White-winged Flufftail Sarothrura ayresi occurs in Ethiopia (currently three sites in the central highlands, the only known breeding area for this species) (Taylor and van Perlo 1998, Taylor 1998, 1999), Zimbabwe (one record in 1988 [Hustler and Irwin 1995], two records in the 1970s [Taylor and van Perlo 1998], and a possible breeding record in the 1950s [Taylor and van Perlo 1998, Taylor 1999]), and South Africa (ten sites in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga [De Smidt 2003], but still present at between two and eight of these [Evans 2013]). It is currently listed as Endangered under criterion B1ab(i,ii,iii,iv,v) because it has a very small range (Extent of Occurrence [breeding/resident] estimated to be 350 km2), with breeding proven at only three locations, which is believed to be undergoing a continuing decline in extent, area, and habitat quality, owing to the high rate of loss and degradation of its preferred habitat, seasonal marshland (Collar and Stuart 1985). The population of this species was previously estimated to be 700 mature individuals, with 235 birds in South Africa, and a further 210-235 pairs in Ethiopia (A. Shimelis in litt. 1998). However, recent information suggests that the global population may number fewer than 250 mature individuals. Its Area of Occupancy has been estimated at 3.92km2 in South Africa (72 ha suitable habitat at Middlepunt and 320 ha at Wakkerstroom, the only two recently reliable sites) and 5.5 km2 at the three Ethiopian breeding sites (based on 150 ha suitable habitat at Weserbi, 100 ha Bilacha, and 300 ha Berga) (H. Smit-Robinson in litt. 2013), and due to low confidence in past estimates and continued threats to the species and its habitat over the past 10 years, the regional population in South Africa is thought to be fewer than 50 birds (H. Smit-Robinson in litt. 2013, Evans 2013). Should evidence suggest that the population in Ethiopia now also numbers 50 or fewer mature individuals, this species would qualify as Critically Endangered under criterion C2a(i), on the basis that the global population is <250 mature individuals, it is in continuing decline and all subpopulations are 50 individuals or fewer, assuming Ethiopian and South African subpopulations are separate. Nevertheless, it is still unknown if a single population migrates between Ethiopia and South Africa, or if each country hosts its own subpopulation (Taylor and van Perlo 1998, Barnes 2000). Lack of subspeciation suggests that migration may occur, but records from intervening regions are rare and occurrence dates overlap (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Research into the migration patterns and population connectivity of this species in South Africa and Ethiopia is planned for later in the year (H. Smit-Robinson in litt. 2013). If there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the species migrates between the two regions and thus, at least 90% mature individuals are in one subpopulation, this species could qualify as Critically Endangered under criterion C2a(ii) of the IUCN Red List if undergoing a continuing decline and fewer than 250 mature individuals in total. Very little information is currently available on the population size and trends for this species. However, it has been suggested that the population will undergo a significant reduction, mainly due to habitat destruction from overgrazing in Ethiopia and mining activities in South Africa (H. Smit-Robinson in litt. 2013, Evans 2013). Should an ongoing and future population reduction of at least 80% in three generations (11 years in this species) be suspected based on a decline in area of occupancy, extent of occurrence, and/or quality of habitat, it would qualify as Critically Endangered under criterion A3c+4c. Information is requested on the population size, trends and distribution of this species. Comments on the likeliness of connectivity and migration between Ethiopia and South Africa are particularly welcome. References: Barnes, K. N. (2000) The Eskom Red Data Book of birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg. Collar, N. J. and Stuart, S. N. (1985) Threatened birds of Africa and related islands: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, and International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources: Cambridge, U.K. De Smidt, A. (2003) Ethiopian White-winged Flufftail (Sarothrura ayresi) action plan. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the birds of the world, Vol 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions. Evans, S.W. 2013. White-winged Flufftail. In: The Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Taylor, M.R. (ed). BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg (In press). Hustler, K. and Irwin, M. P. S. (1995) Fifth Report of the OAZ Rarities Committee. Honeyguide 41: 103-106. Taylor, P. B. (1998) The ecology and conservation of the White-winged Flufftail, and the sustainable utilisation of Ethiopian high-altitude palustrine wetland habitats: report on fieldwork in Ethiopia from 27 November to 12 December 1998. Taylor, B. and van Perlo, B. (1998) Rails: a guide to the rails, crakes, gallinules and coots of the world. Pica Press: Robertsbridge, UK. Taylor, B. (1999) First White-winged Flufftail nest found. World Birdwatch 21(4): 3.
Contact the BirdLife Red List Team under redlistteam [at] birdlife [dot] org.
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