South Africa Highlands
Although very little remains of the large numbers of game which inhabited the Drakensberg in former times, game numbers are again increasing since virtually the entire Natal Drakensberg now enjoys protection.
The species you are most likely to come across is the grey rhebok which is probably the most common antelope in the Drakensberg. They prefer the more level areas of the Little Berg and are sometimes mistaken for the smaller mountain reedbuck However, the latter usually occur on slopes where suitable cover shrubs, rocks or boulders is not far off.
Two other common animals which frequent the rocky areas of the Drakensberg and which you are likely to notice are the chacma baboon and the rock dassie.
You might also approach quite closely to eland on the Little Berg during spring and summer when the grasses here are palatable. During winter, however, they move into the river valleys and forest patches where the vegetation is more nutritious.
Other large antelope occurring are blesbok red hartebeest and black wildebeest. Smaller antelope include bushbuck, common duiker, oribi and klipspringer. The latter is confined to basalt krantzes between 2,400 and 2,700 m (7,870' and 8,856'), and is rarely seen.
Several predators occur, but on account of their nocturnal and secretive habits you are unlikely to see any. Predators recorded include the black backed jackal, African wild cat, serval, caracal, Cape clawless otter, spotted necked otter and several mongoose species. Leopards also occur, but since they inhabit remote and inaccessible areas they are rarely seen.
Of the 246 bird species recorded in the Natal Drakensberg Park to date, 213 species are either resident or occur regularly, while the remaining 33 species are considered vagrants or rare visitors.
One of the most interesting and rare birds of the Drakensberg is the bearded vulture. It has long, pointed wings and a wedge-shaped tail and is restricted to the upper elevations of the Drakensberg. Their numbers have been estimated at about 120 pairs.
Other birds of prey you might spot which are listed as Red Data Species are Cape vulture, cuckoo hawk and martial eagle.
The summit plateau and the slopes and rockfaces above 2,200 m (7,216') are sparsely inhabited by species such as the white stork a summer visitor and the bald ibis. More commonly seen species include rock pigeon, white-necked raven, sentinel rock thrush, familiar chat and redwinged starling.
In the open grassland keep an eye out for secretary bird, redwing francolin, common quail, ground woodpecker, orangethroated longclaw, bokmakierie and the pintail led whydah.
These species also occur in the proteaveld which, in addition, attracts birds such as Gurney's sugarbird, malachite and greater doublecollared sunbirds and fiscal shrike.
The patches of indigenous forest provide a suitable habitat for redchested cuckoo, cardinal woodpecker, blackheaded oriole, blackeyed bulbul and paradise flycatcher.
A large number of species are attracted to the riverine bush and scrub habitat, including the blackheaded heron, hamerkop, several kingfishers such as the pied, giant, halfcollared, malechite and the brownhooded kingfishers and southern boubou.
The vleis, marshes and wetlands are sparsely distributed on flat ground. Typical species here are hadeda ibis, blue crane, marsh owl and long-tailed widow.
Birds of the Natal Drakensberg Park by R. Little and W. R. Bainbridge gives a short description of the 246 species recorded to date, as well as information on their status, habitat, habits, voices and food. Diagrams are used to show their distribution and occurrence.
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication