Driefontein grasslands

Country/territory: Zimbabwe

IBA Criteria met: A1 (2001)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 20,000 ha

Protection status:

BirdLife Zimbabwe
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2015 very high not assessed negligible
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
The site is an isolated patch of Kalahari Sands on the watershed, a little to the east of the geographical centre of Zimbabwe. Within it lies the Driefontein Mission with the two Driefontein dams, and close by to the east is the commercial farming community of Felixburg. The vistas are flat and seemingly endless. Most of the landscape is under natural highveld grassland, dominated by the thatching grass Hyparrhenia which can grow to a height of 3 m. Soaks, seeps, and depressions collect water and form many dambos/vleis in the area, due to the flat terrain. There are a few streams, such as the Nyororo and Shashe, and scattered patches of miombo woodland. Due to the general sufficiency of rainfall, there are areas of rain-fed maize agriculture in summer and irrigated wheat in the austral winter. Temperatures are very equable, and frosts in winter are common. The area is largely divided into commercial ranches which specialize in cattle. There are several mines around Felixburg itself, and Driefontein Mission has a church, a hospital and school, and agricultural crops.

Key biodiversity
See Box for key species. The area supports a large number of Grus carunculatus. In October 1989, a roost of 87 birds was present at one of the Driefontein dams, the largest flock seen in the country in recent decades. More recent winter surveys of the District have located 25 pairs and a flock of ‘floaters’ (1996), after a good 1995/96 rainy season. Up to 40 pairs have been located in the larger area of the central watershed, Chivhu–Mvuma–Felixburg, which includes this site. Generally the cranes form pairs when the conditions are marshy, and flock together during times of drought. They may then glean in old maize and wheat lands.

The grassland and cattle-ranching environment is benign for raptors, and more than 30 species (excluding owls) have been recorded, including occasional sightings of Gyps coprotheres, Circus macrourus and Falco naumanni. Due to the extent of dambos, culminating in the large Widgeon Pan on the eastern edge of the area (19°23’S 30°56’E), there is a good likelihood of Crex crex and Gallinago media (and even, perhaps, Sarothrura ayresi). Chlidonias hybridus was recorded breeding there in 1993.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Driefontein grasslands. Downloaded from on 06/08/2020.