As part of Avian Leisure’s aim to support local bird guides in South Africa, Patrick gave a 2 day training workshop to a group of trainee field guides in September:

The 28 September 2009 proved to be a highly enlightening day for a group of trainee field guides participating in a Field Guides of South Africa sponsored training programme leading to the attainment of a formal nature guiding qualification as a career opportunity.

Within the mix of many field related subjects the bird guiding course was viewed as the highlight event due to the growing public interest in birding as a recreational activity. Bird guiding is viewed increasingly as a highly desirable skill in the tourism guide workplace in South Africa.

The objective was to give the students a practical insight into what is involved in bird guiding as opposed to field guiding, and how to become a credible bird guide: The workshop content included planning requirements before and on the day, descriptive terminology for birding and birders (for example leisure birders compared with twitchers!), a discussion of how to rank sightings within SA’s mix of over 900 species, do’s and don’ts in the field, birding ethics in detail and 10 key tips to improve one’s birding skills as the grand finale.

The workshop was followed by a practical ‘walk & talk’ and demo of the various items of equipment in general use, and ended on a Q&A session over dinner that evening.

All in all a very satisfying training experience that embraced a cross section of SA society drawn from all walks of life and communities as far afield as the Garden Route in the east and along the Atlantic coastline in the West.

We wish them all success with their exams and a long and rewarding career as the field guides of tomorrow!


  1. jan schoeman says:

    what are the costs to become a bird guide and wht does it all consist of thank you

    • avianleisure says:

      Application needs to be made to the Field Guides Association of South Africa or Bird Life South Africa to find out more of training courses on offer. Costs vary and courses are not always available as they are dependent on the number of applicants to make it worthwhile for the organisers. After completing the theoretical exam you will need to be assessed in the field for competency by an accredited assessor. If you pass both the theory and the field assessment you can apply to the Dept of Environmental Affairs & Tourism for registration as a qualified bird guide in relation to your chosen area of operation within which you were assessed. Please note it is vitally important that you establish demand exists for your services before embarking on the course as job opportunities are limited. The De Hoop course was run for the benefit of staff working in and around the reserve. I trust this helps…

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