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KwaZulu-Natal

Turaco
Knysna Turaco Tauraco corythaix ©Dominic Rollinson Website

Birding KwaZulu-Natal

Well over 650 species have been recorded in the small province of KwaZulu-Natal, a product of its habitat diversity and its coastal position on the beautiful eastern seaboard of South Africa. From mangrove-fringed estuaries to the peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains, from the cool mistbelt forests to the bird-rich savanna of Zululand, KZN offers some of the best birding on the African continent. Of particular interest to the international birder are the more than 50 species endemic to the Southern African Subregion, a handful of which are only found here and in adjacent Mozambique.

KZN's broad vegetation types of forest, savanna and grassland may be further subdivided into:

Subtropical, broad-leaved forest that runs the length of the coast, extending up to an altitude of 450m above sea level. It is home to numerous coastal specials, notably Spotted Ground-Thrush and Woodward's Batis, and is well protected in the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park and Ngoye Forest.

Patches of temperate, Afro-montane forest (mistbelt forest) which occur in a narrow altitudinal belt between 900m and 1200m above sea level, and host a handful of Southern African endemics, notably Cape Parrot, Knysna Turaco, Chorister Robin-Chat, Bush Blackcap and Cape Batis. Highly threatened by felling for timber and conversion to commercial agro-forestry, accessible patches are protected in Weza-Ngele Forest and the Creighton Valley.

Savanna woodland, or bushveld, which covers much of the northern and inland areas, and supports a very rich avifauna. This habitat is widespread in eastern Africa and endemics are few, notable exceptions in KZN being Sabota Lark, Fiscal Flycatcher and White-throated Robin-Chat. Large areas of bushveld are protected in Mkhuze Game Reserve, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, and a host of smaller reserves.

Grasslands that blanket KZN's inland western regions, from sour grassland at medium altitudes to the Afro-Alpine grasslands in the Drakensberg massif. A number of regional endemics occur here, notably Drakenberg Rock-jumper and Drakenberg Siskin, both of which are easily seen on Sani Pass, the most accessible high-altitude site in Southern Africa.

Coastal grassland that occurs as part of the mosaic of habitats known as the East Coast Littoral, and is of interest to the birder for such tropical species as Swamp Nightjar and Rosy-throated Longclaw. The best example of this habitat is found in the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park.

Wetlands that range from estuaries to tropical pans and flooded grassland, from fast-flowing mountain streams to man-made impoundments. Warm oceanic waters off the coast support a variety of tropical seabirds, especially after cyclonic conditions in the Mozambique Channel.

Top Sites

Creighton Valley

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The Creighton Valley in southern KZN provides superb access to the endemic-rich mistbelt forests and grasslands. The pristine forest supports endemics such as the endangered Cape Parrot (the brown-headed nominate race, now considered a separate species, which numbers fewer than 400 individuals); Knysna Turaco, Chorister Robin-Chat, Bush Blackcap, Barratt's Warbler, Cape Batis, Lesser Double-collared Sunbird, Swee Waxbill and Forest Canary. Other notable species are Forest Buzzard, Grey Cuckoo-shrike, Orange Ground-Thrush and White-starred Robin. The rolling grasslands, which are interspersed with wetlands, rocky outcrops and stands of Protea support all 3 species of Southern African cranes (Blue, Grey Crowned and Wattled); as well as Denham's and Black-bellied bustards, Cape Grassbird, 9 species of cisticolas, Broad-tailed Warbler, Drakensberg Prinia, Gurney's Sugarbird, Red-headed Quelea, Cuckoo Finch and the globally threatened Blue Swallow. Similar birds may be found in the Karkloof area, Impendle Nature Reserve and Weza-Ngele Forest.

Drakensberg Park

Information

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The 243,000ha Drakensberg Park is a perennial favourite of hikers and incorporates the world famous Royal Natal National Park, Giant's Castle Nature Reserve and a host of lesser known reserves. The rest camps at the foot of the mountains are productive, though birders with little time are advised to head straight for Sani Pass, which traverses the park and offers easier access to the full complement of Drakensberg specials. The public road winds up the Great Escarpment from Himeville to the Lesotho border at the crest of the pass, with Ground Woodpecker, Cape Rock Thrush, Buff-streaked Chat, Barratt's Warbler, Bush Blackcap, and Gurney’s Sugarbird commonly seen on the ascent, and Southern Bald Ibis, Drakensberg Rock-jumper, Sentinel Rock-Thrush, Mountain Pipit and Drakensberg Siskin plentiful in the area around the Sani Top Chalet. The chalet boasts the highest pub in Africa (2874m); selling the local Maluti Lager - no better place to toast those highland lifers!

Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Game Reserve

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The oldest proclaimed reserve in Africa which became famous for successfully saved the White Rhino from extinction. The reserve hosts the Big Five and several othe interesting antelope species. Birds are plentiful and not difficult to see. Birds of note include Bearded Woodpecker, Redbilled Oxpecker, Redthroated Wryneck, Bateleur, Ground Hornbill, Rudd`s Apalis and White-browed Robin-chat. White-browed Robin-chat and Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park (Greater St Lucia Wetland Park)

Website

Satellite View

The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, a proclaimed World Heritage Site, is the most important conservation area in the province and supports the highest concentrations of breeding water birds in South Africa. The Eastern Shores section is the most accessible site in the country for coastal forest specials. Here, the world's tallest forested sand dunes support populations of Buff-spotted Flufftail, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, as well as African Crowned Eagle, Livingstone's Turaco, Green Malkoha, Spotted Ground-Thrush (winter only); Brown Scrub-Robin, Rudd's Apalis, Woodwards' Batis and Green Twinspot. The seasonally flooded wetlands are home to African Pygmy-Goose, White-backed Duck, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Red-chested Flufftail, Lesser Jacana, Swamp Nightjar, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Short-tailed Pipit (winter only) and Rosy-throated Longclaw. Forests on the western shores of the lake hold additional specials, notably African Broadbill, Neergaard's Sunbird and Pink-throated Twinspot. Waterbirds can be seasonally abundant, and Pink-backed Pelican, Greater Flamingo (up to 30 000); African Spoonbill, African Fish Eagle (at very high densities) and a variety of herons, egrets, storks, ducks and terns can be found whilst exploring the lake, preferably by boat. African Finfoot, Pel's Fishing Owl, Mangrove Kingfisher (winter only) and Black-throated Wattle-eye can be found in the mangroves and forests fringing the lake. Other sites with productive coastal forest and mangroves are Kosi Bay, Sodwana Bay and Umlalazi Nature Reserve.

Lake Sibaya

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The largest freshwater lake in South Africa, situated on the eastern side of the forest covered dunes which separates the lake from the Indian Ocean. Birds of interest include African Yellow White-eye, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Pink-throated Twinspot, Red-capped Robin-chat, Brown Scrub-robin, Terrestrial Brownbul, Narina Trogon, Goliath Heron and Woodward`s Batis.

Mtunzini

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The Umlalazi Nature reserve offers mangrove forests, swamps, dune forests and the well known Raffia Palm (Raphia australis) stands. This area is home to the vegetarian Palm-nut Vulture with bonus birds of the area which include Mangrove Kingfisher, Pel's Fishing-owl, Spotted Ground-thrush, African Finfoot and Grey Waxbill.

Ndumo Game Reserve

Information

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A game reserve with sub-tropical forests, floodplains, sand forest open grasslands with one of the highest checklists in South Africa. African Wood-owl, Eastern Nicator, Pink-throated Twinspot, Neergaard's Sunbird, African Broadbill, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Retz's Helmet-Shrike and Brubru are only a few of the special birds to be seen in this reserve.

Ongoye Forest Reserve

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Ongoye Forest Reserve protects prime coastal scarp forest and grassland. This reserve is famous for its isolated population of Woodwards' (Green) Barbet, the only other population being in SW Tanzania. This vocal species is easily located, whilst other forest species which are present include Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Narina Trogon, Olive Woodpecker, African Broadbill, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Spotted and Orange ground-thrushes, Red-capped and Chorister robin-chats, Brown Scrub-Robin, Olive Bush-Shrike, Southern Tchagra and Grey Waxbill. The surrounding grasslands support Black-rumped Buttonquail, African Grass-Owl and Plain-backed Pipit. Other coastal scarp forests are Dhlinza Forest in Eshowe (an excellent site for Green Twinspot); Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve (which holds one of the northern-most populations of Knysna Woodpecker) and Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve (the extensive grasslands at this reserve support additional species including Striped Flufftail, Broad-tailed Warbler and Short-tailed Pipit.)

Sani Pass

Information

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With an altitude ranging from 1,600m above sea level to 3,480m above sea level, it is a excellent locality for altitudinal migrants. Birds occurring on this pass include Bush Blackcap, Black Harrier, Southern Bald Ibis, Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler, Mountain Pipit, Lammergeier and Cape Grassbird.

