Pigeon Valley

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Hikers in Pigeon Valley

Pigeon Valley is a Natural Heritage Park and formally declared municipal nature reserve in Durban, South Africa. It is an unusual example of an urban reserve with very high levels of biodiversity. It was established to provide protection for the Natal Elm (Celtis mildbraedii) and other forest giants of the coastal climax forest.[1] Another rare tree that occurs here is Natal Forest Loquat (Oxyanthus pyriformis) which is endemic to the Durban area and to oNgoye Forest. Pigeon Valley is about 11ha in extent, and is situated on the Berea, overlooking Durban Bay. Its unusual north-south orientation may contribute to the biodiversity, with the south-facing slope covered in canopy forest, while the north-facing slope has thorny thickets. An adjoining reservoir, previously part of the reserve, provides a patch of coastal grassland.


Red duiker at Pigeon Valley
Male buff-spotted flufftail in Pigeon Valley, January 2014

The park is home to red duiker and blue duiker. Other mammals include Large-spotted Genet, a troop of banded mongooses as well as slender and water mongooses. Blue vervet monkeys are constantly present. From early July 2019, a Side-striped Jackal has been seen in neighbouring roads and is apparently living in the reserve. This may be the southernmost sighting of this species.

Various species of forest birds are found here including; Red-capped Robin-Chat, Green Twinspot, Cape White-Eye, Southern Boubou, Spotted Ground-Thrush, Purple-crested Turaco and African Paradise-Flycatcher. The Black Sparrowhawk breeds here annually. Another bird that is seldom seen but that is generally present is Buff-spotted Flufftail.[2] Unusual sightings of note in recent years include European Nightjar, Knysna Warbler, Lemon Dove, Mountain Wagtail, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Common Scimitarbill, Palm-nut Vulture and Knysna Turaco. The current bird list for Pigeon Valley includes 162[3] species.

The Spotted Ground-Thrush is of particular note, as Pigeon Valley is one of the places where this endangered bird can be most reliably found in winter. It arrives typically in late March or early April, and is present until August or September; in 2015 it was present until 5 October. Summer migrants include, occasionally, Black Cuckoo, Red-chested Cuckoo and Red-backed Shrike.

