email a friend
printable version
Banded Sunbird Anthreptes rubritorques
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

Some parts of this species's small and fragmented range are well-protected by reserves or by their remoteness. However, forests in the East Usambara Mountains, the only area in which it is common, are being rapidly altered or cleared. Its range and population are therefore suspected to be declining and it qualifies as Vulnerable (Collar and Stuart 1985).

Taxonomic source(s)
Dowsett, R. J.; Forbes-Watson, A. D. 1993. Checklist of birds of the Afrotropical and Malagasy regions. Tauraco Press, Li
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

8.5-9 cm. Small sunbird of forest canopy and edges with short, gently-curved bill. Iridescent green upperparts contrasting with dark wings. Dull grey underparts. Male has inconspicuous, reddish breast-band (diagnostic). Female like male but with head more olive-green, greyish below and lacking breast band. Similar spp. Female Collared Sunbirds A. collaris also have iridescent upperparts, but bright yellow underparts. Voice Far-carrying shwerp. Hints In forest patches near Amani, East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania.

Distribution and population
Anthreptes rubritorques is found in five areas of forest in eastern Tanzania: the Usambara, Nguu, Nguru, Uluguru and Udzungwa Mountains. It is only considered common in parts of the Usambaras, being elsewhere uncommon to rare (Evans 1997b, Cordeiro 1998, Seddon et al. 1999b). The population in the Udzungwas is guessed to number c.1,000 individuals (L. Hansen in litt. 2007), or more conservatively 'some hundred' individuals, and has been recorded at only three localities (Dinesen et al. 2001). The Uluguru population is known from only five specimens and any remaining population is likely to be found in the North Forest Reserve, since suitable habitat is generally absent elsewhere. The species was not located in the Ulugurus during surveys in 1999-2001 (Burgess et al. 2002). However, there are still areas in the south Ulugurus that are unexplored and there may be other sites within Ulu where the species occurs (L. Hansen in litt. 2007).

Population justification
The population in the Udzungwas might only number c.1,000 birds (L. Hansen in litt. 2007), with a more conservative guess being 'some hundred' individuals (Dinesen et al. 2001), thus the total population is placed in the range band for 2,500-9,999 individuals. This equates to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The species's population is suspected to be declining in line with the clearance and degradation of forest in the areas in which it occurs. The likely rate of decline, however, has not been estimated.

It has been recorded in rainforest at mid-altitudes (Zimmerman et al. 1996, Evans 1997b), in the canopy and (more frequently) in forest-edge habitats - e.g. large glades, disturbed or secondary forest with some surviving large trees, gardens and exotic plantations - perhaps because it is easier to see in such open areas (Cordeiro 1998), however surveys in 2006 in the East Usambaras found that the species showed a preference for edges and smallholder agriculture with sufficient large trees, including nesting by a roadside in open habitat, suggesting that it may be less dependent on primary forest than previously thought (Borghesio et al. 2008). The species is likely to show seasonal shifts in habitat preference, in reaction to changes in food abundance, probably showing a preference for forest edge habitats during the dry season and then moving to dense forest in the rainy season (L. Hansen in litt. 2007). The diet includes nectar, small berries and fruits (Cordeiro 1998, 2008, N. Baker in litt 1999). During the breeding season it will also take small insects and spiders to provide protein for nestlings (L. Hansen in litt. 2007). Breeding has been recorded from 300 to 800 m, although it occurs from 200 to 1,500 m. It is possible that the species undertakes altitudinal migrations, in which case habitat at lower elevations may be more vital to the species than previously thought (L. Hansen in litt. 2007). A nest was 15 m up in the crown of a leafless tree, deep in the forest (Evans 1997b).

