The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve, Umzinto area

Afrikaans name: Vernon Crookes Natuur Reservaat

One of the dams in Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve

One of the dams in Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve

Photo © Steven Herbert


Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve is situated on some hills inland from Scottburgh and Park Rynie. The nearest town is Umzinto. Vernon Crookes is surrounded by fields of sugar cane.

The reserve is popular venue for bird-watchers and over 300 species of birds have been sighted over the years. Here is a bird checklist.

The main mammal species that you are likely to encounter are Burchell's Zebra, Blue Wildebeest and Blesbok but with luck you may find others.

Apparently Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve is home to the worlds largest earth worms which may grow up to 2.6 metres in length (they sound like snakes to me!).

The reserve is a great place for a picnic and is less than an hours drive from Durban. There is some accommodation available in the reserve.

Have you visited Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve? Share your experiences with us.

Southern Crowned Cranes breed in Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve

Photo © Steven Herbert

Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve has an impressive checklist of birds. One of the benefits of this reserve is that you can get out of your car.

Above - Crowned Cranes photographed near the large communications mast. They breed regularly in this area.

Below - a Lesser Honeyguide photographed at the main picnic site. The clump of trees in the middle of the picnic site is quite a good birding area.

Lesser Honeyguide at Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve

Photo © Steven Herbert

Some mammals to look for:

Banded Mongoose

Black-backed Jackal


Blue Duiker

Blue Wildebeest

Burchell's Zebra


Cape Porcupine


Common Duiker


Large Grey Mongoose

Mountain Reedbuck



Rock Hyrax

Slender Mongoose

Tree Hyrax

Vervet Monkey

White-tailed mongoose

Checklist of some of the birds to be seen at Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve

Natal Spurfowl

Common Quail

White-backed Duck

Spur-winged Goose

African Black Duck

Yellow-billed Duck

Scaly-throated Honeyguide

Greater Honeyguide

Lesser Honeyguide

Brown-backed Honeybird

Red-throated Wryneck

Golden-tailed Woodpecker

Cardinal Woodpecker

Olive Woodpecker

Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird

Red-fronted Tinkerbird

Black-collared Barbet

Trumpeter Hornbill

Green Wood-Hoopoe

Narina Trogon

African Pygmy-Kingfisher

Brown-hooded Kingfisher

Little Bee-eater

Speckled Mousebird

Red-chested Cuckoo

Black Cuckoo

African Emerald Cuckoo

African Black Swift

Little Swift

White-rumped Swift

Knysna Turaco

Purple-crested Turaco

African Wood-Owl

Fiery-necked Nightjar

African Olive-Pigeon

Lemon Dove

Red-eyed Dove

Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove

Tambourine Dove

Grey Crowned Crane

Buff-spotted Flufftail

Red-chested Flufftail

Striped Flufftail

Common Moorhen

Red-knobbed Coot

Great Snipe

Black-tailed Godwit

Red Phalarope

African Jacana

African Cuckoo Hawk

Black Kite

African Harrier-Hawk

African Goshawk

Black Sparrowhawk

Steppe Buzzard

Martial Eagle

Long-crested Eagle

African Crowned Eagle

Eurasian Hobby

Lanner Falcon

Little Grebe

Black-headed Heron


Hadeda Ibis

African Broadbill

Black-headed Oriole

Square-tailed Drongo

Fork-tailed Drongo

Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher

African Paradise-Flycatcher

Black-backed Puffback

Southern Tchagra

Southern Boubou

Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike

Grey-headed Bush-Shrike

Cape Batis

Chinspot Batis

White-necked Raven

Common Fiscal

Grey Cuckooshrike

Black Cuckooshrike

Southern Black Tit

Barn Swallow

Lesser Striped Swallow

Rock Martin

Black Saw-wing

Dark-capped Bulbul

Sombre Greenbul

Yellow-bellied Greenbul

Terrestrial Brownbul

Cape Grassbird

Broad-tailed Warbler

Barratt's Warbler

Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler

Cape White-eye

Lazy Cisticola

Levaillant's Cisticola

Croaking Cisticola


Zitting Cisticola

Pale-crowned Cisticola

Wing-snapping Cisticola

Tawny-flanked Prinia

Bar-throated Apalis

Yellow-breasted Apalis

Green-backed Camaroptera

Rufous-naped Lark

Cape Rock-Thrush

Olive Thrush

Southern Black Flycatcher

African Dusky Flycatcher

Ashy Flycatcher

White-starred Robin

Cape Robin-Chat

Red-capped Robin-Chat

Chorister Robin-Chat

Brown Scrub-Robin

White-browed Scrub-Robin

African Stonechat

Familiar Chat

Mocking Cliff-Chat

Red-winged Starling

Black-bellied Starling

Cape Glossy Starling

Olive Sunbird

Grey Sunbird

Amethyst Sunbird

Collared Sunbird

Greater Double-collared Sunbird

White-bellied Sunbird

Spectacled Weaver

Village Weaver

Dark-backed Weaver

Fan-tailed Widowbird

Red-collared Widowbird

Thick-billed Weaver

Orange-breasted Waxbill

African Quailfinch

Swee Waxbill

Green Twinspot

Grey Waxbill

Common Waxbill

African Firefinch

Bronze Mannikin

Red-backed Mannikin

Pin-tailed Whydah

House Sparrow

Yellow-throated Petronia

Cape Wagtail

Mountain Wagtail

Yellow-throated Longclaw

Cape Longclaw

Striped Pipit

Plain-backed Pipit

Long-billed Pipit

Short-tailed Pipit

Cape Canary

Yellow-fronted Canary

Brimstone Canary

Streaky-headed Seedeater

References and further reading

Where to Watch Birds in Southern Africa - Author: A. Berruti and J.C. Sinclair - Published: 1983 - Page: 171

Wild Issue 9 - Author: - Published: 2010 - Page: 56

Wild Issue 35 - Author: - Published: 2016 - Page: 40

Where to see Birds in Natal - Author: Gordon Bennett - Published: 1989 - Page: 21

Where to see Birds in KwaZulu-Natal - Author: Bennett and Herbert - Published: 1995 - Page: 58

The Pictorial Motoring Atlas of South Africa - Author: Maxwell Leigh - Published: 1987 - Page: 115

Top Birding Spots in Southern Africa - Author: Hugh Chittenden - Published: 1992 - Page: 306

Southern African Birdfinder - Author: Cohen, Spottiswoode and Rossouw - Published: 2006 - Page: 112

Southern Africa from the Highway - Author: AA RSA - Published: 1991 - Page: 215

Illustrated Guide to the Game Parks and Nature Reserves of SA - 2nd edn - Author: Readers Digest - Published: 1991 - Page: 163

Places to Visit in Southern Africa - Author: AA RSA - Published: 1995 - Page: 144

Atlas of National Parks and Reserves of South Africa - Author: Marielle Renssen - Published: 2006 - Page: 88

Birding in Southern KwaZulu-Natal - Author: David Allan - Published: 0 - Page: 10

Chris and Tilde Stuarts Guide to Southern African Game and Nature Reserves - Author: Chris and Tilde Stuart - Published: 1989 - Page: 145

Country Life - Issue 250 - Author: - Published: 2017 - Page: 60

Country Life - Issue 254 - Author: - Published: 2017 - Page: 36


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