Durban and surrounds – Ferncliffe Forest

About the Birding

Ferncliffe Forest is a small patch of degraded mistbelt forest overlooking Pietermaritzburg – the remnant of what was previously known as Town Bush. Despite its degraded nature, several notable forest species still persist implying that a morning’s birding at this site is still a worthwhile exercise. Several hours of birding should produce around 40 species in the winter months, and 60 species in the summer months.

The forest itself is excellent in the early mornings when bird song is at its peak. Follow the short trails into the forest, while listening for the calls of your target species. The reclusive Buff-spotted Flufftail is particularly common by voice at this site in the summer months, but it never easy to see. Chorister Robin-chat and White-starred Robin are resident throughout the year, alongside both the Brown Scrub-robin and Red-capped Robin-chat. In winter, Bush Blackcap can be particularly common. Other species include the Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Narina Trogon, African Emerald Cuckoo (summer), Knysna and Purple-crested Turacos, and Green Twinspot. Barratt’s Warbler call from the lantana thickets at forest edge while the near-endemic Drakensburg Prinia prefers grassy areas.

En route to the Ferncliffe Forest, one passes the Allerton Swamp (shortly after the Cascades Shopping Centre). This unassuming reedbed supports a good population of both the African Rail and Red-chested Flufftail.

Key species:

Chorister Robin-chat, Buff-spotted Flufftail, White-starred Robin, Barratt’s Warbler, Knysna Turaco

About the Birding Site

The eThekwini Metropolitan Area (Durban) is a major harbour city situated on the east coast of South Africa. It serves as the most accessible port of entry into the KwaZulu-Natal province with daily flights to all other major cities in South Africa, and further afield (e.g. Mauritius, Dubai). The city and surrounding towns are popular among holidaymakers, given the sub-tropical climate and extensive beaches along the rich waters of the Indian Ocean. Moreover, the city falls within a global biodiversity hotspot – the Maputaland-Pondolona-Albany (MPA) Hotspot.

This region is home to more than 7000 species of plant, more than 25% of which are found nowhere else on Earth. The variety of landforms and sub-tropical climatic conditions, combined with its unique biogeographical position, have resulted in a range of aquatic (wetlands, rivers, estuaries) and terrestrial (mainly forests and coastal grasslands) environments which additionally support a plethora of interesting bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian species. The eThekwini area contains three of South Africa’s eight biomes (namely savanna, forest and grasslands), and supports more than 2000 plant species, 82 terrestrial mammals, 69 reptiles, 25 endemic invertebrates and well over 500 bird species – making it South Africa’s most biodiverse city, by far. To be expected then, the region offers a variety of prime birding spots featuring a number of South Africa’s most sought-after bird species. Top among these are the Spotted Ground Thrush, Mangrove Kingfisher, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Green Malkoha, and Knysna Woodpecker. Durban is also well known for its variety of waders and marine species, often turning up rarities such as the Lesser Black-backed Gull. Key sites within the eThekwini Metropolitan Area include Tala Game Reserve, Pigeon Valley and Krantzkloof Nature Reserves, Durban Bay Head and the Durban National Botanical Gardens.

In addition, as a further attraction to this rich region, the eThewkini Natural Science Museum has world-class ornithological displays and collections.

Key species:

Chorister Robin-chat, Buff-spotted Flufftail, White-starred Robin, Barratt’s Warbler, Knysna Turaco

Other Related Information

Follow Town Bush Road past Grey’s Hospital until it forks. Take the right-hand fork until a picnic area is reached. Trails begin from here and cover the entire area.

Notable points of interest include the:
Town Bush Road picnic site: -29.5610, 30.3259
Allerton Swamp: -29.5721, 30.3524

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
Two trails lead through the area providing access to the main forest. A picnic site with braai facilities is provided off Town Bush Road.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
A number of Birder Friendly Establishments are available within the wider eThekwini Metropolitan Area including Camperdown/Kloof/Pietermaritzburg.

For more information, view:

Local guide information:
No BirdLife community bird guides are currently available within the wider eThekwini Metropolitan Area.

Text prepared by:
Daniel Keith Danckwerts (Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Tours)

Key species:

Chorister Robin-chat, Buff-spotted Flufftail, White-starred Robin, Barratt’s Warbler, Knysna Turaco

Contact details: