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Location South Africa, Eastern Cape
Central coordinates 25o 35.00' East  33o 51.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii
Area 926 ha
Altitude 0 - 10m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa

Site description The Swartkops estuary is located on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, 15 km north of the harbour. The catchment of this river lies in the Groot Winterhoek mountains west of Uitenhage. The lower river receives water primarily from the Swartkops and Elands rivers, which flow parallel to each other, in relatively steep narrow valleys, and have their confluence shortly after entering the flood-plain. The estuary is tidal for c.16 km upstream, the upper reaches are narrow (c.90 m wide), channel-like, and twist their way through steep banks of muddy sand. In the upper estuary there is a small, sandy intertidal area. The estuary widens slightly and becomes less convoluted between Bar None saltpans and Brickfields in the middle reaches. Below Brickfields, the steep banks flatten and the estuary broadens considerably (c.350 m wide) into open mudflats.

The permanently open mouth is covered with eelgrass Zostera beds, which disappeared in 1983 resulting in the formation of extensive intertidal mudflats. The Zostera has since returned and the mudflat area has receded. Redhouse saltpan is situated on the north bank of the Swartkops flood-plain, within the Swartkops Valley Nature Reserve. Chatty saltpans occur south of the Swartkops–Redhouse railway-line near Brickfields. Three islands occur at Redhouse saltpan. The primary plants in the saltpans are the macrophytes Ruppia and Enteromorpha. The terrestrial vegetation surrounding the estuary consists of coastal dune herbland, flood-plain scrubland, grassland and thicket.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
African Oystercatcher Haematopus moquini winter  frequent  A1  Near Threatened 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta non-breeding  490 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres winter  363 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus breeding  430 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus winter  1,112 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds unknown  20,000 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Swartkops Valley Local Authority Nature Reserve Nature Reserve 1,030 protected area overlaps with site 150  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland   -
Shrubland   -
Wetlands (inland) Saltpans  -
Forest   100%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
tourism/recreation -
water management 30%
nature conservation and research 100%
water management 60%

Other biodiversity The reptiles Bradypodion ventrale and Scelotes anguineus, two Algoa Bay endemics, are resident.

References Baird et al. (1986), Crawford et al. (1982a), Martin (1991b), Martin and Baird (1987, 1988a,b), Martin and Randall (1987).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Swartkops Estuary - Redhouse and Chatty Saltpans. Downloaded from on 23/07/2014

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