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Midmar - BirdForum Opus

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South Africa

Map of Midmar; the red line is the game reserve road.
Created by Alan Manson


Midmar is a 2 857 ha resort operated by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife at Midmar Dam, a large reservoir that supplies water to Pietermaritzburg and Durban. It is situated in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, about 24 km north-west of Pietermaritzburg.

The best birding is in the grasslands and wetlands of the Thurlow Park Game Reserve; this is situated on the southern shore of the dam. A drive that includes the grassland loop at the western end of the reserve will take 2-4 hours.


Notable Species

Grassland specials include Black-rumped Buttonquail, Short-tailed Pipit, Fan-tailed Grassbird (Broad-tailed Warbler), Stanley Bustard (resident and often fairly easy to spot), Blue Crane and Grey Crowned Crane. At night (or if you are lucky during the day) Marsh Owl and African Grass Owl may be seen. African Marsh Harrier and African Fish Eagle are also resident and Osprey and Amur Falcon may be seen in summer. Wing-snapping Cisticola are particularly common; Pale-crowned Cisticola and Quailfinch are also resident. Ground Woodpecker have been seen on the hillside above the loop road.

In winter, especially once the firebreaks have been burnt, different birds move in, including Sentinel Rock Thrush, Eastern Long-billed Lark, Red-capped Lark and Buffy Pipit. Sickle-winged Chat has been found after a particularly cold snap.


"to do"


Birds you can see here include:

Little Grebe, White-breasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, African Darter, Grey Heron, Black-headed Heron, Goliath Heron, Purple Heron, Great White Egret, Yellow-billed Egret, Western Cattle Egret, Squacco Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Hamerkop, White Stork, African Sacred Ibis, Hadada Ibis, African Spoonbill, White-faced Whistling Duck, Egyptian Goose, South African Shelduck, Yellow-billed Duck, African Black Duck, Blue-billed Teal, Red-billed Teal, Southern Pochard, Spur-winged Goose, Secretarybird , Black-winged Kite, Wahlberg's Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, African Fish Eagle, Steppe Buzzard, Jackal Buzzard, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, Black Sparrowhawk, African Goshawk, African Marsh Harrier, African Harrier-Hawk, Osprey, Lanner Falcon, Amur Falcon, Coqui Francolin, Red-winged Francolin, Natal Spurfowl, Red-necked Spurfowl, Common Quail, Helmeted Guineafowl, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Blue Crane, Grey Crowned Crane, Black Crake, Red-chested Flufftail, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Denham's Bustard, Black-bellied Bustard, African Jacana, Kittlitz's Plover, Three-banded Plover, Crowned Lapwing, Black-winged Lapwing, Blacksmith Lapwing, African Wattled Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Ruff, African Snipe, Spotted Thick-knee, White-winged Tern, Rock Dove, Speckled Pigeon, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle Dove, Laughing Dove, Klaas's Cuckoo, Dideric Cuckoo, Burchell's Coucal, Barn Owl, African Grass Owl, Marsh Owl, Spotted Eagle-Owl, African Black Swift, White-rumped Swift, Horus Swift, Little Swift, Alpine Swift, African Palm Swift, Speckled Mousebird, Pied Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, European Roller, African Hoopoe, Green Wood-hoopoe, Black-collared Barbet, Crested Barbet, Ground Woodpecker, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Cardinal Woodpecker, Red-throated Wryneck, Rufous-naped Lark, Eastern Long-billed Lark, Red-capped Lark, Barn Swallow, White-throated Swallow, Greater Striped Swallow, Lesser Striped Swallow, Rock Martin, Common House Martin, Brown-throated Martin, Banded Martin, Black Saw-wing, Fork-tailed Drongo, Black-headed Oriole, Cape Crow, Pied Crow, Southern Black Tit, Dark-capped Bulbul, Sombre Greenbul, Sentinel Rock Thrush, Kurrichane Thrush, Olive Thrush, Groundscraper Thrush, Sickle-winged Chat, African Stonechat, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Cape Robin-Chat, Great Reed Warbler, Common Reed Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Lesser Swamp-Warbler, African Yellow Warbler, Little Rush Warbler, Fan-tailed Grassbird, Willow Warbler, Cape Grassbird, Zitting Cisticola, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Wailing Cisticola, Levaillant's Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola, Lazy Cisticola, Neddicky, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Drakensberg Prinia, Spotted Flycatcher, African Dusky Flycatcher, Southern Black Flycatcher, African Paradise-Flycatcher, African Pied Wagtail, Cape Wagtail, African Pipit, Nicholson's Pipit, Plain-backed Pipit, Buffy Pipit, Short-tailed Pipit, Cape Longclaw, Lesser Grey Shrike, Southern Fiscal, Black-backed Puffback, Brubru, Bokmakierie, Common Starling, Common Myna, Violet-backed Starling, Cape Glossy-Starling, Red-winged Starling, Malachite Sunbird, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape White-eye, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Thick-billed Weaver, Spectacled Weaver, Village Weaver, Cape Weaver, Parasitic Weaver, Red-billed Quelea, Red-headed Quelea, Southern Red Bishop, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Fan-tailed Widowbird, White-winged Widowbird, Red-collared Widowbird, Long-tailed Widowbird, African Firefinch, Common Waxbill, Quailfinch, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Bronze Mannikin, Pin-tailed Whydah, Yellow-fronted Canary, Cape Canary, Brimstone Canary, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Golden-breasted Bunting

Other Wildlife

Red Hartebeest, Black Wildebeest, Blesbok, Common Reedbuck, Oribi, Plains Zebra and Slender Mongoose. Scarce (and mostly nocturnal) mammals occasionally seen are Aardvark, Porcupine, White-tailed Mongoose, Black-backed Jackal and Serval.

Site Information

Animals and birds can be viewed from vehicles, cycles or on foot.

History and Use

"to do"

Areas of Interest

The moister grasslands and wetlands before the loop road are a good site for Yellow-crowned Bishop and Parasitic Weaver (Cuckoo Finch) (in summer).

The best birding on the northern side of the dam is in the scrub along a path near where the Umngeni River enters the dam (car park at 29°29'31" S 30°09'38" E).

Access and Facilities

Midmar Nature Reserve is situated off the N3 freeway, 24 km from Pietermaritzburg, and 7 km from Howick.

NB: Entrance fee is payable at the main entrance off the R103 (29°29'19" S; 30°11'38" E) you then have to drive to the Nature Reserve on the southern side of the dam via the Thurlow Gate (situated 4.5 km west of the N3, on the Underberg/Bulwer Road at 29°32'44" S, 30°12'12" E).

Accommodation (chalets and camping) and picnic and boating facilities are available on the northern side of the dam.

There are no public facilities on the southern side of the dam.

Contact Details

Name of managers: KZN Wildlife Conservation Services.

Telephone number: 033-502-9090.

Email address: [email protected]

Postal address: P.O.Box 2034, Pietermaritzburg, 3200


Riley A. 2002. Midmar Dam. In: Gibbon, G. (ed.) Roberts' Multimedia Birds of Southern Africa: Version 3. John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. www.sabirding.co.za

Southern KZN Birding Route. 2008. Midlands Birding Route - Thurlow Park at Midmar Game Reserve. Downloaded from www.kznbirding.co.za 10 March 2008.

External Links