One of the next generation of flamingoes, among the adults, at Umgeni Bird Park.
One of the next generation of flamingoes, among the adults, at Umgeni Bird Park.

Not just for the birds ... but for love birds too

By Duncan Guy Time of article published Feb 6, 2021

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Durban - Love birds can join feathered birds on Valentine’s Day for an outing to one of Durban’s most beautiful attractions: The Umgeni Bird Park.

Tucked between a bushy cliff and cooled by a waterfall, it’s at the far end of a narrow extension to the beachfront promenade that goes inland up the Mgeni River.

More than 800 birds, including kookaburra species from Australia, parrots from South America and local raptors, give life to this 3.5ha enclave of nature close to the city centre.

The romantic day will also see the resumption of free-flight bird shows after they were suspended because of Covid-19. However, guided tours are still on hold.

The park, owned by eThekwini Municipality, was created with the aim of educating people about birds and an awareness of their beauty and diversity.

A flamingo chick is among the recent new additions to a colony of that species, one that was once quite a common sight in the Durban Bay before the advent of large scale harbour development to which mangrove forests had to give way.

“We are currently in the middle of the breeding season for many of the birds at the park,” said municipal spokesman Msawakhe Mayisela.

“Some of the recent hatchings include greater flamingos, black-capped lorikeets, Scarlet Ibis and common moorhen. Many other birds are currently incubating eggs, and the next two months are going to be very busy with new hatchlings around the park.”

The Umgeni River Bird Park was designed and built by Dr Alan Abrey. It is situated in an old quarry site which used to contain water and was visited by Abrey as a young boy growing up in Durban.

When looking for a bird park site, he remembered it as a perfect option. After a year of extensive land filling, landscaping and aviary construction, the Umgeni River Bird Park was opened in April 1984 by the then mayor of Durban, Councillor Sybil Hotz.

Covid-19 has had some positive effects for the avian residents.

“Having fewer visitors coming through the park has had some unexpected impacts, with some birds breeding for the first time in many years, and some wild species have also moved into the park,” said Mayisela.

“Some of the birds, though, do miss the daily interactions with our guests, and the animal care staff have been spending extra time with these birds.

“With the bird show being closed during much of the Covid-19 outbreak, the show birds have had daily training sessions, and are eager to get out on stage to show themselves off again.”

Turning to other parks, the city has confirmed that all parks are now open.

“Fenced parks are limited to 100 persons at a time at the gate and subject to social distancing and other normal protocols,” said Mayisela.

Beaches are open and municipal piers, some of which were still closed yesterday morning, are now once again open.

South American special - a blue-and-yellow macaw at Umgeni Bird Park.
The King vulture is at home in various habitats in South America.

The King vulture is at home in various habitats in South America.
Once a common sight in Durban Bay, these days one has a better chance of seeing flamingo at the Umgeni Bird Park.
A South American toucan called a toco. It prefers woodlands and grasslands back home, rather than the thick forests.

One of the next generation of flamingoes, among the adults, at Umgeni Bird Park.
The laughing kookaburra, from Australia, is the largest of the kingfishers.
The migratory demoiselle crane comes from Asia and spends winters in Africa.
The double yellow-headed Amazon parrot, in spite of its name, comes from Central America, not South America.
Galah cockatoos from Australia.
Feeding time for swans at the Umgeni Bird Park.
This beauty is an African harrier-hawk (formerly called a gymnogene).

One day this juvenile ground hornbill will grow to look more red.
Fruit for me, please! This fruit dove’s name says everything about its diet.
Street of bird cages at the Umgeni Bird Park.

A curtain of water keeps Umgeni Bird Park cool.
The ground hornbill is a sign of rain, according to local folklore.

The Independent on Saturday

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