It is threatened over most of its range, by forest loss and degradation, as a result of clearance for agriculture, replacement of natural forest with plantations, and tree-cutting for timber and firewood (Evans 1997b). The fact that lower altitude forest is cleared first impacts the species (L. Dinesen in litt. 2007). In the Usambaras, the large human population is putting increasing pressure on land and the forests are highly fragmented (Evans 1997b). In the Ulugurus, inaccessible terrain protects the main montane forest block, but the lower slopes, around the species's optimal altitude, are being steadily cleared. Forest in the Ulugurus declined from c.300 km2 in 1955 to c.230 km2 in 2001, mostly due to clearance for cultivation below 1,600 m (Burgess et al. 2002). Thus, the population in the Ulugurus might be extirpated as a result of an increasing human population. Forests in Nguru are not currently considered threatened because of their precipitous terrain and the low human population. In the Udzungwas, some areas of potential forest habitat are under pressure and shrinking (L. Dinesen in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions Underway
The East Usambara Catchment Forest Project has curbed much forest destruction and much of the remaining unprotected forest has been incorporated into reserves, e.g. Mt Nilo Forest Reserve now contains a significant area of mid-altitude forest, although lack of jurisdiction over the neighbouring Public Lands Forest threatens its long-term prospects. In the Udzungwas, it occurs in the Udzungwa Mountains National Park and West Kilombero Scarp Forest Reserve. In the Ulugurus, conservation projects are aiming to assist local initiatives and increase involvement of local communities in forest management (Buckley and Matilya 1998).Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey further areas of the Nguu Mountains to establish its distribution in the Forest Reserves (Seddon et al. 1999a). Carry out reseach into the species's ecology in the Usambaras (L. Hansen in litt. 2007), and assess why it is more common in parts of the East Usambaras than elsewhere. Search for it in the Ulugurus (Svendsen and Hansen 1995). Assess the total population size. Carry out regular surveys to monitor population trends, particularly in the Usambaras (L. Hansen in litt. 2007). Monitor rates of forest clearance and degradation in the areas in which it occurs. Improve the protection of forests and buffer zones (L. Hansen in litt. 2007). Prevent settlements in forests, especially in the Usambaras (L. Hansen in litt. 2007).

Borghesio, L.; John, J. R. M.; Mulungu, E.; Mkongewa, V.; Joho, M.; Cordeiro, N. J. 2008. Observations of threatened birds in the East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 15(1): 59-70.

Buckley, P.; Matilya, J. G. 1998. Saving Tanzania's mountain forests. World Birdwatch 20: 16-19.

Burgess, N.; Doggart, N.; Lovett, J. C. 2002. The Uluguru Mountains of eastern Tanzania: the effect of forest loss on biodiversity. Oryx 36: 140-152.

Collar, N. J.; Stuart, S. N. 1985. Threatened birds of Africa and related islands: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, and International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Cambridge, U.K.

Cordeiro, N. J. 1998. A preliminary survey of the montane avifauna of Mt Nilo, East Usambaras, Tanzania. Scopus 20: 1-18.

Cordeiro, N. J. 2008. Fruit-eating at Celtis gomphophylla by Banded-green Sunbirds Anthreptes rubritorques and other species. Scopus 28: 37-40.

Dinesen, L.; Lehmberg, T.; Rahner, M. C.; Fjeldsa, J. 2001. Conservation priorities for the forests of the Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania, based on primates, duikers and birds. Biological Conservation 99: 223-236.

Evans, T. D. 1997. Records of birds from the forests of the East Usambara lowlands, Tanzania, August 1994 - February 1995. Scopus 19: 92-108.

Seddon, N.; Ekstrom, J. M. M.; Capper, D. R.; Isherwood, I. S.; Muna, R.; Pople, R. G.; Tarimo, E.; Timothy, J. 1999. Notes on the ecology and conservation status of key bird species in Nilo and Nguu North Forest Reserves, Tanzania. Bird Conservation International 9: 9-28.

Seddon, N.; Ekstrom, J. M. M.; Capper, D. R.; Isherwood, I. S.; Muna, R.; Pople, R. G.; Tarimo, E.; Timothy, J. 1999. The importance of the Nilo and Nguu North Forest Reserves for the conservation of montane forest birds in Tanzania. Biological Conservation 87: 59-72.

Svendsen, J. O.; Hansen, L. A. 1995. Report on the Uluguru Biodiversity Survey 1993. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds/Tanzania Forestry Research Institute/Centre for Tropical Biodiversity, Sandy, U.K.

Zimmerman, D. A.; Turner, D. A.; Pearson, D. J. 1996. Birds of Kenya and northern Tanzania. Helm, London.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J.

Baker, N., Dinesen, L., Hansen, L., Tye, A.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Anthreptes rubritorques. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Nectariniidae (Sunbirds)
Species name author Reichenow, 1905
Population size 1500-7000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 6,700 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change