In 1949 the Natal Bird Club was established, with members in both Pietermaritzburg and Durban. In the early 1990s, with the establishment of BirdLife South Africa, many of the bird clubs in the country chose to change their names as well so that the brand “BirdLife” would be instantly recognisable. The Natal Bird Club then decided to split into 6 separate bird clubs, so that the province of KwaZulu-Natal’s birders would be well catered for. These are Birdlife Port Natal which covers the eThekwini area, BirdLife Midlands centred around Pietermaritzburg, BirdLife Sisonke in the Highflats and Drakensberg, BirdLife Trogons on the South Coast, BirdLife Zululand on the North Coast and BirdLife Northern Natal around Ladysmith and Newcastle.
BirdLife Port Natal (BLPN) is therefore one of the oldest bird clubs in Africa which celebrated its Diamond Anniversary in 2009. It is also one of the larger clubs affiliated to Birdlife South Africa, which in turn is the national partner of Birdlife International, the largest conservation organisation in the world. Thus, Birdlife Port Natal plays an important role in conservation in particular, and other aspects of “birding” in KZN and southern Africa, together with the expertise of the professional staff at BLSA.
The six BirdLife KZN clubs meet bi-annually in February and September for the weekend BirdLife Forum. The Saturday is devoted to avian conservation issues in the province with inputs from academics, conservationists, ornithologists, BLSA professional staff members and citizen scientists made up of members from all 6 clubs. The Sunday is the Chairs’ Forum where the six club chairs, as well as others involved in BirdLife projects, meet to solve problems, share information and keep the communication channels open. All members are welcome to the Saturday Forum meeting. At the February meeting, a Chair of Forum is elected as well as a Chair of the Chairs’ Forum. Other elections include that of BLSA Council representative for all 6 of the KZN clubs and Treasurer of Forum.