A Guide to Bird Watching for Beginners

By Kings Camp Team on September 28, 2017

With over 950 bird species in Southern Africa, and 282 in the Timbavati alone, bird-watching has always been a popular focus of many Timbavati safaris. Home to a wide variety of birds of all shapes and sizes, the greater Kruger National Park area is ideal whether you’re an experienced birder or just starting out.

Breaking into the birding world can be quite daunting, with its special jargon and seemingly impossible feat of distinguishing between small creatures. To ease you into the world of birding, we’ve put together a guide to bird watching for beginners highlighting important vocabulary, and what to look out for, to get you going on the right track.

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Birding Vocabulary

Twitcher: Someone that travels long distances to see a rare bird

Lifelist: A list of every species of bird an individual birder has ever seen, or heard, in their lifetime

Lifer: A first time sighting and addition to the birder’s life-list

LBJs/Little Brown Jobs: Small brown birds that defy identification

Mega: A very rare bird

Spark bird: A bird species that triggered a birding obsession

Bird watching for beginners
What to look out for:

G.I.S.S – General Impression of Shape and Size

This is where identification typically starts. Birders begin by learning the silhouette of a bird, which puts them in more easily identifiable categories. See the list of species at Kings Camp here.


Legs are a good indication of where you’re most likely going to spot a particular bird. If they are long and strong, it’s likely that this bird spends a lot of it’s time on the ground and you won’t be searching for this bird up in the trees.

Birding for Beginners


Bills vary in shape and colour, and can be a good indicator of the species of bird you’re dealing with. The bill of a bird can help identify the type of diet they follow, as well as a way to differentiate between birds that look similar.


Each species has a special language or dialect, and being able to pick up on these subtle differences is a large part of birding. Colours of plumage can differ from region to region so a knowledge of calls can help to make a positive identification.

Kings Camp Birding

Bird watching for beginners can be tough, but with the help of the experienced guides and trackers, you’ll be honing your skills before you know it. Some special sightings to add to your life-list while at Kings Camp are the martial eagle, the ground hornbill, the verreaux eagle owl, and the lappet faced vulture.

For more information on what to expect, and to book your next birding safari in the Timbavati, contact the team at Kings Camp today!

Image Credit: Almero Klingenberg

3 thoughts on “A Guide to Bird Watching for Beginners

  1. I’ve always wanted to try bird watching. I love how you said that their legs are a good way to tell where to find them. It sounds like I need to read up on what sorts of birds I actually want to see so I can find out where to look for them!

  2. Thanks for introducing some birding terms and tips on how to identify a bird! I like birding too, and for a beginner, this post sure comes in handy. I agree, if a bird has long legs and looks a bit sturdy, it’s likely that it spends a lot of time on ground.

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