UMkhuze Falls Game Reserve

Website

Satellite View

The Holy Grail of Southern African birders, Mkhuze Game Reserve boasts a birdlist of over 450 species and is the top site for a host of highly sought-after Zululand specials. The best birding areas in the park are the subtropical Nsumo Pan, the Fig Forest along the Mkhuze River and the sand forest. The unique Tongaland Sand Forest around the hides of Kubube and Kumasinga, close to the park's main camp, is excellent for Crested Guineafowl, African Broadbill, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, (Eastern) Bearded Scrub-Robin and three of the reserve's near-endemics: Rudd’s Apalis, Neergaard's Sunbird, and the beautiful Pink-throated Twinspot, all of which are common here. The Fever Tree-lined Nsumo Pan attracts a wide variety of waterbirds, notably African Fish-Eagle, Great White and Pink-backed pelicans, Yellow-billed, Open-billed and Woolly-necked storks, and Goliath Heron, whilst the surrounding thorn thickets are home to the near-endemic White-throated Robin-Chat and Pink-throated Twinspot.

Mkhuze Game Reserve A guided walk through the Fig Forest along the Mkhuze River should reward the birder with White-eared Barbet, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Trumpeter Hornbill, Narina Trogon, Purple-crested Turaco, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, and Grey Tit-Flycatcher. With effort and a bit of luck, Green Malkoha, Pel's Fishing Owl, Buff-spotted Flufftail, the scarce Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, Black-throated Wattle-eye and Green Twinspot may be added. More open Acacia savanna bushveld in the reserve supports many widespread woodland birds typical of much of Eastern Africa, notably Bearded Woodpecker, Black-bellied Bustard, White-headed and Lappet-faced vultures, Bateleur, Lizard Buzzard, Martial Eagle, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Flappet and Sabota larks, as well as the localised Bushveld Pipit. The tiny Ndumu Game Reserve, a gem of a park 100km to the north on KZN's border with Mozambique, shares Mkhuze's forest specials, whilst a similar suite of bushveld birds may be found in the well-known Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, Ithala Game Reserve and Weenen Game Reserve to the west. The latter two reserves, located at medium altitudes, also offer the opportunity of finding the endemic Barrow's Korhaan.

Contributor

Supplementary Information - Johan van Tonder

SafariWise (South Africa)

johan@birdwatching.co.za

http://www.birdwatching.co.za

Jonathan Rossouw & Adam Riley

Rockjumper Birding Tours - Afrotropical and Malagasy Specialists

info@rockjumper.co.za

http://www.rockjumperbirding.com

Useful Reading

Fieldguides

See the main South Africa page of Fatbirder

Organisations

Endangered Cape Parrots & Raptors

Website

Important conservation projects in KwaZulu Natal. South Africa - spectacular birding vacation opportunities and hands-on preservation.

KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Services

Website

They are not part of the SA National Parks Board and really offer far better birding opportunities. The KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service is the official nature conservation authority for the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Our protected areas extend from the magnificence of the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, the highest mountain range south of Kilimanjaro, to the pristine splendour of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park a World Heritage Site. From the renowned Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park which incorporates the two oldest protected areas in Africa, to a wealth of smaller parks which conserve the rich biodiversity and splendid landscapes of this beautiful province. Our proud track record in wildlife conservation extends back more than half a century and includes bench mark achievements in rhino conservation, sea turtle research, and the most extensive community conservation programme in Africa…

Reserves

Abbreviations Key

Dlinza Forest Aerial Boardwalk

Information

Satellite View

Built of natural timber, the Aerial Boardwalk takes you 125m through the indigenous coastal scarp forest at a height of 10m above the forest floor, just below the canopy. The Boardwalk itself is wheelchair friendly up to the 20m high steel observation tower. There are numerous benches on the walkway for resting, viewing interesting trees or a special bird sighting. Over 90 species of birds inhabit the forest, as well as 85 different types of butterflies. On a hiking trail whilst tuning in to the happy chatter of the birds, you can spot blue duikers, bushpigs, chameleons, beetles, bushbuck and much much more.

GR Mkuze Falls

Information

Satellite View

Wildlife abounds in the scenic reserve, and guests have the chance of seeing large numbers of general game, cheetah and a vast array of birds, of which there are over 400 species. The reserve is also home to the Big 5, and one has a good chance of seeing all of them apart from leopard, which although sometimes seen, remain shy and elusive

GR Ndumo

Information

Satellite View

Ndumo, a KwaZulu-Natal game reserve in South Africa, is characterized by beautiful pans, extensive wetlands, yellow fever trees and reed beds, acacia savannah and sand forest. The diverse and varied habitat plays host to an impressive range of aquatic birdlife like Black Egret, Pelicans and Pygmy Geese. The keen birder can also enjoy rewarding sightings of Pell's Fishing Owl, the Broadbill and Southern Banded Snake Eagle.

