Archived 2017 topics: Sierra Leone Prinia (Schistolais leontica): request for information.

BirdLife species factsheet for Sierra Leone Prinia:


Sierra Leone Prinia, Schistolais leontica (formerly White-eyed Prinia, Prinia leontica) is currently listed as Vulnerable under criteria B1ab(i,ii,iii,v); C2a(i) on the basis that it has a small and localised distribution which is becoming fragmented due to habitat destruction (BirdLife International 2017). It is found in West Africa in the highlands of Guinea, Sierra Leone, northern Liberia and western Côte d’Ivoire in thickets and riparian scrub (Ryan 2017) particularly in the narrow transition zone between submontane grassland and submontane forest (R. Demey in litt. 2009). A reassessment of how a species’s Extent of Occurrence is calculated (now using Minimum Convex Polygons) means that Sierra Leone Prinia would no longer qualify as Vulnerable under criterion B1ab(i,ii,iii,v) as its EOO would be too large.

Looking at population estimates, targeted surveys in Guinea have found the species at six localities with the largest potential population size, at Pic de Fon Classified Forest, estimated at 26 pairs or 52 mature individuals (R. Demey 2012 report per L. Fishpool in litt. 2014). To the best of our knowledge no targeted surveys on this species have occurred elsewhere, and they have not been seen in areas such as Man and Sipilou for >40 years (L. Fishpool in litt. 2014). In Liberia it has previously been suggested that densities of up to 30 birds per hectare could be found (Gatter 1997), but it is restricted to Mount Nimba and other ranges in the county (Gatter 1997). Nimba is now threatened by mining, and more recent work suggests it is now uncommon in Liberia (only seen in 5 localities in 2010-11; L. Fishpool in litt. 2014). Mining also threatens the Pic de Fon population, and the spread of agriculture and small scale logging elsewhere is leading to the loss of this species’s already limited habitat.

The recent subpopulation estimates and the fact that the species is likely now more uncommon around Mount Nimba than previously thought could mean that the global population estimate is now <2,500 mature individuals. However, to qualify as Endangered under criterion C2a(i) the number of mature individuals in each subpopulation cannot exceed 250. We therefore request any further information regarding potential population size estimates for this species particularly with respect to the subpopulation in Liberia, and if there is evidence to suggest that no subpopulation exceeds 250 mature individuals then the Sierra Leone Prinia would warrant uplisting to Endangered under criterion C2a(i). If not, it would remain listed as Vulnerable under the same criterion.



BirdLife International 2017. Species factsheet: Schistolais leontica. Downloaded from on 03/01/2017.

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

Ryan, P. 2017. Sierra Leone Prinia (Schistolais leontica). 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 3 January 2017).

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3 Responses to Archived 2017 topics: Sierra Leone Prinia (Schistolais leontica): request for information.

  1. Hugo Rainey says:

    As far as I am aware, no additional surveys have taken place since the studies of Ron Demey (2012). Therefore no new population information is likely to emerge.
    Threats are increasing in the Fouta Djallon where a large number of hydropower projects are being planned. Mapping of these against known distribution may help understanding of the future status of this species.
    Mining activity is ongoing in Guinea and the region and continues to be a threat to the Pic de Fon population and potentially Nimba.

  2. Ben Phalan says:

    Francoise Dowsett-Lemaire and I surveyed the Liberian part of Mt Nimba for this species in 2011. Based on our observations, the subpopulation there is an order of magnitude smaller than 250 mature individuals. We visited most of the apparently suitable habitat on Liberian Nimba, using playback, and found only five pairs or small family groups (group size 2-4). This gives a minimum subpopulation estimate of 15. I find it hard to imagine that there could be more than 30 individuals in total in this subpopulation, never mind per hectare! I don’t have Gatter’s book to hand, but some of his observations refer to the Guinean part of Mount Nimba.

    I understand from Ron Demey that the species is more common on the Guinean part of Mount Nimba than on the Liberian part, but nevertheless is not a large population. The Guinean part is separated from suitable habitat on the Liberian side both by a huge abandoned mine pit and an international border, and thus ought to qualify as a separate site.

    Below is the relevant text from our report, which has been sent to BirdLife in pdf and hard copy. I’m happy to provide it in pdf form again if needed.

    “East Nimba: local on the mountain, found in five
    locations only, between 1170 and 1350 m, despite much searching and tape playback
    (23 to Oct, 6-7 and 16 Nov 2011). Two of these sites correspond roughly to those where
    RD located the species in Jan 2009. One pair was in a linear territory in low scrub and
    small trees on a ridge at 1170 m, others at forest edges and in understorey of very open
    forest, as along Yiti ridge at 1300 m. Two of a trio ringed on 24 Oct 2011 were in fresh
    plumage (both unsexed, No. X82385 had a wing of 52.5 mm and weighed 11 g, No.
    X82386 had a wing of 55.5 mm and weighed 12 g). None were found in suitable habitat
    along the old mine road between 1100-1260 m to the west of these locations. This
    species is much more common on the Guinea side (RD pers. comm. 2011), where Gatter
    (1997) gives the upper altitudinal limit of 1600 m. Indeed, it does not appear to occupy all
    available habitat on the Liberia side. Thus pairs or small family parties are wide apart
    from each other and probably occupy bigger territories than is normal in the species; this
    may explain why a particular pair located on 23 Oct could not be found again on 25-26
    Oct, despite much tape playback. A family group of four seen on 6 Apr 2010 (BP) was not
    relocated in 2011, although some were heard once further up the slope. Before mining
    started in the 1960s, forest covered the top of the mountain and habitat for this species
    was to be found mainly on the Guinea/Ivory Coast side. Our tentative conclusion is that
    colonization of suitable habitat is far from complete, and there is scope for population
    expansion. Gatter (1997) mentions the Prinia also from the lower peaks of Mts Kitoma
    and Bele in Nimba County (respectively 7°19’N, 8°47’W and 7°24’N, 8°36’W, to the southwest),
    and where presumably his lower altitudinal limit of 700 m applies, because it could
    not be found as low as 700 m on Nimba itself, where there is no suitable vegetation.
    Moult takes place mainly in Feb-May (six of 10 birds) whereas four specimens in Sep-Oct
    were not moulting (C&C-L 1986, Gatter 1997); one pair was feeding an “independent”
    (sic) young on 10 Dec (Gatter 1997). This suggests breeding mid to end of rains.”

    “The Sierra Leone Prinia also gives cause for concern insofar as it is certainly rare in East
    Nimba: however, it does not occupy all (apparently) suitable habitat and its population could
    increase in the future if the reserve receives proper protection (including against bush fires).
    Gatter (1997) gives no details of population trends on the two other mountains where he found
    the Prinia, Kitoma and Bele to the south-west. Its presence on the forested hill of Kitoma (850
    m) is surprising, in the absence of apparently suitable habitat, and the low altitude; Bele is
    even lower, at 809 m. The species is more common on the Guinea side of Nimba, where it is
    going to suffer from habitat destruction through new mining operations.”

    Dowsett-Lemaire, F. & Phalan, B. (2013) Nimba Western Area Iron Ore Concentrator Mining Project, Liberia. Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Volume 4, Part 2, Appendix 2: Ornithological Surveys in the Nimba Mountains in October-November 2011, with special reference to East Nimba Nature Reserve and the West Nimba (Gba) Community-Managed Forest. Report to URS for ArcelorMittal.

  3. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our proposal for the 2017 Red List would be to list Sierra Leone Prinia as Endangered under criterion C2a(i).

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 4 August, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Final 2017 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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