Archived 2016 topics: Capuchin Babbler (Phyllanthus atripennis) is being split: list P. atripennis and P. rubiginosus as Near Threatened and P. bohndorffi as Least Concern?

This is part of a consultation on the Red List implications of extensive changes to BirdLife’s taxonomy for passerines

Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International will soon publish the second volume of the HBW-BirdLife Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, building off the Handbook of the Birds of the World series, and BirdLife’s annually updated taxonomic checklist.

The new Checklist will be based on the application of criteria for recognising species limits described by Tobias et al. (2010). Full details of the specific scores and the basis of these for each new taxonomic revision will be provided in the Checklist.

Following publication, an open and transparent mechanism will be established to allow people to comment on the taxonomic revisions or suggest new ones, and provide new information of relevance in order to inform regular updates. We are also actively seeking input via a discussion topic here regarding some potential taxonomic revisions that currently lack sufficient information.

The new Checklist will form the taxonomic basis of BirdLife’s assessments of the status of the world’s birds for the IUCN Red List. The taxonomic changes that will appear in volume 2 of the checklist (for passerines) will begin to be incorporated into the 2016 Red List update, with the remainder to be incorporated into subsequent Red List updates.

Preliminary Red List assessments have been carried out for the newly split or lumped taxa. We are now requesting comments and feedback on these preliminary assessments.

Capuchin Babbler Phyllanthus atripennis is being split into P. atripennis, P. rubiginosus and P. bohndorffi, following the application of criteria set out by Tobias et al. (2010).

Prior to this taxonomic change, P. atripennis was listed as Least Concern, on the basis that it did not approach the threshold for Vulnerable under any criterion. P. atripennis (as now defined following the taxonomic change) is found in western Africa where it is found from Senegambia to Liberia and western Sierra Leone in the dense undergrowth of forest (Collar and Robson 2016). P. rubiginosus is found in western Africa, east of P. atripennis, inhabiting a similar habitat from Sierra Leone east to Nigeria and Cameroon (Collar and Robson 2016). Both species are rare to fairly common (Collar and Robson 2016). However, their habitat preference for dense forest understorey means both species may be under threat from the extensive deforestation that has occurred, and continues to occur, in western Africa. Both species may tolerate a degree of disturbance, being found in secondary forest and forest edge (e.g. Gatter 1997, Dowsett-Lemaire and Dowsett 2014), but clearance of forest for timber and agriculture is still suspected to be leading to at least a moderate decline in both species. Therefore, it is proposed that they both be listed as Near Threatened under criteria A2c+3c+4c, and we welcome any further information regarding potential population declines in this species.

P. bohndorffi is found in southern Central African Republic and north-east Democratic Republic of Congo east to south-west Uganda in dense undergrowth of forest and forest edge (Collar and Robson 2016). While habitat clearance may be having some impact upon this species, the extent of habitat loss in this species’s range is less than that occurring within the ranges of P. atripennis and P. rubiginosus (see Global Forest Watch webpage: The population size has not been quantified, but in parts of Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda it is widespread and fairly common (Collar and Robson 2016), and so it is not thought to approach the threshold for Vulnerable under any criterion. Therefore, it is proposed that this species be listed as Least Concern.

Comments are invited on these proposed categories and further information would be welcomed.



Collar, N. & Robson, C. 2016. Capuchin Babbler (Phyllanthus atripennis). 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 27 September 2016).

Dowsett-Lemaire, F.; Dowsett, R. J. 2014. The Birds of Ghana: an atlas and handbook. Tauraco Press, Liège, Belgium.

Gatter, W. 1997. Birds of Liberia. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, UK.

Tobias, J. A., Seddon, N., Spottiswoode, C. N., Pilgrim, J. D., Fishpool, L. D. C. and Collar, N. J. 2010. Quantitative criteria for species delimitation. Ibis 152: 724–746.


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1 Response to Archived 2016 topics: Capuchin Babbler (Phyllanthus atripennis) is being split: list P. atripennis and P. rubiginosus as Near Threatened and P. bohndorffi as Least Concern?

  1. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2016 Red List would be to adopt the proposed classifications outlined in the initial forum discussion.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 28 October, 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 those in the initial proposal.

    The final 2016 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

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