Since 2006, almost yearly in Ethiopia (and single visits to Eritrea and Djibouti, two visits to Somaliland), I drove a total tens of thousands of km across suitable habitat for this species, albeit in the wrong/shoulder season (September-November) and never saw a single individual. Nor I saw any birds in the right season in suitable habitat in the Sahel of Cameroon or Ghana. This is my top nemesis bird in Africa and I might just have been unlucky and in Ethiopia at the wrong time, but my gut feeling is that it is worse than LC.
I am submitting a compilation of analyses and comments below from the following people and covering areas within Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Cameroon and Kenya.
Jean Marc Thiollay
The road surveys conducted by JMT in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali in 1969–73 and 2003–04 yielded decline estimates of 84% in unprotected areas (UPAs) and of 96% within protected areas (PAs). Based on the relative area of protected and unprotected land within the species’ range in these three countries, derived from the African Raptor DataBank, we estimate that the species declined by 84% overall.
Road surveys conducted by JMT in Northern Cameroon during 1973 and 2000 indicated a 46% decline in encounter rates. However, further surveys of the same routes, by RB in 2007–10 (R. Buij, unpublished), suggested that average encounter rates had increased by 77% between 1973 and 2000–10, although this result was strongly influenced by a single high count on one transect (see more about seasonality below).
The results from these studies equate to a 5.5% decline p.a. in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, and a 1.9% increase p.a. in N Cameroon. When the results from the two studies are combined, and weighted by the area occupied by Scissor-tailed Kite in each country, the species would appear to have declined by 5.4% p.a. during the 1970s–2000s. This equates to a decline of 47% when projected over three generation lengths (11.6 years), suggesting that the species may qualify as Vulnerable in West Africa at least.
Much of the population breeds in the Sahel and moves south into West African savannas, and southeast into Kenya in November–March. Some are more sedentary around floodplains and in the south-eastern part of the range, in Kenya and Ethiopia. In Kenya, however, no Scissor-tailed Kites were recorded during road surveys conducted by JMT and Chris Smeenk during September–May 1970–77 (8,659 km surveyed), and just three birds were seen during repeat surveys in the same months by DO and others in 2003–20 (14,415 km surveyed). Breeding populations around the Naivasha area have been extirpated for many years and seasonal influxes of this species into central Kenya are now much rarer than previously.
In terms of breeding, a study by Buij et al. (2013) showed that in a study area in Cameroon nesting success was 17% and in Senegal it was only 4%, which the authors suggested could have been related to a combination of suboptimal food conditions, high predation pressure, intraspecific aggression, and lack of experience among breeding pairs.
There are number of significant threats to this species which include:
1) Huge roosts in West Africa are vulnerable to logging
2) Quelea and locust spraying which has likely made a serious dent in their Somali biome distribution
3) Habitat destruction together with climate change, which have turned large portions of formerly semi-arid habitats of this species into impoverished arid zones.
We also acknowledge the challenges of estimating population trends for this species, and other seasonal migrants, based on road survey data conducted at different times of the year. This is a species that feeds primarily on insects during the nonbreeding season, particularly grasshoppers/locusts, which in turn are highly influenced by climatic and rainfall patterns.
Despite the challenges in assessing trends in this species, our collective results provide a strong indication of the species’ general decline.
Buij, R., Cavaillés, S., & Mullié, W. C. (2013). Breeding Biology and Diet of the African Swallow-Tailed Kite (Chelictinia riocourii) in Senegal and Cameroon. Journal of Raptor Research, 47(1), 41-53. https://doi.org/10.3356/JRR-12-36.1
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
Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2021 Red List would be to list Scissor-tailed Kite as Vulnerable under Criterion A2ace+3ce+4ace.
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.
The final 2021 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2021, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.
Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN
The final categorisation for this species has not changed. Scissor-tailed Kite is recommended to be listed as Vulnerable under Criteria A2ace+3ce+4ace.
Many thanks for everyone who contributed to the 2021 GTB Forum process. The final 2021 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2021, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.
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Contact the BirdLife Red List Team under redlistteam [at] birdlife [dot] org.