Bird list for Pigeon Valley
Number Family Species Status Notes
1 Apalis Barthroated Breeding resident
2 Apalis Yellow-breasted Breeding resident
3 Barbet Black-collared Breeding resident Recent decline in numbers
4 Barbet White-eared Breeding resident Increasing in number
5 Barbet Crested Occasional visitor
6 Batis Cape Breeding resident
7 Batis Chinspot Breeding resident
8 Bee-eater Little Occasional visitor
9 Boubou Southern Breeding resident
10 Brownbul Terrestrial Breeding resident
11 Bulbul Dark-capped Breeding resident
12 Bunting Goldenbreasted Occasional visitor April 1992, 30 March 2013
13 Bush-Shrike Gorgeous Rare visitor 2007
14 Bush-Shrike Greyheaded Occasional visitor 2012; 2014; 2019
15 Bush-Shrike Olive Occasional visitor
16 Bush-Shrike Orange-breasted Occasional visitor Last seen 2011
18 Camaroptera Green-backed Breeding resident
19 Canary Brimstone Regular visitor
20 Canary Yellow-fronted Regularly present
21 Cisticola Zitting Rare visitor Pair present 2015
22 Coucal Burchell's Occasional visitor
23 Crested-Flycatcher Bluemantled Rare visitor Female present 2014-6
24 Crow Pied Occasional visitor
25 Cuckoo Black Occasional summer visitor
26 Cuckoo Diderik Regular summer visitor
27 Cuckoo Emerald Occasional summer visitor
28 Cuckoo Common Rare visitor 1979; November 2018
29 Cuckoo Jacobin Rare visitor October 2016
30 Cuckoo Klaas's Breeding resident Breeding 2014
31 Cuckoo Redchested Occasional summer visitor 2015, 2017
32 Cuckooshrike Black Occasional visitor Mainly winter
33 Cuckooshrike Grey Occasional visitor Mainly winter
34 Dove Redeyed Breeding resident
35 Dove Laughing Breeding resident
36 Dove Rock Occasional visitor
37 Dove Tambourine Breeding resident
38 Dove Lemon Rare visitor 2012, 2018
39 Drongo Forktailed Breeding resident
40 Drongo Squaretailed Breeding resident
41 Duck White-faced Infrequent visitor November 2017
42 Eagle African Crowned Occasional visitor
43 Eagle-Owl Spotted Occasional visitor
44 Falcon Lanner Occasional visitor
45 Firefinch African Breeding resident
46 Firefinch Red-billed Breeding resident First sighting January 2015; now established
47 Fiscal Common Not seen in recent years
48 Flufftail Buffspotted Breeding resident Seen regularly
49 Flycatcher Ashy Breeding resident
50 Flycatcher Dusky Breeding resident
51 Flycatcher Fiscal Regular winter visitor
52 Flycatcher Spotted Uncommon summer visitor Present late 2014
53 Flycatcher Southern Black Breeding resident
54 Goshawk African Breeding resident
55 Greenbul Sombre Breeding resident
56 Greenbul Yellowbellied Occasional visitor Mainly winter and spring
57 Ground-Thrush Spotted Regular migrant April to September; November 2014; January 2016
58 Hamerkop Occasional visitor
59 Harrierhawk African Regular visitor
60 Hawk African Cuckoo Rare visitor Present June 2014
61 Heron Black-headed Occasional visitor
62 Hobby Eurasian Rare visitor March 2015
63 Honeybird Brownbacked Occasional visitor
64 Honey-Buzzard European Rare visitor First sighting January 2015
65 Honeyguide Greater Rare visitor Not seen in recent years
66 Honeyguide Lesser Usually present
67 Honeyguide Scalythroated Occasional visitor
68 Hoopoe African Occasional visitor
69 Hornbill Crowned Rare visitor 2015
70 Hornbill Trumpeter Rare visitor 2011
71 Ibis Hadeda Breeding resident
72 Indigobird Village Uncertain as yet First sighted June 2019
73 Kingfisher Brownhooded Breeding resident
74 Kingfisher Mangrove Rare visitor 2011, March 2016, 8 October 2017
75 Kite Yellowbilled Breeding migrant
76 Malkoha Green Infrequent visitor 2010, 2017-8
77 Mannikin Bronze Breeding resident
78 Mannikin Redbacked Breeding resident
79 Martin Rock Occasional visitor
80 Mousebird Speckled Breeding resident
81 Myna Common Frequent visitor
82 Nightjar European Rare visitor 2013; 2014 18 December 2014
83 Nightjar Fierynecked Occasional visitor
84 Oriole Blackheaded Breeding resident
85 Owl Barn Record from 1979
86 Palm-Swift African Regularly present
87 Paradise-Flycatcher African Breeding resident
88 Parakeet Rose-ringed Regular visitor
89 Pigeon Green Record from 1979
90 Prinia Tawnyflanked Breeding resident
91 Puffback Blackbacked Breeding resident
92 Pygmy-Kingfisher African Occasional visitor
93 Quelea Red-billed Rare visitor December 2017
94 Robin White-Starred Rare visitor Not seen in recent years
95 Robin-Chat Redcapped Breeding resident
96 Robin-Chat Cape Occasional visitor Mainly winter
97 Robin-Chat Chorister Occasional visitor Mainly winter
98 Saw-wing Black Regular visitor
99 Scimitarbill Common Rare visitor 11 November 2016
100 Scops-Owl Southern White-faced Rare vagrant July 2018
101 Scrub-Robin White-browed Breeding resident
102 Seedeater Streaky-headed Breeding resident
103 Shrike Fiscal Occasional visitor
104 Shrike Red-backed Infrequent summer visitor Present Nov 2015
105 Sparrow Southern Greyheaded Occasional visitor
106 Sparrow House Occasional visitor
107 Sparrowhawk Little Occasional visitor
108 Sparrowhawk Black Breeding resident
109 Spurfowl Natal Breeding resident
110 Starling Blackbellied Breeding resident
111 Starling Violetbacked Occasional summer visitor
112 Starling Redwinged Regularly present
113 Starling Glossy Breeding resident
114 Stonechat African Rare visitor Not seen in recent years
115 Stork Woollynecked Occasional visitor
116 Sunbird Grey Breeding resident
117 Sunbird Amethyst Breeding resident
118 Sunbird Olive Breeding resident
119 Sunbird Purplebanded Regular visitor Winter
120 Sunbird Collared Breeding resident
121 Sunbird Whitebellied Breeding resident
122 Swallow Barn Regular visitor Summer
123 Swallow Lesser-striped Regular visitor
124 Swallow Whitethroated Occasional visitor
125 Swift Black Rare visitor
126 Swift Whiterumped Occasional visitor
127 Swift Little Regularly present
128 Swift Palm Regularly present
129 Swift Alpine Rare visitor Not seen in recent years
130 Tchagra Southern Rare visitor 2017, 2018
131 Thrush Kurrichane Breeding resident
132 Thrush Olive Winter visitor Present March 2014, 2018
133 Tinkerbird Redfronted Occasional visitor October 2017
134 Tinkerbird Yellow-rumped Breeding resident
135 Tit Southern Black Breeding resident
136 Trogon Narina Occasional visitor
137 Turaco Knysna Rare visitor September 1991; 1 October 2017
138 Turaco Purple-crested Breeding resident
139 Twinspot Green Regular visitor Breeding record 2014
140 Vulture Palm-nut Rare visitor 22 October 2017
141 Wagtail Cape Occasional visitor
142 Wagtail Mountain Rare visitor Seen once in 1990s, again in 2013
143 Warbler Barratt's Infrequent winter visitor June 2014, 2017
144 Warbler Garden Rare visitor Present winter 2015
145 Warbler Knysna Rare visitor 20th August 2017, 2018
146 Warbler Marsh Summer visitor Several 2017-9
147 Warbler Willow Rare summer visitor December 2014
148 Wattle-eye Black-throated Rare visitor 2013; present in 2015
149 Waxbill Common Regular visitor
150 Waxbill Grey Breeding resident
151 Weaver Yellow Rare visitor Winter 2015
152 Weaver Darkbacked Breeding resident
153 Weaver Village Breeding resident
154 Weaver Spectacled Regularly present
155 Weaver Thickbilled Breeding resident
156 White-eye Cape Breeding resident
157 Wood-Hoopoe Green Regular visitor
158 Woodland-Warbler Yellowthroated Rare visitor, winter 13 August 2016
159 Woodpecker Goldentailed Breeding resident
160 Woodpecker Cardinal Breeding resident
161 Woodpecker Olive Rare visitor 2009, 2017, 2018
162 Wydah Pin-tailed Irregular visitor 2015, 2017


