Getting to know Daniel Engelbrecht

We find out more about one of our newest members of the Birding Ecotours team, Dan. Dan is based in Stellenbosch, South Africa and is excited to lead African birding tours as well as tours further afield.  

Give us a brief history of your childhood and what fueled your passion for birds and birding.

I was born and raised in Polokwane, the capital city of South Africa’s northernmost province – Limpopo. What Polokwane lacked in almost every other aspect; it made up for in its spectacular avian diversity. Some of my earliest memories are of times spent in the bush with my dad, Derek Engelbrecht (a renowned ornithologist), with binoculars around my neck. The non-birding half of my family, my mom and younger brother, were usually happy for us to plan our family holidays around birding destinations, and we spent countless weekends in wonderful places, like the Kruger National Park. My obsession with birds only grew as the years went by. 

Getting to know Daniel Engelbrecht

What are some of your favorite countries you have birded?

There are a number that jump to mind! I grew up watching David Attenborough’s “Life of Birds” and was always particularly intrigued by the neotropics. I’ve been fortunate to spend a considerable amount of time in the incredibly diverse country of Argentina. Argentina has so much to offer, great birds, stunning scenery, friendly people, and fantastic food. 

Other places that jump to mind are Panama and, of course, the 8th continent – Madagascar. 

What countries rank the highest on your ‘to bird’ list?

Colombia (needs no explanation), Thailand (I NEED Spoon-billed Sandpiper), China (pheasants!), Peru (Marvelous Spatuletail – enough said) …. I could go on. 

Do you have a favorite bird or bird family? 

I’ll have to bring it back to Africa here. I’m a big fan of African barbets (Lybiidae) and the vangas and helmetshrikes (Vangidae). Both families have such characterful representatives. My favourite bird would probably be Retz’s Helmetshrike. 

Daniel Engelbrecht birdguide

Are you a scope or binocular type of guy?

I’ve always been a binocular guy. Seawatching has seldom thrilled me, but I love waders, so I’ll give the scope some credit there. 

Do you have any other hobbies or interests?

I enjoy spending time in the gym and keeping as fit as possible. I am also into sports and love a good F1 race on a Sunday. 

If you had one more day left to live, what would you spend it doing?

Attempting to break the record for the most birds seen in a single day (hahaha). 

Do you have a favorite book?

Lynx Edicions’ ‘All the Birds of the World’ (of course). 

What formal training have you undertaken?

I am completing the final year of my undergraduate degree in Biodiversity and Ecology at Stellenbosch University. 

What is the craziest thing you have ever done to see a bird?

I’ve hitchhiked in South America for birds, hiked for miles in the dark in the remote snow-capped Taurus Mountains of Turkey, after ditching our rental on poor roads, to see Caspian Snowcock, and twitched birds that involved 800+ kilometer drives. It’s all been totally worth it.  

Daniel Engelbrecht birdguide

What do you enjoy most about guiding?

I get a similar feeling from showing someone a new bird as I do when I see a new bird myself. That kick from the lifer is contagious, and I love it. 

The top five birds you want to see the most?

Wow, where do I start? In no order: Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Diademed Sandpiper-Plover (we have history), Marvelous Spatuletail, Emperor Penguin, White-necked Rockfowl. 

Your best birding experience to date?

Seeing Resplendent Quetzal in the cloud forests of Panama. 

Do you have a bogey bird and what is it?

Orange-winged Pytilia (I have no excuses). 

What’s the list you work on the most and what’s its total?

I’m most keen on my world list, which is still in its infancy (1756). I’ve amassed just shy of 800 species in southern Africa and am one of the top listers in the Limpopo Province (556).  

Daniel Engelbrecht birdguide

What excites you most about Birding Ecotours?

I enjoy seeing far-flung corners of the globe and the birds that inhabit these places, as well as the opportunity to meet so many people who share my passion. 

What advice would you give to a budding young birder?  

Get connected with other birders. The more people you know, the easier it is to get lifts and the more time you’ll have in the field. 

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