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Queen Elizabeth Park, the headquarters of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, is an under-rated, highly recommended and safe birding spot on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg. It contains a variety of habitats including forest patches, thickets, open woodland and grassland. The variety of birds is thus very impressive. Access is good, there are paved walking trails suitable for all ages, and three picnic sites with toilets. A large map of the trails is available at the first picnic site on the left of the main access road. If the whole trail (2,5km) is walked, depending on how long you stop to look at birds, it should take no longer than about three hours. The trail is broken into sections so shorter walks can be done.

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Birding

The walk along the trail and the road provides good birding:

1. In and around the forest patches and thickets some of the birds to look for are Tambourine Dove, African Emerald Cuckoo, Olive Woodpecker, Bush Blackcap (winter), Chorister Robin-Chat (winter), Red-capped Robin-Chat, Cape Robin-Chat, White-starred Robin, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Olive Bush-Shrike, Olive Sunbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Collared Sunbird and occasionally Grey Sunbird and Forest Canary. Black Saw-wing can be seen flitting around the trees. A walk very early in the morning in summer may produce a Buff-spotted Flufftail. Raptors abound, with Long-crested Eagle, African Crowned Eagle, Little Sparrowhawk, Black Sparrowhawk, and African Goshawk being recorded on a regular basis, while Jackal Buzzard can often be seen flying overhead. Early morning can also turn up bushbuck and caracal.

2. Birds of the open woodland include Crested Barbet, Lesser Honeyguide, Brown-backed Honeybird, Red-throated Wryneck, Black Cuckooshrike, Malachite Sunbird, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, White-bellied Sunbird, Amethyst Sunbird, Black-crowned Tchagra, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike (summer), White-browed Scrub-Robin, both Tawny-flanked Prinia and Drakensberg Prinia, four species of canaries and an assortment of weavers. Impala are usually seen grazing contentedly under the trees.

3. As the trail passes through open grassland, a variety of birds can be seen - Cape Grassbird, Common Waxbill, Zitting Cisticola, Levaillant's Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola and Lazy Cisticola. The best time of year for Cisticola is summer, when the birds are calling and displaying. On the lawns of the picnic sites the beautiful Golden-breasted Bunting can be seen quietly minding their own business. In summer Greater Striped Swallow and Lesser Striped Swallow fly in mixed flocks, and are particularly common around the front of the main building. The zebra are very laid back, and common reedbuck will whistle at you if you get too close.

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General

Queen Elizabeth Park is on the northern side of Pietermaritzburg, just beyond the Victoria Country Club. From Durban proceed along Commercial Road straight through the city, out the far side, up the hill (Howick Road), reach the traffic circle, go through this at 12 o'clock, and veer right over the freeway into Duncan McKenzie Drive. Follow this road past the Victoria Country club and into the park. From the north, take the Duncan McKenzie/Wembley off-ramp, turn left at the T-junction, up the hill past the country club. Entrance is free, and on weekends serious birders should aim to finish birding by about 11 a.m. which is when most picnickers start to arrive.

Contact: Officer in charge Telephone: +27-33-3303049

KZN Wildlife Website



Athol and Les Marchant 2007.




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