The reserve is excellent for its butterflies, and the total listing is now 92 species. In September 2018 the first pupae of the Short-barred Sapphire were found on a Celtis mildbraedii tree. The host plant is the Oncocalyx quinquenervius mistletoe, which goes profusely on the tree. Subsequently a Red-barred Sapphire was found at the same spot. The first Forest Queen was found in 2019.


A Natal elm, showing its extensive buttressing, Pigeon Valley, May 2013

There are over 110 species of trees occurring in Pigeon Valley, almost all of which are locally indigenous.[4] Pigeon Valley is also notable for large stands of Buckweed (Isoglossa woodii) which grow in more open areas under the forest canopy and in forest glades. In recent years there have been a few discoveries of plants not previously identified.

Pigeon Valley is unique in having large numbers of the rare Natal Elm, and of Natal Forest Loquat. A Cryptocarya specimen found adjacent to the main track has so far not been definitively identified; it may be a species seldom found in the area or alternatively a hybrid.

A Spotted Ground-Thrush, a migrant to the urban reserve, Pigeon Valley, Durban

Public access[edit]

The reserve is open from 07:30 to 16:00 daily throughout the year. The entrance is in Princess Alice Avenue, Glenwood, opposite Rhodes Avenue.


An active grouping, Friends of Pigeon Valley, undertakes clearing of invasive alien plants, ensuring that the park is unusually free of alien species. It also liaises with the municipal managers of the reserve to address relevant issues. The Friends operate a monthly walk open to the public on the second Saturday of each month, at 07h30. There is a Facebook page, Friends of Pigeon Valley, at https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfPigeonValley/.

See also[edit]



  • Pooley, T. and Player, I. (1995). KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife Destinations. ISBN 1-86812-487-8.

Coordinates: 29°51′52″S 30°59′19″E / 29.86444°S 30.98861°E / -29.86444; 30.98861