Durban and surrounds – Pigeon Valley Nature Reserve

About the Birding

Named after the Eastern Bronze-naped (Delegorgue’s) Pigeon, which was first collected here and described by Delegorgue in 1847, this small 10 hectare nature reserve within the very heart of Durban is widely regarded as one of KwaZulu-Natal’s premier birding destinations. The reserve protects a remnant area of the once extensive Stella bush, which historically covered large areas of the Berea. The vegetation represents climax coastal lowland forest including several magnificent tree species, especially he rare Natal Elm for which the reserve was initially proclaimed.

Birdlife is prolific within Pigeon Valley, though many of the top specials occur in low density and require patience and perseverance to find. While the Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon no longer occurs, Pigeon Valley is the most accessible location to find the endangered Spotted Ground Thrush. Several pairs of this notoriously tricky species winter in the nature reserve and can be found by meandering the detailed network of trails and listening for rustling in the leaf litter. Look along the drainage line, where the birds often emerge at the cleared edges of forest to feed. Robins are also prolific and although Red-capped Robin-chat is ubiquitous, both the Chorister and Cape Robin-chats and the White Starred Robin appear in the winter months. Other notable forest species include the Purple-crested Turaco, White-eared Barbet, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Grey Cuckooshrike, Olive Woodpecker, and recently also Green Malkoha. Buff-spotted Flufftail is resident in the gardens and is frequently heard calling from thickets here in summer, though seeing this species requires immense patience and luck. Knysna Woodpecker has been recorded, though the species is only a rare visitor. Search the dry grassland in the south-eastern corner of the reserve and near the reservoir for seedeaters including the Bronze and Red-backed Mannikins, Yellow-fronted Canary, and the shy and reclusive Green Twinspot; the latter is best detected by the high-pitched and frequently uttered contact calls.

Several species of bird-of-prey breed in the gardens, including a pair of each of Black Sparrowhawk and African Goshawk. Spotted Eagle-owl is regularly found roosting in dense tangles during the day.

Key species:

Spotted Ground Thrush, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Green Malkoha, Green Twinspot

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:

Spotted Ground Thrush, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Green Malkoha, Green Twinspot

Other Related Information

From Durban city centre, take the N3 and exist at the Tollgate/Ridge Road off-ramp. At the top, turn left into South Ridge Road and follow this road along the ridge for about 2km. Turn left into King George V Avenue and follow the signs to the right. The main entrance is off Princess Alice Avenue.

Notable points of interest include:
Main entrance: -29.8662, 30.9869

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
Pigeon Valley is controlled by the Natural Resources Division of the eThekwini Municipality. Gate times are between 07:30 and 16:00 and the reserve is accessible free from charges. Street parking is available with street patrols for security. A detailed network of well-marked and maintained trails leads through the reserve. Public toilets are available within the reserve.

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 community bird guides are currently available within the wider eThekwini Metropolitan Area. For a guided excursion through Pigeon Valley Nature Reserve, contact Crispin Hemson on +27 (0)82 926 5333 or visit the educational centre within the reserve.

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

Key species:

Spotted Ground Thrush, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Green Malkoha, Green Twinspot

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

eThekwini Municipality
Tel: +27 (0)31 312 4466
Alt Tel: +27 (0)31 312 1919 / +27 (0)31 311 6716 / +27 (0)31 311 6717