GR Tembe Elephant Park

Information

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The largest elephant in South Africa, along with rhino, buffalo, leopard, hippo and antelope species in a 190 sqare mile park on the Mozambique border. Excellent birding opportunities and nearby access to the Tongoland reefs and scuba diving areas. More than 340 bird species have been recorded in Tembe, including the rare Rudd's apalis, the rufous-bellied heron, the Natal nightjar and the Woodward's batis.

IBA oNgoye Forest Reserve

Information

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This forest is an important breeding area for the eastern bronze-naped pigeon and home to the endangered spotted ground thrush. At least 165 species of birds have been identified in the area.

KwaZulu Natal Parks

Website

Info on Hluhluwe-Umfolozi, Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, Ithala, Mkuze, Ndumo, & Greater St Lucia Wetland Park.

NP iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Information

Satellite View

The reason for the huge diversity in fauna and flora is the great variety of different ecosystems on the park, ranging from coral reefs and sandy beaches to subtropical dune forests, savannas, and wetlands. Animals occurring on the park include elephant, African leopard, black and southern white rhino, buffalo, and in the ocean, whales, dolphins, and marine turtles including the leatherback and loggerhead turtle.

NP uKhahlamba-Drakensberg

Information

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The Drakensberg mountain range is characterised by a high level of endemism of both invertebrates and vertebrates.

NR Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park

Information

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The park is a prime birding destination and is home to 340 bird species. The Hluhluwe River Flood Plain is one of the only areas in the whole of South Africa where yellow-throated, pink-throated and orange-throated longclaw species can be seen together. Bird life include night heron, Wahlberg's eagle, Shelley's francolin, black-bellied korhaan, Temminck's courser, Klaas's cuckoo, little bee-eater and crested barbet.

NR Umlalazi

Information

Satellite View

The Umlalazi Nature Reserve is a coastal reserve situated 1 km (0.62 mi) from Mtunzini on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast. Umlalazi was established as a protected area in 1948 and is 10.28 km2 (3.97 sq mi) in extent. Home of the palm-nut vulture, which is one of the rarest birds of prey in South Africa.

Southern KwaZulu-Natal Birding Route

Website

The Southern KwaZulu-Natal Birding Route takes you from the golden beaches and lush forests of South Africa’s North and South Coastlines through the beautiful Lowveld and up to the spectacular heights of the Drakensberg Mountains. The variety of habitat and a bird list in excess of 550 species including many rare and endemic species such as Blue Swallow, Cape Parrot, Drakensberg Rock-jumper, Eurasian Bittern, all three Southern African Crane Species, Bearded Vulture and more make this Birding Route an unforgettable South African journey for any birding enthusiast

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Birding Africa

Tour Operator

Birding Africa is run by three Capetonian birders and naturalists, Callan Cohen, Claire Spottiswoode and Peter Ryan, all based at the University of Cape Town`s Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. Callan and Claire are postgraduate research students, and have recently published an new birding site guide to Cape Town and beyond: Essential Birding - Western South Africa. Peter is a lecturer and researcher, and the author of numerous publications, most recently a new field guide to the birds of Afrotropics.

Birding Ecotours

Tour Operator

South Africa is one of the best value destinations on the entire continent. The outstanding infrastructure, great accommodation, excellent food, wonderful South African hospitality, spectacular and varied scenery, and the presence of Africa’s big and small mammals makes it one of the most pleasant countries in the world to bird in.

Button Birding

Tour Operator

Malcolm and Gail Gemmell are your hosts. Malcolm is an accredited tourist guide who has 22 years of birding experience in the area and has developed an intimate knowledge of the local bird population, as well as roosts, feeding areas and activities. (And sometimes nest sites.) He has located a Blue Swallow breeding site in the district, and the mysterious Blackrumped Button Quail are resident on the farm…

Rockjumper Birding Tours

Tour Operator

At Rockjumper Birding Tours, we believe that the recipe for a successful birding tour is simple: a well-planned itinerary with smooth running ground operations, comfortable accommodations and good food, a small group with low participant to leader ratio, and most importantly, personable, friendly guides with the experience and expertise to maximise the time spent in the field. As professional bird guides, we pride ourselves in our knowledge, based on many months or even years of experience in the areas we visit, and in our ability to handle the numerous logistic details of a bird tour…

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2006 [10 October] - Bo Beolens

