The Renosterveld habitat is home to both the largest bird species in South Africa, the common ostrich, and the smallest bird species, the Cape penduline tit. In pre-colonial history, Renosterveld would have been a favourite habitat for black rhinoceroses, hence the name Renosterveld (rhinoceros field). Renosterveld is included in the Fynbos biome, but unlike typical Fynbos, Renosterveld occurs on nutrient-rich, clay-based soil, and its plant community includes various grass species, whereas typical Fynbos tends to occur on nutrient-poor soils and grasses are rarely found in typical Fynbos.
Renosterveld is dominated by low-growing bushes and small shrubs, and is typified by the renosterbos (Dicerothamnus rhinocerotis). It is a plant community that is also rich in succulent plants and various different species of geophytes (bulb-plants). As with typical Fynbos vegetation, Renosterveld is ravaged by wild fires on a cyclical basis. Therefore it is a very dynamic ecosystem, with recently burnt Renosterveld being dominated by grasses and bulbs, while older (climax) Renosterveld is dominated by shrubs and bushes. If it is burnt too often, if will become grassland and many species may be lost.
Renosterveld is, unfortunately, also an endangered vegetation type. This is due to its place of occurrence: on relatively flat lands with good soil. Most of the areas where Renosterveld used to occur have subsequently been developed into agricultural land, with less than 5% of the original Renosterveld left today. The remaining habitat is highly fragmented, but yet is an important habitat for many different plant, animal and bird species, including a special subspecies of the Cape clapper lark known as the Agulhas clapper lark (Mirafra apiata marjoriae) that is a specialist Renosterveld bird.
When going birding in the Renosterveld habitat, it is best to start at dawn (well before sunrise). Look out for displaying Agulhas clapper lark in the climax (scrubland) vegetation, and for Agulhas long-billed lark in pioneer (grassland) vegetation. Both of these birds are endemic to this habitat. Also keep an eye open for black harrier, grey-winged francolin, fynbos buttonquail, Denham’s bustard, southern black korhaan, secretarybird, large-billed lark, Karoo scrub-robin, Cape penduline tit and grey-backed cisticola.