Endemic and/or threatened species are often targeted to set conservation priorities. It is tempting to assume that a reserve network focusing on these species will be an effective umbrella for overall species richness of a country. For South Africa and Lesotho we tested whether complementary networks selected for threatened and/or endemic bird species satisfactorily represent all bird species, both in terms of capturing areas where other species are present or areas where they are more abundant (and, presumably, more viable). We found that areas selected for threatened and endemic species perform considerably better than areas selected at random. However, they do not guarantee the representation of overall bird species diversity, particularly not in peak abundance locations. Although nationally threatened and endemic species are important conservation targets, our results indicate that reserve networks focusing solely on these species may not be sufficient to preserve overall species diversity in a country.