The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Nylsvley Nature Reserve

Afrikaans name: Nylsvley-natuurreservaat

Nylsvley Nature Reserve entrance

Entrance to Nylsvley Nature Reserve

Photo © Johan van Zyl


Around 150 years ago a group of Voortrekkers stumbled upon a large flooded area with a river leading to the north and decided that this must be the Nile River. So they named the area Nylsvley (Nyl for Nile and vley (or vlei) for an area of flooded grassland). The Voortrekkers were wrong as the Nyl River eventually drains into the Limpopo River, but the name has stuck. Today Nylsvley is a nature reserve around 40 square kilometres in size.

The nature reserve is well-known as a birding hot-spot and over 370 species of birds have been recorded here. Waterbirds are the prime attraction because of the extensive reedbeds and shallow areas of the dam. There are also areas of grassland and open woodland. Water levels in the pan vary and affect the number of waterbirds drawn to the area. In times of peak flooding the numbers of birds are at their highest.

Over 70 species of mammals are found in Nylsvley Nature Reserve. These include Roan Antelope, Giraffe, Waterbuck, Kudu, Tsessebe, Bushbuck, Leopard and Brown Hyena.

If you are in to insects you will be pleased to hear that dragonflies, butterflies and other insects are found in abundance at Nylsvley. Over 50 species of dragonfly and nearly 300 species of butterfly have been recorded.

Accommodation in Nylsvley Nature Reserve is fairly limited but there are a few camp sites, cottages and a guest house.

Visitor Centre at Nylsvley Nature Reserve

Above - Visitor Centre

Photo © Johan van Zyl

Nylsvley accommodation

Above - Accommodation

Photo © Johan van Zyl

Mammals of Nylsvley Nature Reserve

Please note that this is only a guide and, while we have made every effort to be accurate, we can't be held responsible for any errors.


Antbear / Aardvark

Banded Mongoose

Black-backed Jackal

Blue Wildebeest

Brown Hyena

Burchell's Zebra

Bush Pig


Cape Clawless Otter

Cape Porcupine

Chacma Baboon

Common Duiker


Honey Badger




Large-spotted Genet


Mountain Reedbuck


Roan Antelope

Scrub Hare

Side-striped Jackal

South African Hedgehog



Striped Polecat

Tree Squirrel


Vervet Monkey


Water Mongoose


Yellow Mongoose

Birds of Nylsvley Nature Reserve

Please note that this is only a guide and, while we have made every effort to be accurate, we can't be held responsible for any errors.

