Archived 2020 topic: Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus): Request for information

BirdLife International factsheet for Bateleur

The Bateleur inhabits woodlands and tree savannah (Kemp et al. 2020), occurring across a large range in Africa. The range stretches from sub-saharan Senegal in the west, to Somalia in the east, and down to Botswana in the south (BirdLife International, 2020). The population size for this species has not been directly quantified, but in 2001 it was estimated to be ‘in the tens of thousands’ (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001).

This species is threatened by habitat loss, direct persecution, and the impacts of urban development (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). As such, the Bateleur is suspected to be undergoing moderately rapid declines, and has previously been considered Near Threatened under the criterion A2acde. However, new information regarding the rate of declines suggest that the species may warrant a change in Red List status. Therefore, we have fully reviewed the species here against all criteria.

Criterion A – The Bateleur is suspected to be experiencing rapid declines. Under this criterion, the rate of decline is measured over the longer of 10 years or 3 generation lengths of the species. The generation length of the Bateleur has recently been recalculated to 15.3 years (Bird et al., 2020)*, so the appropriate trend period is 45.9 years.

A comparison of roadside counts that took place in 1969-1973 and in 2003-2004 across West Africa (Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger) detected a 100% reduction in the observation rate in unprotected areas (from 2.4 to 0 birds/100 km) and a 37% reduction in the observation rate in National Parks (from 18.5 to 11.6 birds/100 km; Thiollay 2006). Scaled across three generations (45.9 years), these rates of reduction equate to a 100% reduction in unprotected areas and a 48% reduction in National Parks.

A comparison of roadside counts that took place in 1973 and in 2004 in Northern Cameroon detected a 96% reduction in the observation rate in unprotected areas (from 2.5 to 0.1 birds/100 km) and a 65% reduction in the observation rate in protected areas (from 27.9 to 9.8 birds/100 km; Thiollay, 2001 in Ogada et al., in prep. a). Scaled across three generations, these rates of change equate to a 99% reduction in unprotected areas and a 79% reduction in protected areas.

A comparison of encounter rates in Kenya between 1972 and 2012 detected a 59% reduction in the observation rate in unprotected areas (from 1.2 to 0.5 birds/100 km) and a 38% reduction in the observation rate in protected areas (from 12.7 to 7.9 birds/100 km; Ogada et al., in prep. b). Across three generations, this equates to a reduction of 64% in unprotected areas and of 42% in protected areas.

In Botswana, encounter rates between 1993 and 2015 declined by 52% in unprotected areas (from 2.0 to 0.9 birds/100 km) and by 13% in protected areas (from 2.7 to 2.4 birds/100 km; Garbett et al., 2018 in Ogada et al., in prep. a). Across three generations, this equates to a reduction of 79% in unprotected areas and 26% in protected areas.

In a new study (Ogada et al., in prep. a), the reduction in the encounter rates across West Africa (per Thiollay, 2006), Cameroon (per Thiollay, 2001; R. Buij unpublished data in Ogada et al., in prep. a), Kenya (per Ogada et al., in prep. b) and Botswana (per Garbett et al., 2018) were combined across protected and unprotected areas. This results in a total rate of decline of 92% over three generations in West Africa, of 97% over three generations in Cameroon, of 53% over three generations in Kenya, and of 70% over three generations in Botswana. This study is further taking into account the differences in the proportion of the Bateleur’s global range that were covered in the above-mentioned studies and assigns different weights to the four different rates of population decline. The declines observed in West Africa (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger) were weighted by a factor of 24 to account for the large area over which these declines were reported; the declines in Cameroon were weighted by a factor of 1; the declines in Kenya were weighted by a factor of 8, and declines in Botswana were weighted by a factor of 10 (Ogada et al., in prep. a). This results in an overall weighted decline of 85% of the populations in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Botswana and Kenya (Ogada et al., in prep. a).

According to IUCN guidelines, data representing declines from a few subpopulations can only be projected onto the rest of the range if those subpopulations were by far the largest subpopulation three generations ago, or if it can be assumed that all the other subpopulations are declining at the same rate (IUCN Standards and Petitions Committee, 2019).

The subpopulation structure of the Bateleur is not fully understood, and data from a considerable part of the large range is lacking. Therefore, while high decline rates have been reported from several countries, it is unclear whether the rates of reduction there are truly representative of the range-wide situation. Without more data from other countries, it is difficult to gauge the full picture of the global decline rate. If the majority of the global population is following a similar pattern as above, with rates of decline >50% in three generations, the Bateleur may qualify for a higher threat category. We therefore seek recent information on population trends for the Bateleur throughout its range, particularly in countries such as Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia.

