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Location South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal
Central coordinates 30o 37.00' East  29o 12.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i
Area 5,000 ha
Altitude 920 - 1,340m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa

Site description This site consists of a disconnected series of patches of Natal mistbelt grassland on 28 farms located in the temperate midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. The quoted area of 5,000 ha refers to the sum of these patches. The region is bounded roughly as follows: in the west by the Umtamvuna river; in the south and east by the 900 m contour line (below this the climate is too warm and dry for mistbelt grassland), and in the north by high ground above c.1,300 m (where the climate becomes too cold for mistbelt grassland). The terrain consists of rolling hills, dissected by rivers and streams, and lower-lying valleys thus occupy the intervening ground in places. Soils are often deep, allowing small streams to run underground, and sinkholes are a typical feature. The criteria for the inclusion of a farm within the IBA was the presence of one or more viable units of mistbelt grassland. Nearly all of these patches support Hirundo atrocaerulea, but two of the farms were included for their role in conserving other important grassland birds.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus resident  30-40 breeding pairs  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus winter  60-120 individuals  A4i  Vulnerable 
Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres winter  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Corncrake Crex crex winter  present  A1  Least Concern 
Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea breeding  present  A1  Vulnerable 


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland   -
Artificial - terrestrial   21%
Unknown   2%
Shrubland   1%
Savanna   3%
Forest   70%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 60%
urban/industrial/transport -
nature conservation and research 10%
water management 85%

Other biodiversity Mistbelt grassland is noted for its diversity of flowering plants and their high level of endemicity. Rarities typical of, or confined to, the Ixopo area—the heart of the range of Hirundo atrocaerulea in KwaZulu-Natal—include Satyrium rhodanthum, Gerbera aurantiaca, Dierama nixonianum and Helichrysum citricephalum. The frog Arthroleptella ngongoniensis is a highly localized endemic to this habitat. Invertebrate life is rich: two new endemic earthworms have been recently discovered, Proandricus bulwerensis and P. adriani.

References Johnson et al. (1996), Scott-Shaw et al. (1996).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: KwaZulu-Natal Mistbelt Grasslands. Downloaded from on 01/08/2014

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