Report

…We then drove to Franklin Marsh an area of reed-beds and open water with a wide variety of waterfowl, waders, herons and other water loving birds. Our main target here was African Rail and Malcolm heard one call so we tape lured for a while whilst having our picnic lunch and were treated to a glimpse of red bill sticking out from reeds near a small pool at the roadside. Further tape playing got the bird to show head and breast as well and, eventually everyone managed to see this skulker. During the course of watching this pool, luring the rail, a Baillon’s Crake flew across the same pool… tape luring produced return calls but not another visit…

2008 [02 February] - Rob Grimmond

Report

Pondoland to Pongola Trip - This list summarizes a visit to parts of Kwa-Zulu Natal ('KZN'), arranged by 'Meet Us in Africa', a business run by Carolyn and Derek McDonald…

2015 [01 January] - Joe Grosel - Kruger, Lesotho & Zululand

PDF Report

2016 [11 November] - Matt Prophet

PDF Report

...The following day we birded the vicinity of the main rest camp and found Southern Boubou, Olive Woodpecker, Dark-capped Bulbul, Common Waxbill, Cape Weaver, Cape Canary, and Greater Double-collared Sunbird. Further sightings of Bearded and Cape Vultures were had as we scanned the skies above us...

2017 [01 January] – Chris Durdin – Drakensbergs & Zululand

PDF Report

The ‘usual suspects’ at Bonamanzi’s lake were, as ever, excellent: giant, pied and brownhooded kingfishers, water thick-knees, wire-tailed and lesser striped swallows, noisy thick-billed weavers, a close yellow-billed kite at the top of a fever tree, impala and nyala coming to drink, and much more.

Glen Holland - Zululand

Report

…A group of red-billed woodhoopoe gave their cackling calls, which the Zulu people so aptly name Uhlekabafazi – The laughing women! Heading out of the forest we had forty-eight species, which we felt, was good going…

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Botha House

Accommodation

Less than 1 hour’s drive from Durban, situated in the heart of one of the KwaZulu-Natal’s most pristine coastal forest, perfectly nestled within the Umdoni Park, lies the luxury coastal getaway of Botha House…

Button Birding

Accommodation

Accommodation is in a comfortable home from home guesthouse on a dairy farm. The Homestead is a modified 1908 farm-house set in a beautiful garden in the scenic Creighton Valley. The Valley is 1000m above sea level, so frost and cold in winter are a reality, a fact that makes you very grateful for the cosy bedrooms and fire-warmed home. There are four double rooms, including two en-suite bedrooms, with shared living and dining rooms. All meals are prepared and designed to suit your specific needs by your Hostess, Gail, whose culinary skills will delight you and ensure you leave heavier than when you arrived…

Farmstay

Accommodation

Excellent birding opportunities on farms and in rural areas in South Africa - Click around and discover the wide variety of farmstays and activities on farms and in rural areas offering quality facilities in attractive yet unconventional surroundings and at tariffs you can afford - bed and breakfast, self-catering, game viewing, bird watching, hiking, biking, 4x4 routes, fly-fishing, horse riding, and many more…

Ghost Mountain Inn

Accommodation

At the foot of the legendary Ghost Mountain lies the privately owned 4 Star Ghost Mountain Inn, a perfect setting for taking time out to relax and experience the charms of Africa in comfort and style…

Hluhluwe River Lodge

Accommodation

Situated on the western shore of Lake St Lucia and adjoining False Bay Game Reserve and the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park lies Hluhluwe River Lodge…

Phinda Lodges

Accommodation

Phinda is the ideal resort for a week-long stay where the discerning traveller can savoir seven different ecosystems in two distinctive lodges, whose architecture is designed to echo this stunning diversity.

Seasands Lodge

Accommodation

B&B St Lucia South Africa KZN accommodation in St Lucia South Africa B&B or self catering…

Zinkwazi Lagoon Lodge

Accommodation

On the NORTH COAST of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa - only 80 km from Durban - is the beautiful DOLPHIN COAST, Jewel of the Zulu Kingdom and heart of the historical King Shaka Route. In this sub-tropical paradise, Gateway to Zululand, lies the magnificent Nature Conservancy of ZINKWAZI - a unique coastal eco-experience of endless golden beaches and tropical palms, lush indigenous forests with spectacular bird life, and 7 kilometers of untouched lagoon. The Zulus called it ZINKWAZI, the home of Fish Eagles, and their haunting cry is still part of the magic…

Photographers & Artists

Gallery - Birds of Kwa Zulu Natal

Gallery

Photographs of birds taken in Kwa Zulu Natal in 2000.