The Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) is an open content, citizen science project supplying data on bird distributions and reporting rates and informing bird conservation and research across southern Africa, including South Africa, Lesotho, eSwatini, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. Used by students, researchers, and consultants across various fields, this valuable resource contributes to the training of new scientists, conservation planning and environmental impact assessments, and research into the biology of birds and the well-being of their populations.

SABAP2 continued to grow in 2023. 1 091 Citizen Scientists surveyed 11 706 pentads and logged 918 species over the year. This amounted to 1.8 million sightings on 74 707 cards that were added to the database across the two protocols and, brought the total number of records to over 22 million.

This year also saw significant developments. The “BirdMap protocol” - the data collection protocol used by atlassers and pioneered by SABAP2 - has been adopted by the African Bird Atlas Project and implemented across numerous countries in Africa, ensuring continent-wide collection of interoperable data. Initiatives like the Kenyan Bird Map (2012) and the Nigerian Bird Atlas (2014) adopted these protocols in the mid-2010s, while Senegal launched its bird atlas project at the close of 2023. Formal projects are now underway in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Uganda, and Egypt. Data collection has expanded to 49 of Africa’s 54 countries. Each node across Africa operates independently, with the FitzPatrick Institute serving as host for the dataset and the central data hub for these projects.

Projects like BIRDIE, hosted by the South African Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), rely on this dataset to advance their goals. BIRDIE collects and analyses information on wetlands and waterbirds to offer valuable insights for local and international conservation and policy decision-makers. Using data from the SABAP2 and Coordinated Waterbird Counts (CWAC) projects, BIRDIE employs sophisticated statistical models to detect trends important to conservation management. These are presented through an online dashboard that provides access to near real-time indicators on bird distribution, abundance, and diversity at various wetlands. More information can be found at

The true champions of SABAP2 are the ditizen scientists, who contribute most of the data. Without their enthusiasm, dedication, hard work, and hours of commitment (92 552 hours in 2023), SABAP2 would not have achieved its current level of success. Whether they are broadening coverage in new or underrepresented areas or deepening our understanding of local areas, every contribution of data helps us gain insight into how environmental changes are impacting bird populations.

Like many projects of this magnitude, SABAP2 faces challenges, with funding being a particularly persistent one. Given that the project is designed to continuously collect data indefinitely, securing ongoing funding is imperative to ensure the continued operation of the foundational systems. We extend our thanks to the numerous patrons whose generous contributions have sustained the project. Without their support, the expansion and success of SABAP2 would not have been possible.

The growing list of work published using SABAP2 data can be found at http://sabap2.

SABAP2 team (Admin)
Ernst Retief (Project Coordinator BirdLife SA)
Tania Anderson (Project Communications SABAP, CWAC and CAR, FIAO)
Michael Brooks (Information Systems Specialist, FIAO)

SABAP2 team (Regional Atlas Committees)
Carl Beel, Eastern Zambia     
Chris Brewster, Botswana
Jeff Curnick, Eastern Cape
Andrew de Blocq, Western Cape
Dawie de Swardt, Free State    
Derek Engelbreght, Limpopo
Doug Harebottle, Northern Cape    
Gerrie Horne, Eastern Cape
Andrew Hester, Western Zambia    
Holger Kolberg, Namibia
Peter Lawson, Mpumalanga     
Etienne Marais, Mozambique
André Marx, Gauteng & Northwest  
Duncan McKenzie, Mpumalanga
Bob Medland, Malawi     
Ara Monadjem, Eswatini    
Rick Nuttal, Free State    
Vincent Parker, Northern Cape
Julia Pierini, Zimbabwe    
Ian Riddell, Zimbabwe 
Garret Skead, Western Cape    
Colin Summersgill, KZN
Dave Winter, Western Cape