The Paarl Bird Sanctuary, set against the magnificent backdrop of the Du Toit’s Kloof mountains and Paarl Rock, is one of South Africa’s best birding sites for waterfowl as well as many other species. It forms an integral part of the Drakenstein Waste Water Treatment Works and was officially recognised as a bird sanctuary by the Town Council in 1993. In extent it covers some 41 ha with five large areas of open water which are the maturation or back-up ponds.
A viewing platform is situated above the toilet block next to Sludge Pond E2 (see map) giving an extensive view of the area. Several pull-off areas have been constructed on the road around the pans where birds can be viewed from one’s car.
140 species of birds have been recorded, predominantly water birds.
Apart from Red-knobbed Coot, Common Moorhen and the usual duck species, there are regular sightings of African Black Duck, Hottentot Teal, Maccoa Duck, White-faced Duck and Fulvous Duck. Greater Flamingo are often present in substantial numbers. Also look out for Black Crake, Malachite Kingfisher, African (Purple) Swamphen, African Rail, Little Bittern, Purple Heron, and African Snipe. Glossy Ibis love the mud in the channels and so do dozens of Blacksmith Lapwings and Three-banded Plovers.
Hamerkop has been seen occasionally.
White-breasted Cormorants nest on dead trees in Pan A and the heronry on Pan D is favoured by numerous herons, ibis and egrets. Scan the banks of Pans E2 and E3 where Water Thick-knees (Dikkops) are always present. In the vegetation along the western and northern sides of the reserve some bush birds such as Swee and Common Waxbills, Tambourine Dove, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Dusky and Fiscal Flycatchers may be spotted or heard.
Check the reed beds for warblers and look up, as you may see raptors such as African Fish Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene), African Goshawk, Jackal Buzzard and Black Sparrowhawk. Grey-headed Gulls breed here regularly in association with hundreds of Hartlaub’s Gulls.
Summer visitors include White-winged Terns over the pans and African Paradise Flycatchers and African Hoopoe in the bush.
There is always something special to see, and numerous rarities and vagrants have occurred in the last few years, including Squacco Heron, White-backed Duck, African Jacana, Goliath Heron and (2017) Northern Shoveler.
NB. Please note that until further notice the sanctuary area (beyond the Works security fence) will only be open on one Saturday in the month, i.e. on the days of the official monthly bird counts and strictly only between the hours of 09h00 and 11h00. This is due to ongoing maintenance work on the pans as well as security concerns. Currently two pans are dry and the water level in the remaining pans is very low.
There is no charge for entry to Paarl Bird Sanctuary, which will only be open on monthly bird counts which take place from 09h00 to 11h00 on the last Saturday morning of each month.
Viewing is permitted ONLY from the Yvonne Weiss lookout facility inside the Waste Water Treatment Works, overlooking Pans E2 and E3.
Visitors must remain within the security fence. An indemnity form must be signed at the entrance gate.
Special arrangements for group visits should be made beforehand with the Senior Superintendent, Mr. Jurie Jumart at 021 807 6307.