farmlands that surround the town of Devon in south east Gauteng. A male, Malachite Sunbird helps himself to nectar in a Wakkerstroom garden. A Marsh Owl looks out across his bushveld habitat at the start of the Zaagkuildrift to Kgomo Kgomo birding route. A male, Red-collared Widowbird sits amongst a sea of yellow flowers in the Central Drakensberg. A Ground Woodpecker sits charecteristically on a boulder on the slopes of the Sani Pass. “Sunbird Babbler” ~ A Pied Babbler tries to be a sunbird amongst flowering succulents in the Dinokeng Nature Reserve. A Pennant-winged Nightjar after a brief thunder shower in the miombo woodlands of Dzanlanyama Forest. A Western Cattle Egret sits on his favourite perch as the sun rises over the grasslands of Rietvlei Nature Reserve. A Little Stint patrols the beach front at Umngazi River Bungalows in the Eastern Cape. A male, Drakensberg Rockjumper stands in his typical, upright stance on a moss covered boulder in early morning light. An endangered, Rudd’s Lark steps out onto a grass track in the middle of his dense, dew-filled, grassland habitat. A Lesser Swamp Warbler creeps to the top of a prominent reed at Marievale Bird Sanctuary. An Orange River Francolin skulks through thick grass on the edge of a wetland in south east Gauteng. 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 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. A Common Waxbill perches for a brief moment amongst a field of flowers at Rietvlei Nature Reserve. A male, Cape Rockjumper sings from his rocky perch at the top of Swartberg Pass near Prince Albert A female, Violet-eared Waxbill comes down to drink at a puddle in the red sands of the Kalahari. A Barrow’s Korhaan raises his voice on the open plains of Direkiesdorp near Wakkerstroom. “Cisticola in the Cosmos” ~ A Leveillant’s Cisticola sings his heart out in the Cosmos of Devon’s Farmlands. A Violet-eared Waxbill perches out in the open of its dry, acacia habitat. A European Bee-eater in its “spring time” grassland habitat. A male, Green Twinspot perches on a mossy branch in his dark and gloomy forest habitat. A Pale Flycatcher hawks insects from his chosen perch in Monyane Game Reserve. “Acacia Chat” – A Familiar Chat sits precariously on a classic, acacia thorn branch in the Waterberg. A male, Drakensberg Siskin sits on a boulder amongst boulders at the top of Naude’s Nek. An endemic, Cape Siskin sits deep within his mountain fynbos habitat on the southern tip of Africa. An Orange-breasted Bush-shrike stops for a brief moment in the canopy before continuing on her way at Mabula Game Reserve, South Africa. A curious, Yellow-streaked Greenbul peers at me from his vantage point in the canopy (near Woodbush Forest, Magoebaskloof) 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 Sociable Weaver collects nesting material at the base of his nest in the Green Kalahari. 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 Karoo Scrub Robin sings from his favourite, early morning perch on an olive farm near Prince Albert. A Malachite Kingfisher fishes from a suitable vantage point at Marievale Bird Sanctuary. A male, Coqui Francolin cross a red-solied, farm road to take cover in thick roadside grassland. A Black-crowned Tchagratakes a short break from skulking to perch on a small acacia tree in Monyane Private Game Reserve. A male, Cape Rockjumper perches precariously at the top of Sir Lowry’s Pass in the Western Cape, South Africa.
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