Durban and surrounds – Queen Elizabeth Park

About the Birding

Queen Elizabeth Park, located immediately outside Pietermaritzburg, is the headquarters of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife offering safe and productive birding at an easily accessible location. The park conserves a variety of habitats including forest and thicket patches, as well as open woodland and grassland. The diversity of habitats translates to an extremely rich avifauna, including several notable forest endemics. Access is generally good, along a network of paved walking trails that cover most habitats. At least a morning is recommended at this site to maximise your chances at seeing most targets.

Perhaps the major drawcards to the Queen Elizabeth Park are the forest and thicket patches, which contain a high diversity of interesting species. These areas of the reserve are most active in the early mornings when bird song is at its peak. Look for the Tambourine and Lemon Doves, Chorister (mainly in winter) and Red-capped Robin-chats, White-starred Robin, Terrestrial Brownbul, Olive Woodpecker, Bush Blackcap (winter), African Emerald Cuckoo (summer), Southern Boubou, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Olive Bush-shrike, Forest Canary and both the Olive and Grey Sunbirds. The shy and reclusive Buff-spotted Flufftail calls from the understory of thickets on overcast summer mornings but is generally tough to see.

The forest edge and open woodland are similarly busy in the early mornings. Listen for the monotonous calls of the Tawny-flanked and Drakensburg Prinias, as these species co-occur at this site. Other targets could include the Crested Barbet, Lesser Honeyguide, Brown-backed Honeybird, Red-throated Wryneck, Malachite and White-bellied Sunbirds, Black-crowned Tchagra, Orange-breasted Bush-shrike and White-browed Scrub-robin. The grasslands may yield the Cape Grassbird, Common Waxbill, Zitting and Levaillant’s Cisticolas, and Golden-breasted Bunting.

Watch overhead for raptors as the Long-crested and Crowned Eagles, Little and Black Sparrowhawks and African Goshawk are all known to nest in the vicinity of Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Key species:

Bush Blackcap, Chorister Robin-chat, Olive Woodpecker, Narina Trogon, White-starred Robin

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:

Bush Blackcap, Chorister Robin-chat, Olive Woodpecker, Narina Trogon, White-starred Robin

Other Related Information

Queen Elizbeth Park is located on the north-western side of Pietermaritzburg, just beyond the Victoria Country Club. From Durban, proceed along Commercial Road straight through the city, out the far side and up the hill along Howick Road. Veer right over the freeway into Duncan McKenzie Drive and follow this road past the Victoria Country Club and into the park.
If approaching from the north, take the Duncan McKenzie/Wembley off-ramp and turn left at the T-junction. Follow this road past the country club and into the park.

Other related information:

Notable points of interest include the:
Main entrance and Ezemvelo KZN offices: -29.5733, 30.3261

Access and facilities:
Access to the Queen Elizabeth National Park is free from any charge though visitors should note that the site is popular among picnickers on the weekends and birders should aim to finish their activities by 11am when the main crowds arrive.

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.

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

Key species:

Bush Blackcap, Chorister Robin-chat, Olive Woodpecker, Narina Trogon, White-starred Robin

Contact details:

For more information, contact the officer in charge:

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife
Tel: +27 (0)33 845 1344
Alt Tel: +27 (0)33 343 3184