Phongolo Nature Reserve

Country/territory: South Africa

IBA Criteria met: A1, A2 (1998)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 11,971 ha

Protection status:

BirdLife South Africa
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2013 high not assessed high
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
The site is located 30 km south-east of Pongola town. Up to two-thirds of the site consists of an artificial impoundment, depending upon water-level. The Pongola river, which flows in from the north-west, feeds the dam; only a small drowned section of the river lies inside the reserve. Aquatic vegetation is not usually well developed. Most of the surrounds are fairly flat but the eastern shore is steep to precipitous, rising to the boundary of the reserve at the top of the Lebombos. The vegetation consists of Zululand thornveld and arid lowveld. Mountain slopes have a fairly dense woodland, including trees of Berchemia, Dombeya, Acacia, Diospyros and Galpinia. The flat clay soils have a good grass cover. Acacia woodlands are extensive on these flats, and thickets of Salvadora, Acacia, Dichrostachys and Maytenus line the watercourses.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 2 for key species. The dam and associated wetlands are important for many wetland-dependent birds. Many species probably surpass the ‘1% of the biogeographic population’ threshold, but few data exist to support this. Mycteria ibis have bred twice in this habitat, but have been absent for several years. Circus ranivorus, Centropus grillii and Tyto capensis occur throughout the grassland areas of the reserve, which still hold reasonable numbers of raptors, including small populations of Torgos tracheliotus, Gyps africanus, Terathopius ecaudatus, Polemaetus bellicosus and Aquila rapax. Circus macrourus occasionally visit the reserve. Flooded grassland favours Centropus grillii and Gallinula angulata. Large dense thickets support Apalis ruddi, Nectarinia neergaardi (20–50 birds; breeding needs confirmation) and Hypargos margaritatus. The open savanna holds a small population of Serinus citrinipectus.

Non-bird biodiversity: The mammal Ceratotherium simum (LR/cd) has been recently reintroduced. The cycads Encephalartos ngoyanus and E. lebomboensis occur on the mountain slopes.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Phongolo Nature Reserve. Downloaded from on 05/03/2021.