Swartberg mountains

Country/territory: South Africa

IBA Criteria met: A1, A2, A3 (1998)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 500,000 ha

Protection status:

BirdLife South Africa
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2014 medium unfavourable low
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
The mainly sandstone Swartberg mountain range runs east–west parallel to the Outeniqua mountains (IBA ZA091). The Seweweekspoort splits the Swartberg into the western Klein Swartberg and the eastern Groot Swartberg. The Groot Swartberg runs some 170 km from the Seweweekspoort to c.20 km south-west of Willowmore. East of Blesberg peak, the range recedes, forming the Great Karoo plateau to the north and Little Karoo to the south.

The stark variation in altitude yields a wide diversity of microhabitats. Montane fynbos is found at higher altitudes and karroid and renosterveld shrubland are found on the lower slopes. The northern slopes support arid fynbos. Very small pockets of Afromontane forest are found in deep secluded mesic gorges on the southern slopes and are dominated by trees of Cunonia, Halleria, Pterocelastrus and Rapanea. The base of the southern slopes consists of renosterbosveld.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The site is extremely rich in both fynbos and karroid endemics. At high altitudes, the fynbos is home to Pycnonotus capensis, Nectarinia violacea, Serinus totta, Promerops cafer and Serinus leucopterus near Protea thickets. Chaetops frenatus becomes common on exposed rocky slopes above 1,200 m. Francolinus capensis is widespread. Habitat suitable for Sarothrura affinis and Turnix hottentotta occurs. Onychognathus nabouroup, Geocolaptes olivaceus and the secretive and localized Anthus crenatus occur in rocky gorges and kloofs. The lowland karroid plains, particularly to the north of the range, are good for Neotis ludwigii, Eupodotis vigorsii, Certhilauda albescens, Chersomanes albofasciata, Cercomela schlegelii, Eremomela gregalis and Malcorus pectoralis. Serinus alario occurs whenever there is seeding grass and water. Belts of riverine Acacia woodland support Phragmacia substriata and provide food, shelter and breeding habitat for many species, while the thicket and scrub on the slopes support Sylvia layardi and Parus afer.

Non-bird biodiversity: Being in the centre of the Cape Floral Kingdom, this area is thought to hold c.2,000 plant species, several of which are endemic and/or threatened. Thirteen species of high-altitude or alpine endemics are restricted to the Swartberg mountains: Agathosma purpurea, Protea pruinosa, Restio papyraceus, Leucadendron dregei, Phylica stokoei, P. costata, Pentameris swartbergensis, Thamnochortus papyraceus, Cliffortia setifolia, C. crassinerve, Euryops glutinosus, Erica constatisepala and E. toringbergensis. The global range of the recently described lizard Afrogecko swartbergensis is restricted to the northern slopes of summits in the Swartberg mountains.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Swartberg mountains. Downloaded from on 27/01/2021.