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Birding in Urban Areas- No 1:Durban, South Africa

Updated on June 1, 2016
Grey Heron
Grey Heron | Source
Introducing young children to birding
Introducing young children to birding | Source
Flamingos at Umgeni River
Flamingos at Umgeni River | Source
Grey-crowned Crane-the most common Crane in South Africa
Grey-crowned Crane-the most common Crane in South Africa | Source
Pygmy Kingfisher
Pygmy Kingfisher | Source
PurpleTuraco-a common bird in Durban area
PurpleTuraco-a common bird in Durban area | Source
Yellow-billed Kite - often seen flying overhead
Yellow-billed Kite - often seen flying overhead | Source

Birding in an Urban Area: Durban South Africa.

With more than 50% of the worlds population living in urban areas and many people with the financial ability and interest to become involved in birding also living there, it becomes obvious that birding in urban areas is a good place to start. As large scale urbanization has taken place birds have adapted to urban environments. Travelling to the wild areas of the world is obviously attractive, but simply starting where you are is a good option. No matter what urban area you live in grab your binoculars, a bird book and a note book and you are on your way.Normally there is also a local bird club that will be more than happy to welcome new members and introduce you to the world of birding.

Some cities are obviously more productive than others. New York is reputed to be a great birding venue and so is London and Paris to mention just a few. Here in South
Africa Durban is as good a place to get started as any. Its location means it offers a large number of advantages including wooded coastal forest, esturine rivers,
ocean beaches, mangrove swamps and well wooded suburbia. Nearby are dams, highlands and rivers that offer a large selection of species. It would be possible to
list well over 150 species in a days of hard birding if you travelled in a 50km radius from any point in Durban, as many do on birding big day every year in November.
Durban lies in the climatic region known as the sub-tropics and enjoys the birds that are found along the Eastern Coast of South Africa that is heated by the warm Mozambique

In his book on "Top Birding Spots in South Africa" Hugh Chittenden lists Umhlanga Sewerage Works, Beachwood Mangroves, Umgeni River Mouth and Shongweni Dam as four of the
top spots in Kwa-Zulu Natal. A list of well over 350 birds exists for this area and in summer when the migrants have arrived this is specially a great place to bird.

The Umgeni Bird Park is a good place to see many of the exotic birds that you would otherwise only be able to view by extensive travel into such areas as South America and
the Philippines. Because these are not free flying wild birds they do not fit into the requirements for birding as such. At the same time this "birding zoo" is an excellent place to take young children and intoduce them close up to birds from South Africa and from elsewhere in the World. Here we also saw the South African national bird - a pair of Blue Crane. Also the rare and endangered South African Ground Hornbill along with such rare exotic birds as the Mute Swan, Ducorp's Cockatoo and the Blue-and-White Macaw.

A walk along the well designed boardwalk through the Mangrove Swamps will fascinate if for nothing else than the multitude of interesting crabs that feed on any leaves that fall from the trees and in so doing keep the area clean. We did see a Woolly-necked Stork, a Red Bishop, a Purple Heron and a Little Bee-eater on our visit there. The very rare Mangrove Kingfisher is only here in winter and so we will have to return.

Several exellent Nature reserves in the Durban area include the Kenneth Stainbank Reserve, Pigeon Valley Reserve and Burman Bush Reserve.The Japanese Gardens and the
Viginia Airport nature walk are two of many excellent nature areas worth investigating. The last time we did the Virginia Airport walk we were royally entertained by a majestic Crowned Eagle in the canopy just above us. As a matter of fact Duban is spoilt for first class birding places and a visitto a new area every week or month will soon provide the beginner birder with an impressive life list
Even the experienced birder will be able to add to their life list with such rare species as the Rose-ringed Parakeet, the Mangrove Kingfisher and the Crab Plover being
exciting possibilities. Add to this the opportunity to book a pelagic trip from the harbour. After heavy weather the possibility of Greater Frigate bird and Cape Gannet from the shore is a strong possibility. A trip out to sea will produce the opportunity to perhaps see Sub-Antarctic Skua, Wilson's Storm Petrel and Whitechinned Petrel, to mention just a few. This will be enough to get the heart racing and add several to a life list..

Durban as a major tourist area for both local and international tourists has accommodation available to suit every pocket and the call of the many birds invites birders of all levels to pay a visit. You will not be disappointed!

Today as I introduced my granddaughter of 7 to birding we started with a list of 14 without moving from their front veranda in Durban North and soon we added another 16 in the general area -looking them up in the Sasol Birds of South Africa book. And although I did not add to my life list for South Africa of over 500 I did enjoy seeing some exotic birds at the Umgeni Bird Park.Who knows if young Mikeala will not one day surpass my 500 life list and become a birder of note. The seed has been planted and we did not have to leave the Durban urban area to do so!


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    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 2 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Our part of the world is suffering the worst drought in many years and this is having an impact on human and animal life. Food and water shortages in rural areas are critical. Have not noticed short term affects on bird life yet.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I am pleased that you introduced your granddaughter to one of the wonders of nature. I have been on my local lake almost every day for five years now. Has global warming and our El Nino affected your area at all?

    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 2 years ago from East London, South Africa

      You are welcome-I have enjoyed spending a week in Durban North with my son and grandkids.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Great to read about some of the places and birds found in my old stomping ground Thanks for taking me back down memory lane.