Durban and surrounds – Umhlanga River and Lagoon

About the Birding

The Umhlanga Wastewater Treatment Plant is located next to the Umhlanga River, over the hill and behind Umhlanga Rocks. The plant consists of 4 main settling ponds, two of which are now extensively overgrown with aquatic vegetation. The site is surrounded by dense rank vegetation from lush reedbeds to hedge hibiscus and riverine forest. Some 215 species are known from the site and summer visits should deliver roughly 70 species over a two-hour duration.

Many waterfowl visit the open ponds. This includes the Blue-billed, Cape and Red-billed Teals, White-faced and Fulvous Whistling Ducks, White-backed and Yellow-billed Ducks, and both Egyptian and Spur-winged Goose. The Black Crake, Common Moorhen, and African Swamphen are all resident on the vegetated ponds, while African and Baillon’s Crakes and Lesser Jacana are irregular visitors. African Fish Eagle and African Marsh Harrier are regular overhead.

The reedbeds surrounding the pans support breeding Village and Eastern Golden Weavers, and occasionally the uncommon Red-headed Quelea. A number of warbler species are present, with the African Yellow Warbler being common and conspicuous in the winter months. The Red-faced and Rufous-winged Cisticolas are best detected by their loud and distinctive calls. In the flowering hibiscus, look for the Purple-banded, Olive and Grey Sunbirds. Recently Black-throated Wattle-eye and Grey Waxbill have also been recorded.

Key species:

African Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Red-headed Quelea, Grey Waxbill

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:

African Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Red-headed Quelea, Grey Waxbill

Other Related Information

The ponds are reached from Durban by taking the N2 north. Take the Portland Drive exit into Umhlanga Rocks. Turn to the right and follow the road as it bears left up the hill. At the top of the hill, turn right from Herwood Drive onto a dirt road through the fields of Sugar Cane. The road descends into the valley for 2km and into the main parking area.

Notable points of interest include the:
Main entrance: -29.6976, 31.0806

Access and facilities:
No prior permission is needed to visit this site.

Other related information:

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:
Diverse accommodation options are also available in Umhlanga Rocks.

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:

African Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Red-headed Quelea, Grey Waxbill

Contact details: