|Most recent IBA monitoring assessment|
|Year of assessment||Threat score (pressure)||Condition score (state)||Action score (response)|
|2013||very high||very unfavourable||low|
|For more information about IBA monitoring please click here|
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.
See Box for key species. This area holds one of the highest concentrations of Hirundo atrocaerulea in the southern African subregion. Thirty-eight nests are known, with another 10–12 likely within the IBA, and perhaps a further 10 at other sites near Ixopo (outside the IBA as currently defined) that have not yet been properly explored. Neotis denhami is relatively common, and two traditional lekking sites are located here. A colony of Geronticus calvus occurs on the Umzimkulu cliffs. All three cranes in South Africa—Grus carunculatus, Grus paradisea and Balearica regulorum—nest in the district.
Non-bird 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.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: KwaZulu-Natal Mistbelt Grasslands. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 19/02/2020.