email a friend
printable version
Short-legged Ground-roller Brachypteracias leptosomus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species qualifies as Vulnerable because its small population is likely to be declining owing to the destruction and degradation of its forest habitat. This decline is likely to become rapid over the next ten years.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

38 cm. Thickset, arboreal bird with large head and strong bill. Upperparts mid green-brown, with purple iridescence on rear crown and nape, and fine white tips to wing-coverts. Pale supercilium is short, steeply curved. Tail is fairly long, with white tips to the outer feathers. Underparts are paler, with brown throat and ear-coverts overlain with white spots, below which is a wide, white crescentic breast-band. Lower breast and belly are barred darker brown. Similar spp. Combination of purple nape, solid dark grey bill, white breast-band and white-tipped tail eliminate White-browed Owl Ninox superciliaris, the only bird which remotely resembles this species. Voice Call is a long series of bop notes, often given in early morning or evening, at a rate of about one a second. Hints Perches for long periods almost immobile.

Distribution and population
Brachypteracias leptosomus is fairly common within its restricted habitat of low- and mid-altitude primary forests in eastern Madagascar, from Daraina forest in the north to Andohahela in the south (Langrand 1990). It is the most localised of the rainforest ground-rollers (Langrand 1990).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be declining in line with habitat loss and degradation, and hunting pressure. If present trends continue, the remaining unprotected forest, especially at the lower altitudes preferred by this species, will disappear within decades (Stattersfield et al. 1998).

This secretive species is found solely in undisturbed, primary rainforest (Thorstrom and Lind 1999). At the upper part of its altitudinal range it occurs only where trees are large (Evans et al. 1992; ZICOMA 1999). It prefers forest with dark, humid areas, a moderate ground cover of herbaceous, mossy vegetation, and deep leaf-litter (Thorstrom and Lind 1999). The least terrestrial of the rainforest ground-roller species, it spends much time perched 2-15 m above ground on horizontal branches, searching for prey (Evans et al. 1992; Langrand 1990). It feeds on invertebrates (90%), often terrestrial, and also small vertebrates (10%) (Langrand 1990; Thorstrom and Lind 1999). It nests in tree cavities and the root masses of epiphytes, often around 20 m above the ground (Thorstrom and Lind 1999). The home range of one pair was 19 ha, occurring at 5-200 m; pairs occupied contiguous territories in this undisturbed habitat (Thorstrom and Lind 1999). The species appears able to re-nest rapidly after natural nest failure (Thorstrom and Lind 1999).

The principal threat to its forest habitat is from slash-and-burn cultivation by subsistence farmers, which results in progressively more degraded regrowth and leads eventually to bracken-covered areas or grassland (Stattersfield et al. 1998). Much of the forest on the eastern coastal plain has either already been cleared or is highly degraded, remaining habitat is under pressure from the increasing human population and commercial logging is an additional threat in some areas (Jenkins 1987; ZICOMA 1999). If present trends continue, the remaining unprotected forest, especially at the lower altitudes preferred by this species, will disappear within decades (Stattersfield et al. 1998). The species is also hunted (ZICOMA 1999).

Conservation Actions Underway
The species occurs in 23 Important Bird Areas (77% of the total in eastern Malagasy forest) and is found in nine National Parks, two Strict Reserves, three Special Reserves and six Classified Forests (ZICOMA 1999). Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out surveys in order to estimate the population size. Compare survey data collected from protected and unprotected areas (M. Rabenandrasana in litt. 2007). Conduct regular surveys to monitor population trends. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation. Improve the management of the eastern humid forests, especially the control of fires used in slash-and-burn cultivation. Pursue further ecological studies to determine its home-range size and its dispersal capability across deforested areas, in order to clarify the impact of forest fragmentation on its population structure. Conduct research into the level of hunting pressure on the species.

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.

Evans, M. I.; Duckworth, J. W.; Hawkins, A. F. A.; Safford, R. J.; Sheldon, B. C.; Wilkinson, R. J. 1992. Key bird species of Marojejy Strict Nature Reserve, Madagascar. Bird Conservation International 2: 201-222.

Jenkins, M. D. 1987. Madagascar: an environmental profile. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Cambridge, U.K.

Langrand, O. 1990. Guide to the birds of Madagascar. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Stattersfield, A. J.; Crosby, M. J.; Long, A. J.; Wege, D. C. 1998. Endemic bird areas of the world: priorities for bird conservation. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Thorstrom, R.; Lind, J. 1999. First nest description, breeding, ranging and foraging behaviour of the Short-legged Ground-Roller Brachypteracias leptosomus in Madagascar. Ibis 141: 569-576.

ZICOMA. 1999. Zones d'Importance pour la Conservation des Oiseaux a Madagascar.

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

Search for 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.

Hawkins, F., Rabenandrasana, M.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Brachypteracias leptosomus. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016.

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.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Short-legged ground roller (Brachypteracias leptosomus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Brachypteraciidae (Ground-rollers)
Species name author (Lesson, 1833)
Population size 1500-7000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 39,200 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species