Criterion B – The Extent of Occurrence (EOO) for this species is too large to trigger the threshold (EOO <20,000 km²) for threatened status under this criterion. The Bateleur may therefore be considered Least Concern under Criterion B1.

Criterion C – The population size for this species has not be directly quantified, although it was estimated in 2001 to be ‘in the tens of thousands’ (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). However, owing to suspected declines, the situation may now be very different. The threshold for categorisation as threatened under this criterion is <10,000 mature individuals. If the population size is indeed still ‘in the tens of thousands’ then it would be considered Least Concern under this criterion. If however the population has undergone large declines, then it may approach or trigger one of the threatened categories under Criterion C. We therefore seek up-to-date information regarding population size and subpopulation structure.

Criterion D – If the global population is still ‘in the tens of thousands’ as estimated in 2001, then this is far too high to reach the threshold (<1,000 mature individuals) for classification as threatened, and would be considered Least Concern under this criterion. However, owing to recent suspected declines, we seek up-to-date information on population size for the Bateleur.

Criterion E – To the best of our knowledge, no quantitative analysis of the probability of extinction has been done for this species. We therefore cannot assess the Bateleur against this criterion.

In order to comprehensively reassess the Red List status of Bateleur, we ask for recent information on the population size and trend from as many African countries as possible, as well as on the subpopulation structure.

Please note that this topic is not designed to be a general discussion about the ecology of the species, rather a discussion of the species’ Red List status. Therefore, please make sure your comments are relevant to the species’ Red List status and the information requested. By submitting a comment, you confirm that you agree to the Comment Policy.

*Bird generation lengths are estimated using the methodology of Bird et al. (2020), as applied to parameter values updated for use in each IUCN Red List for birds reassessment cycle. Values used for the current assessment are available on request. We encourage people to contact us with additional or improved values for the following parameters; adult survival (true survival accounting for dispersal derived from an apparently stable population); mean age at first breeding; and maximum longevity (i.e. the biological maximum, hence values from captive individuals are acceptable).

An information booklet on the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here and the Red List Criteria Summary Sheet can be downloaded here. Detailed guidance on IUCN Red List terms and definitions and the application of the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here.


Bird, J.P., Martin, R., Akçakaya, H.R., Gilroy, J., Burfield, I.J., Garnett, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Şekercioğlu, Ç.H. and Butchart, S.H.M. (2020), Generation lengths of the world’s birds and their implications for extinction risk. Conservation Biology. Online first view.

BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Terathopius ecaudatus. Downloaded from on 04/05/2020

Buij, R., Croes, B.M., Gort, G., and Komdeur, J., 2013, The role of breeding range, diet, mobility and body size in associations of raptor communities and land-use in a West African savannah, Biological Conservation, 166, pp: 231-246

Ferguson-Lees, J.; Christie, D.A. 2001. Raptors of the World. Christopher Helm, London

Garbett R; Herremans M; Maude G; Reading RP; Amar A., 2018. Raptor population trends in northern Botswana: a re-survey of road transects after 20 years. Biological Conservation 224: 87–99.

IUCN Standards and Petitions Committee, 2019. Guidelines for Using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Version 14. Prepared by the Standards and Petitions Committee. Downloadable from

Kemp, A.C., Kirwan, G.M. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 4 May 2020).

Ogada, D., Shaw, P., Buij, R., Thiollay, J.M., Garbett, R., Herremans, M., Virani, M.Z., Amar, A., Maude, G., Dunn, A., and Thomsett, S., in prep. a. Continental declines of Africa’s raptors.

Ogada, D., Shaw, P., Virani, M.Z., Thiollay, J.M., Kendall, C.J., Odino, M., Patel, T., Wairasho, P., Dunn, L., Thomsett, S., in prep. b. Raptor declines in Kenya over the past 45 years.

The Cornell Lab for Ornithology, 2020, Range Map for Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus, available at , accessed 05/05/20.

Thiollay, J.M. (2001). Long-term changes of raptor populations in northern Cameroon.  J. Raptor Res. 35: 173-186

Thiollay, J.M., 2006, The decline of raptors in West Africa: long-term assessment and the role of protected areas, Ibis, 148, pp. 240-254

This entry was posted in Africa, Archive and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Archived 2020 topic: Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus): Request for information

  1. Philip Hall says:

    There has been a catastrophic decline in the population of Bateleurs throughout Nigeria since the 1970s when they were found throughout the northern savannas both within and outside protected areas. Today they have been totally extirpated outside protected areas and even within the major protected reserves such as Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi State, it is only possible to see 1-2 individuals whereas in the past up to 20 birds could be seen at a single carcass. The same situation is likely to prevail in other protected areas to the extent that I would now estimate that there are probably only around 50 birds left in the whole country. As such I would strongly suggest that the species is uplifted to Threatened Status.

