Mkhuze Game Reserve (MGR) is world renowned amongst bird watchers as a mecca for birding. Due to the habitat diversity there is an impressive list of birds that one could see. Some exciting mammals are not to be overlooked whilst searching for birds.
Right now MGR is rather dry, a result of many months of drought. However, this can make birding easier as the limited grass cover and largely leafless trees make for easier visibility especially of the more secretive birds. There is a variety of habitats, each sporting its own compliment of birds.
Kumasinga Hide is situated in the unique sand forest but don’t wait until you reach the hide before you start looking. One passes through this habitat to reach the hide and there is much to be seen en route. One should keep an eye out for any flowers in the trees as these will act as a magnet for a variety of sunbirds including the rare Neergaard’s Sunbird. With the reduced leaf cover, normally highly secretive birds such as the magnificent Gorgeous Bushshrike and Eastern Nicator should be easier to observe. This is also a good area to find the zany Crested Guineafowl as well as the endearing and tiny Suni antelope. At the hide parking lot take time to scan the surroundings for little flocks of the very quietly trilling Pink-throated Twinspot. The hide itself has water and attracts a large variety of birds and mammals, particularly in these dry times. Birds such as Purple-crested Turaco, Grey Waxbill and many others come down to slake their thirst. It is also a meeting place for rhinos, herds of blue wildebeest, nyala and Buffalo. The antics of the warthogs as they indulge themselves in the mud are always amusing to watch.
Another water ‘magnet’ in these dry times is Khumahlahla Hide and it is recommended this hide be visited in addition to Kumasinga. It has more lush vegetation in and around the pan, thus providing habitat for interesting birds such as Painted Snipe, Green Sandpiper and the like.
Nsumu Pan may not have water (depends on the rains in the Mkuze River catchment), but is always worth a visit and there is productive birding to be had in the woodland and forest along the edge of the pan, apart from the many water-birds. These might well have to be the subject of a separate article, as there are a great many of them. On the way to Nsumu Pan one passes through more open bushveld where raptors such as the majestic Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle and stunning Bateleur are often seen. The bushveld along the Loop Road is also most productive and in addition to raptors there is also a variety of woodpeckers, including the large Bearded Woodpecker (one of only two woodpecker species in South Africa that drums), and Striped Kingfisher. With the ground cover being so sparse this is an excellent time to see Senegal Lapwings.
For those who would like to stretch their legs, Mantuma Camp is excellent for Bearded Scrub Robin, White-throated Robin-Chat and Red-fronted Tinkerbird. At night there are Wood Owls and Fiery-necked Nightjars calling, and with patience, and luck, they may also be seen.
Mkhuze offers much in the way of birding, and a comprehensive bird list is obtainable from the resort reception office. And while we’re on the subject of birds – have look at: