Archived 2012-2013 topics: Dwarf Honeyguide (Indicator pumilio): downlist to Least Concern?

BirdLife species factsheet for Dwarf Honeyguide Dwarf Honeyguide Indicator pumilio is restricted to the Albertine Rift mountains in Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), possibly also occurring in Burundi (Fry et al. 1988). It is currently listed as Near Threatened under criterion B1ab(i,ii,iii) of the IUCN Red List because it was thought to have a moderately small range, suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction as a result of shifting agriculture and illicit logging, exacerbated by high population pressure (Butynski et al. 1997; Hall et al. 1998; Omari et al. 1999). The population size of this species has not been quantified, but it is considered common. Mapping of this species’s range, however, has shown that its Extent of Occurrence (EOO) is 35,600km2. Thus, the species no longer qualifies as Near Threatened under the range size criterion, on the basis that its EOO does not approach 20,000km2, and should warrant downlisting to Least Concern providing its population size is not thought to approach 10,000 mature individuals, with all individuals in one subpopulation or all subpopulations approaching 1,000 mature individuals; and it is not suspected to be declining at a rate of ≥25% in three generations (17 years). Further information is required on the distribution, population size and trends of this species, and on the rate of habitat loss within its range. Comments on the proposed downlisting are also welcome. References: Butynski, T. M., Agenonga, U., Ndera, B. and Hart, J. F. (1997) Rediscovery of the Congo Bay (Itombwe) Owl Phodilus prigoginei. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 4(1): 32-35. Fry, C. H., Keith, S. and Urban, E. K. (1988) The birds of Africa vol III. Academic Press: London. Hall, J. S., Saltonstall, K., Inogwabini, B.-I. and Omari, I. (1998) Distribution, abundance and conservation status of Grauer’s gorilla. Oryx 32: 122-130. Omari, I., Hart, J. A., Butynski, T. M., Birnashirwa, N. R., Upoki, A., M’Keyo, Y., Bengana, F., Bashonga, M. and Baguruburnwe, N. (1999) The Itombwe Massif, Democratic Republic of Congo: biological surveys and conservation, with an emphasis on Grauer’s gorilla and birds endemic to the Albertine Rift. Oryx 33: 301-322.

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6 Responses to Archived 2012-2013 topics: Dwarf Honeyguide (Indicator pumilio): downlist to Least Concern?

  1. James Hogg says:


    I have talked to the President of the Rwanda Birding Association. The RBA is of the opinion that this bird is uncommon in Rwanda. Birds in Rwanda – Vande Weghe and Vande Weghe* records this species as being a very uncommon resident within Rwanda. I also contacted Claver a bird guide at Nyungwe Forest who reported that in his opinion this bird is rare within Nyungwe and he has only had a few sightings of this bird. One record in the 1970s in Gishwati Forest.

    Nyungwe is at least protected. Gishwati has been eroded greatly but this seems to have ceased. Mukura is a similar habitat with no recorded sightings and has been damaged recently by illegal mining and associated tree felling.

    As such, within Rwanda this bird is a rare species and of concern.



    *references Dowsett-Lemaire, F & R.J. Dowsett 1990. Zoogeography and Taxonomic Relationships of the Forest Birds of the Albertine Rift Afromontane Region. Tauraco Research Report 3: 87-109

  2. Joe Taylor says:

    The following comments were received from Thomas Butynski on 14 August 2013:

    I would be concerned about the down-listing of any of the Albertine Rift endemic bird species at this time….given the continued destruction, degradation and fragmentation of the Albertine Rift forests…and how little we know about the distribution, abundance and habitat requirements of these species.

    In this case there is the proposal to down-list Indicator pumilio.

    Except for a few months in Mahale, I have not worked in any of the Albertine Rift forests for 20 years now…so I am not up-to-date on matters on the ground. In my recollection, however, I. pumilio is not a common species…where present.

  3. Joe Taylor says:

    The following comment was received from Laurent Ntahuga on 14 August 2013:

    I fully agree with Tom and the same thinking can be done for Laniarius mufumbiri for the case of Burundi, where all wetlands are practically being converted into agricultural land, due to the extremely high pressure on land by the local populations.

  4. Joe Taylor says:

    The following comments were received from Andy Plumptre on 14 August 2013:

    The EOO [given on the species factsheet] may be that large but my guess is the AOO is probably a lot smaller. In our surveys of the forests of the AR [Albertine Rift] this species has been present but rarely seen at all sites … I would leave it as NT for now

  5. Joe Taylor says:

    The following comments were received from Brian Finch on 15 August 2013, with reference to comments by Thomas Butynski (posted above):

    I thoroughly agree with what you say. Birds with such precise and local ranges should be afforded a higher status, especially with the eroding of habitat. Dwarf Honeyguide should be fairly common in the Albertine Forests, but inexplicably it certainly isn’t. When do you even encounter it twice in a day?

  6. Andy Symes says:

    The following comments were received from Françoise Dowsett-Lemaire on 20 August 2013:

    We agree with Tom that it seems premature to “downlist” I. pumilio in the Albertine Rift. If anything, it could be moved from DD to Near Threatened, but not to “least concern”. I am not sure that its voice or song has been unravelled, it was not when we were in Nyungwe Forest (1989-90), so you cannot just go out and find this bird. We saw only one in Nyungwe in an extended field work period of 5 months (Dowsett-Lemaire 1990, Tauraco Res. Rep. 3), so it is definitely uncommon. The montane forests of the eastern sector of Congo-Kinshasa (DRC) suffer from continuing degradation thanks to endless civil wars there, and no-one has been able to prospect that area [properly] for many years.

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