Archived 2014 discussion: Mountain Buzzard (Buteo oreophilus) is being split: list B. oreophilus as Near Threatened?

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

Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International will soon publish 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 1 of the checklist (for non-passerines) will begin to be incorporated into the 2014 Red List update, with the remainder, and those for passerines (which will appear in volume 2 of the checklist), 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.

Mountain Buzzard Buteo oreophilus is being split into B. oreophilus and B. trizonatus, following the application of criteria set out by Tobias et al. (2010).

Prior to this taxonomic change, B. oreophilus (BirdLife species factsheet) was listed as being of Least Concern, on the basis that it was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN Red List criteria.

B. oreophilus (as defined following the taxonomic change) is distributed from Ethiopia, west to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and south to Tanzania and Malawi. It is largely restricted to extensive montane forest at 2,000-3,800m, locally to above 4,500m, and seldom ventures far over adjacent grassland or moorland (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). It has decreased in some areas of its range in East Africa as a result of deforestation. Thus, it is suggested that it be listed as Near Threatened under criteria A2c+3c+4c, on the basis that it could be in moderately rapid population decline (approaching 30% over 29 years [estimate of three generations]), owing to on-going habitat loss.

B. trizonatus is restricted to southern and eastern South Africa, found in both uplands and lowlands, in forest edges and clearings and now pine and other commercial plantations from sea-level to 1,000m, seldom to 1,500m (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). It encompasses areas with Afromontane temperate forests, avoiding the more tropical, lowland forests along the coast (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Although it was considered threatened in South Africa at one stage, the range and numbers of this species are likely to have increased considerably due to adaptation to widespread pine and eucalyptus plantations, despite the destruction of some nests during commercial felling (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001, Hockey et al. 2005). As a result, it is likely to be listed as being of Least Concern, on the basis that it is not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN criteria.

Comments on these suggested categories and further information would be welcomed.


Ferguson-Lees, J. and Christie, D. A. (2001) Raptors of the world. London, UK: Christopher Helm.

Hockey, P. A. R., Dean, W. R. J. and Ryan, P. G. (2005) Roberts birds of southern Africa. Seventh edition. Cape Town, South Africa: Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund.

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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4 Responses to Archived 2014 discussion: Mountain Buzzard (Buteo oreophilus) is being split: list B. oreophilus as Near Threatened?

  1. Norbert Cordeiro says:

    I agree with raising this species to near-threatened. Compared to 10-20 years ago in numerous sites in Tanzania, I have had less encounters with this species and am concerned it is on the decline.

  2. Simon Thomsett says:

    In three years extensive field work in the highlands of Ethiopia I only saw the Mt Buzzard twice near Dinsho Bale (2000-2002). I have no doubt that better quality forests at high altiude in Ethiopia have this species, but this is a poor number. NB Eurasian Buzzard occur, call and over summer in Bale, Ntoto and Yerer, confusing the situation.
    In Kenya the species occurs only in highland forests, itself an endangered eco-type. It is best encountered near Hygena woodland, again a rare habitat. In the Aberdares perhaps its best known, and best quality locale the Augur Buzzard is an active and daily competitor even at the very highest heath zone, begging the question as to whether the Augur Buzzard is a relatively new interloper (as a result of global warming?).
    The Eurasian Buzzard may also be a serious competitor during much of the year.
    In Tz the species is again confined to cold highlands. I used to see them on Mt Meru but 5 trips there since 2008 have revealed none.
    I did not see any in Uganda during recent trip to Bwindi…a highland habitat.
    This species deserves uplisting and study.

  3. Joe Taylor says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information and comments posted above, our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List would be to treat:

    B. oreophilus as Near Threatened under criteria A2c+3c+4c

    B. trizonatus as Least Concern

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 March, after which recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  4. Andy Symes says:

    Recommended categorisations to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there have been no changes to our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List status of these species.

    The final categorisations will be published later in 2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by BirdLife and IUCN.

Comments are closed.