Common Ostrich

Coqui Francolin

Crested Francolin

Natal Spurfowl

Swainson's Spurfowl

Harlequin Quail

Helmeted Guineafowl

Fulvous Duck

White-faced Duck

White-backed Duck

Egyptian Goose

Spur-winged Goose

Yellow-billed Duck

Red-billed Teal

Hottentot Teal

Southern Pochard

Kurrichane Buttonquail

Greater Honeyguide

Lesser Honeyguide

Brown-backed Honeybird

Bennett's Woodpecker

Golden-tailed Woodpecker

Cardinal Woodpecker

Bearded Woodpecker

Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird

Acacia Pied Barbet

Black-collared Barbet

Crested Barbet

Red-billed Hornbill

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill

African Grey Hornbill

African Hoopoe

Green Wood-Hoopoe

Common Scimitarbill

European Roller

Lilac-breasted Roller

Purple Roller

Malachite Kingfisher

African Pygmy-Kingfisher

Woodland Kingfisher

Brown-hooded Kingfisher

Striped Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher

White-fronted Bee-eater

Little Bee-eater

Swallow-tailed Bee-eater

European Bee-eater

Speckled Mousebird

Red-faced Mousebird

Jacobin Cuckoo

Levaillant's Cuckoo

Great Spotted Cuckoo

Red-chested Cuckoo

Black Cuckoo

African Cuckoo

Klaas's Cuckoo

Diderick Cuckoo

Burchell's Coucal

African Palm-Swift

Alpine Swift

Common Swift

Little Swift

White-rumped Swift

Grey Go-away-bird

Barn Owl

African Grass-Owl

African Scops-Owl

Southern White-faced Scops-Owl

Spotted Eagle-Owl

Verreaux's Eagle-Owl

Pearl-spotted Owlet

Marsh Owl

Fiery-necked Nightjar

Rufous-cheeked Nightjar

European Nightjar

Speckled Pigeon

Laughing Dove

African Mourning Dove

Cape Turtle-Dove

Red-eyed Dove

Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove

Namaqua Dove

African Green-Pigeon

Red-crested Korhaan

Northern Black Korhaan

Red-chested Flufftail

African Rail

African Crake

Black Crake

African Purple Swamphen

Allen's Gallinule

Common Moorhen

Lesser Moorhen

Red-knobbed Coot

African Snipe

Marsh Sandpiper

Common Greenshank

Green Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Little Stint


Greater Painted-snipe

African Jacana

Spotted Thick-knee

Black-winged Stilt

Three-banded Plover

Blacksmith Lapwing

African Wattled Lapwing

Crowned Lapwing

Bronze-winged Courser

Temminck's Courser

Black-winged Pratincole

Whiskered Tern

White-winged Tern

Black-shouldered Kite

African Fish-Eagle

White-backed Vulture

Cape Vulture

Black-chested Snake-Eagle

Brown Snake-Eagle

Western Marsh-Harrier

African Harrier-Hawk

Lizard Buzzard

Gabar Goshawk


Little Sparrowhawk

Ovambo Sparrowhawk

Black Sparrowhawk

Steppe Buzzard

Lesser Spotted Eagle

African Hawk-Eagle

Wahlberg's Eagle


Lesser Kestrel

Rock Kestrel

Greater Kestrel

Amur Falcon

Eurasian Hobby

Lanner Falcon

Little Grebe

African Darter

Reed Cormorant

White-breasted Cormorant

Slaty Egret

Black Heron

Little Egret

Yellow-billed Egret

Great Egret

Grey Heron

Black-headed Heron

Purple Heron

Cattle Egret

Squacco Heron

Rufous-bellied Heron

Green-backed Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Little Bittern

Dwarf Bittern


Glossy Ibis

Hadeda Ibis

African Sacred Ibis

African Spoonbill

Yellow-billed Stork

Black Stork

Abdim's Stork

White Stork

Black-headed Oriole

Fork-tailed Drongo

African Paradise-Flycatcher


Black-backed Puffback

Black-crowned Tchagra

Brown-crowned Tchagra

Southern Boubou

Crimson-breasted Shrike

Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike

Grey-headed Bush-Shrike

White-crested Helmet-Shrike

Chinspot Batis

Pied Crow

Red-backed Shrike

Lesser Grey Shrike

Common Fiscal

Magpie Shrike

Black Cuckooshrike

Cape Penduline-Tit

Grey Penduline-Tit

Southern Black Tit

Ashy Tit

Brown-throated Martin

Banded Martin

Barn Swallow

White-throated Swallow

Pearl-breasted Swallow

Greater Striped Swallow

Lesser Striped Swallow

Red-breasted Swallow

Rock Martin

Common House-Martin

Dark-capped Bulbul

Yellow-bellied Greenbul

Terrestrial Brownbul

Fairy Flycatcher

Long-billed Crombec

Burnt-necked Eremomela

River Warbler

Little Rush-Warbler

Sedge Warbler

African Reed-Warbler

Marsh Warbler

Great Reed-Warbler

Lesser Swamp-Warbler

Olive-tree Warbler

Icterine Warbler

Willow Warbler

Southern Pied Babbler

Arrow-marked Babbler

Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler

Common Whitethroat

Cape White-eye

Rattling Cisticola

Tinkling Cisticola

Levaillant's Cisticola


Zitting Cisticola

Desert Cisticola

Tawny-flanked Prinia

Black-chested Prinia

Grey-backed Camaroptera

Barred Wren-Warbler

Rufous-naped Lark

Flappet Lark

Sabota Lark

Fawn-coloured Lark

Groundscraper Thrush

Kurrichane Thrush

Pale Flycatcher

Marico Flycatcher

Southern Black Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher

Grey Tit-Flycatcher

White-throated Robin-Chat

White-browed Scrub-Robin

Kalahari Scrub-Robin

African Stonechat

Red-winged Starling

Cape Glossy Starling

Burchell's Starling

Violet-backed Starling

Wattled Starling

Red-billed Oxpecker

Amethyst Sunbird

White-bellied Sunbird

Marico Sunbird

Scaly-feathered Finch

White-browed Sparrow-Weaver

Lesser Masked-Weaver

Southern Masked-Weaver

Village Weaver

Red-headed Weaver

Red-billed Quelea

Yellow-crowned Bishop

Southern Red Bishop

White-winged Widowbird

Long-tailed Widowbird

Orange-breasted Waxbill

African Quailfinch

Red-headed Finch

Cut-throat Finch

Black-faced Waxbill

Common Waxbill

Violet-eared Waxbill

Blue Waxbill

Green-winged Pytilia

Red-billed Firefinch

Jameson's Firefinch

Bronze Mannikin

Pin-tailed Whydah

Long-tailed Paradise-Whydah

Shaft-tailed Whydah

Village Indigobird

Purple Indigobird

Cuckoo Finch

House Sparrow

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow

Yellow-throated Petronia

Cape Longclaw

African Pipit

Plain-backed Pipit

Buffy Pipit

Bushveld Pipit

Yellow-fronted Canary

Black-throated Canary

Streaky-headed Seedeater

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting

Golden-breasted Bunting

References and further reading

Top Birding Spots in Southern Africa - Author: Hugh Chittenden - Published: 1992 - Page: 134

Readers Digest Illustrated Guide to the Game Parks and Nature Reserves of Southe - Author: Editor - Alan Duggan - Published: 1991 - Page: 81

Where to Watch Birds in Southern Africa - Author: A. Berruti and J.C. Sinclair - Published: 1983 - Page: 138

Country Life - Issue 230 - Author: - Published: 2015 - Page: 75

Go Birding in the Transvaal - Author: Brendan Ryan and John Isom - Published: 1990 - Page: 101

Caravan & Outdoor Life - Issue 634 - Author: - Published: 2015 - Page: 27

Chris and Tilde Stuarts Guide to Southern African Game and Nature Reserves - Author: Chris and Tilde Stuart - Published: 1989 - Page: 51

Birding in Transvaal ????? What book is this? - Author: - Published: 0 - Page: 101

Atlas of National Parks and Reserves of South Africa - Author: Marielle Renssen - Published: 2006 - Page: 124

Birding Hotspots - Author: Trevor Hardaker - Published: 2007 - Page: 22


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