Malala Lodge is a registered member of Birdlife South Africa and a registered "Birder Friendly" establishment.
With over 500 species recorded in the area, and over 30 different established birding localities, the Elephant Coast is a birding hotspot. The region provides forest, grassland, wetland, bushveld, mountain, estuarine, coastline and open ocean habitats, making it South Africa's most diverse area for birding.
63 Southern African endemic or near-endemic species are present, as well as several rare and threatened species. Specials include: Pink-throated Twinspot, Neergaard’s Sunbird, Rudds Apalis, Lemon-breasted Canary, Southern-banded Snake Eagle, Pel's Fishing Owl, Woodwards’ Batis, Rosy-throated Longclaw, African Finfoot and African Broadbill.
Malala Lodge has a variety of vegetation types, including lowland forest, woodland, grasslands and wetland areas and currently has a birdlist of over 270 recorded species. A birdlist for the property is available here.
Areas of lowland forest and thickets hold a diversity of forest species. Seven species of sunbird forage at flowering plants here, with Grey, Olive, Collared, Scarlet-chested and Purple-banded Sunbird conspicuous on the fringes. Gorgeous and Orange-breasted Bush-Shrikes are seldom out of earshot, while Olive Bush-Shrike is a winter visitor. Crested Guineafowls move through the understory, and species such as Square-tailed Drongo, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Ashy Flycatcher, White-eared Barbet and Dark-backed Weaver forage higher up. Good birds in these areas include Green Malkoha, Eastern Nicator, African Broadbill (rare), Grey Tit-Flycatcher and Grey Penduline-Tit. Scaly-throated Honeyguides and Narina Trogons can sometimes be heard, but are trickier to see, although the former regularly visits the chalets’ birdbaths. The localised Rudd's Apalis is common throughout, and Grey Waxbill, Bearded scrub-Robin and White-throated Robin-Chats are seen on forest edges. The beautiful and localised Pink-throated Twinspot occurs regularly around the chalets, while the rare Southern Banded Snake-Eagle is inconspicuous but resident.
After good rains, aquatic habitats support waterbirds, including several ducks, warblers, herons and storks. In the grassland and woodland, several species of swallows (including Grey-rumped) and swifts hawk insects, and various raptors can be seen, including Martial Eagle, Brown and Black-breasted Snake-Eagles and African Cuckoo-Hawk. One of the main specials for this area is the Lemon-breasted Canary - small groups of these special birds can be seen foraging near Acacia and Lala Palm thickets, particularly in summer. Black Coucal is another sought after bird and sometimes occurs in wet summers, with up to five birds present in rank grassland in the past. Senegal Lapwing and Collared Pratincoles are present when conditions suit them, and Black-bellied Bustard is resident.
A number of nightbirds are also found on the property. Some of the special species recorded are Bat Hawk, which has been seen a number of times at dusk, and Verreaux’s Eagle Owl and African Wood-Owls, both of which occur around the camp. At least three species of nightjar occur, including Swamp Nightjar from time to time. In summer, Bronze-winged Coursers may be seen in areas with sparse ground vegetation.
In addition to the big mammals for which it is so popular, over 350 species of bird have been recorded in the park, and it is particularly renowned for its abundance of raptors. Other good birds in the park include a breeding colony of the endemic Southern Bald Ibis in the cliffs close to Hilltops, and African Finfoot on the Hluhluwe River. For further information on the specials, take a look at the writeup on Birdlife SA.
A place of great beauty, Mkhuze Game Reserve is renowned as a mecca for bird watchers with more than 430 species recorded - one of South Africa's highest checklists for a protected area - due largely to the diversity of habitats included in the reserve. Mkhuze has an extensive raptor list and an amazing 11 species of owls.
Birding in Mkhuze is excellent all year round, but is boosted in summer by the arrival of migrants such as the Broad-billed Roller, Woodland Kingfisher, several cuckoos and waders and warblers.
Two beautiful pans, Nhlonhlela and Nsumo, are home to populations of Hippo and Nile Crocodile as well as Pink-backed and Great White Pelicans - Nsumo Pan being home to South Africa's only breeding colony of Pink-backed Pelicans. Waterbird numbers are dependent on the water level of the pans and in summer many ducks and wading birds are present. The sandforest around Kumasinga hide holds some of the most sought after species, including Neergaard’s Sunbird, African Broadbill, Pinkthroated Twinspot, African Barred-Owlet and Retz’s Helmetshrike. The Fig Forest Walk is also productive, and offers a chance for Pel’s Fishing Owl.
For further information on the specials, take a look at the writeup on Birdlife SA.
Birding around St Lucia Village and up towards Cape Vidal can produce many special species, including several not found further inland.
The Gwalagwala trail, close to the estuary mouth, and coastal forest up the eastern shores are very good for a number of special forest species, including Livingstone’s Turaco, Woodwards’ Batis, Brown Scrub-Robin, Green Twinspot, Buff-spotted Flufftail and Spotted Ground-Thrush (rare in winter). The Iphiva trail near the Crocodile Centre, and the drive up towards Cape Vidal provides the best chance in South Africa to see the rare Southern Banded Snake Eagle. African Pygmy-Goose, Collared Pratincole, Saddle-billed Stork, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and Swamp Nightjar are some of the good birds that may be found in grassland.
The estuary supports numbers of terns and waders in summer, and the rare Mangrove Kingfisher occurs in winter. For more information visit the Birdlife write up.
Two self-guided trails offer excellent opportunities to explore the birdlife in the False Bay area.
Along the water edge, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Goliath Heron, Collared Pratincole and a wide range of wading and water birds can be seen, including pelicans, flamingos and a variety of waterfowl. Within the sandforest and adjacent woodland, Southern-banded Snake Eagle, Narina Trogon, Pink-throated Twinspot, Neergaard’s Sunbird and African Broadbill are some of the many species you may encounter. False Bay is one of the best localities for the last two species. For more information visit the Birdlife SA writeup. False Bay is a 20 minute drive from Malala and a small entrance fee is payable at the entrance.