  2. Philip Hall says:

    I am more than happy for the information that I have provided to be used by Birdlife for the assessment of the status of the species and for anybody to contact me for any additional information.

  3. Our research team conducted >10,800km of raptor roadcounts throughout the extent of Ethiopia from 2010 – 2017 and, of 22,909 individual raptors recorded, we recorded only 24 Bateleur (0.104% of raptors observed; 0.0022 individuals/km). While these surveys were not specifically designed to sample Bateleur, and survey routes occurred across a range of suitable and unsuitable habitat for the species, I believe this evidence, coupled with the large and growing human population size, loss of habitat, and limited protection even within flagship national parks in the country, to be indicative of a small and highly endangered population of the species in Ethiopia.

    Evan R. Buechley, PhD
    International Program Director
    HawkWatch International

  4. Campbell Murn says:

    We are currently analysing road transect data on Bateleur from Kruger National Park in South Africa, collected 2008-2015. With these data we plan to provide (a) a close point of comparison with Rick Watson’s population density (from road transect) data from the early 1980s (using same methods) and (b) birds/km data from the park overall which will be compared with road transect data from other protected areas.

    From a first look, there is some indication that density of Bateleur has decreased in Kruger National Park from the 1981-1983 period to the 2008-2015 period. The extent of this decrease we have not quantified yet. Birds/km data from a longer series of road transects have not been analysed yet.

  5. Phil Shaw says:

    A provisional analysis of Southern African Bird Atlas Project data for Bateleur shows that reporting rates for this species declined in South Africa between SABAP1 (1987–1992) and SABAP2 (2007–2020). Over this 24 year period reporting rates dropped by 59%; equivalent to an annual decline of 3.6%. This equates to an 82% decline when projected over three generation lengths (45.8 years). The level of decline evident in South Africa is thus broadly consistent with the results from road transect surveys in parts of W Africa, Cameroon, Kenya and Botswana, presented in the proposal.

    Phil Shaw, Arjun Amar, Darcy Ogada

  6. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to this discussion. We greatly appreciate the time and effort invested by so many people in commenting. The window for consultation is now closed. We will analyse and interpret the new information and post a preliminary decision on this species’s Red List status on this page in early July.

    Thank you once again,
    BirdLife Red List Team

  7. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Preliminary proposal

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2020 Red List would be to list Bateleur as Endangered under Criterion A2acde+3cde+4acde.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline in mid-July, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from the initial proposal.

    The final 2020 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2020/January 2021, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN. The final publication date will be publicised by IUCN here:

  8. In Malawi myself as a Safari Guide I have seen Bateluer sightings increasing with juveniles been seen more often than adults. To me this is positive. This have been like this especially in southern Malawi following the reintroduction of predators Lions, Cheetahs, Leopards in Majete and Liwonde National Parks. In Majete along Mkulumazi River is the best to see many Bateluers in groups of 5 to 10 around a small area which have been surprising to me and now I can call it success. In Liwonde NP Bateluers are not missing on Lion or Cheetah kills. Having seen Bateluers in the northern western side of Nyika National Park at Kapirinkhonde Primary school in Chitipa District I have all the trust this species is well represented in Malawi. I still welcome others opinions that was from me in my experience in Mobile Birding Tours throughout Malawi. Thanks.

  9. In Tanzania we are fortunate to have large protected areas that are really protected. Elephant poaching has been a problem and cattle encroachment is a seasonal issue in the newer NPs (several now upgraded from GRs) but none of this activity damages populations of Bateleur. We still have approx 250,000km2 quite well protected. Bateleur are still often and easily seen throughout our coastal lowlands, even well away from PAs. 8,119 records on our database. No systematic counts/transects that I am aware of. Bateleur still appear to be OK throughout our western Miombo habitat. People will see fewer when along metalled roads on the northern tourist milk run but these areas are generally drier with higher human densities. I can supply season and geo-referenced maps. 2,975 geo-referenced records since the mid 90s. When one considers the size of the country and the few active birders (and even fewer atlasers) there is nothing to indicate a serious drop in population levels. It is still common to see juveniles suggesting we still have viable populations.

  10. Corinne Kendall says:

    We have been conducting systematic surveys of avian scavengers in Ruaha, Katavi, and most recently Nyerere (formerly Selous) National Park in Tanzania. While we lack historical data (other than what is available in the Bird Atlas) this information indicates high density of the species in southern Tanzania and we hope to publish this information soon.

  11. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    The final categorisation for this species has not changed. Bateleur is recommended to be listed as Endangered under Criterion A2acde+3cde+4acde.

    Many thanks for everyone who contributed to the 2020 GTB Forum process. The final 2020 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2020/January 2021, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

Comments are closed.