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Long-tailed Ground-roller Uratelornis chimaera

This species is classified as Vulnerable because there is an ongoing decline in the quality and extent of its habitat, the rate of which is increasing annually, implying that its population is likely to decline rapidly over the next ten years.

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.

47 cm. A long-tailed, charismatic ground-dwelling bird. Greyish upperparts (including crown, mantle and rump), heavily streaked with dark brown in complex pattern. Very long tail, pale brown barred darker, with pale blue outer webs and tips to outer feathers. Darker wings, with pale blue wing-coverts and a white patch at the base of the primaries. Whitish breast, with narrow dark brown breast-band joined to moustachial stripes that are brown in the centre. Long dark legs, short and rather stout bill. Similar spp. Separated from terrestrial couas Coua by blue-edged tail, pale greyish overall appearance and blackish collar. Hints Forages for terrestrial invertebrates in dense, spiny, subdesert vegetation, often lifting and lowering tail.

Distribution and population
Uratelornis chimaera is restricted to a narrow coastal strip, originally 30-60 km wide and 200 km long, in south-western Madagascar between the Fiherenana and Mangoky rivers. In its habitat it is uncommon, occurring at population densities of about 0.008-0.1 individuals per ha (N. Seddon and J. Tobias in litt. 1999, 2000). Although such habitat is threatened in the north-central, eastern and southern parts of this species's range, there is a fairly large intact block north of Manombo (Seddon et al. 2000). In 2000, the total population was estimated to be 10,000-20,000 individuals (N. Seddon and J. Tobias in litt. 1999, 2000). A total population estimate of 21,124 (95% CI: 9,487-32,687) mature individuals was calculated from a tentative estimate of the species's density at 5.7 (95% CI: 2.6-8.8) mature adults per km2 from transect surveys in 1999 and an estimate of 3,706 km2 of remaining habitat (Seddon and Tobias 2007).

Population justification
A total population estimate of 21,124 (with a 95% confidence interval of 9,487-32,687) mature individuals (roughly equivalent to 30,000-35,000 total individuals) was calculated from a tentative estimate of the species's density at 5.7 (95% CI: 2.6-8.8) mature adults km-2 from transect surveys in 1999 and an estimate of 3,706 km2 of remaining habitat. The 95% confidence intervals are taken as the upper and lower range estimates for the population.

Trend justification
The species's population is suspected to have declined at a moderate rate, in line with the clearance of its habitat. A rapid population decline in the future is plausible given the annual increase in the rate of habitat destruction (Seddon and Tobias 2007).

This terrestrial species inhabits semi-arid deciduous forest (Seddon and Tobias 2007, undated) on a sandy substrate and of a low stature (4-6 m), and sparse coastal scrub, from sea-level to 80 m. The species shows a preferrence for slightly and even heavily degraded habitats (Seddon and Tobias 2007, undated). It is tolerant of disturbance by livestock, having been observed in extremely degraded forest close to villages (N. Seddon and J. Tobias in litt. 1999, 2000). Although it is largely terrestrial, this insectivorous species roosts in trees and shrubs, and vocalises from low perches (Seddon and Tobias undated). It appears to be socially monogamous and defends small territories around nest-holes during the breeding season. The nest-holes lead to long burrows which are dug at an angle into the flat sand. It occurs in family groups containing one to four juveniles immediately after fledging, but is otherwise solitary in the dry season and lives in pairs after the first rains in October-November (Seddon and Tobias undated). Breeding peaks in November (Seddon 2001).

Overall, primary-forest cover has declined by 15.6% between 1962 and 1999, although in the central part of this species's range, it has declined by c.28% (Seddon et al. 2000; N. Seddon and J. Tobias in litt. 1999, 2000). Such clearance is mainly for slash-and-burn cultivation of maize and for charcoal production (both are increasing; Seddon 2001), and more locally for construction material and commercial timber (ZICOMA 1999). Although the species prefers degraded habitat, it does not occupy completely deforested land (Seddon and Tobias 2007, undated). Predation by dogs and trappers occurs, and introduced rats Rattus may pose a threat, at least locally (Langrand 1990).

Conservation Actions Underway
The spiny forest of south-west Madagascar has been identified as the biogeographical region in greatest need of additional reserves nationally (Du Puy and Moat 1996). The northern part of this region, to which the species is restricted, is entirely unprotected (Morris and Hawkins 1998; Seddon 2001), and is suffering the most rapid degradation (Seddon et al. 2000). Potential conservation measures have recently been recommended for the area, designed in consultation with local communities (Seddon et al. 2000). Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct regular surveys to monitor population trends. Monitor rates of habitat clearance. Establish a coordinated network of community-based conservation areas, including a large protected area (Seddon et al. 2000). Improve agricultural efficiency and control charcoal production.

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.

Du Puy, D. J.; Moat, J. 1996. A refined classification of the primary vegetation of Madagascar based on the underlying geology: using GIS to map its distribution and to assess its conservation status. In: Lourenço, W.R. (ed.), Proceedings of the International Symposium on the biogeography of Madagascar, pp. 205-218. ORSTOM, Paris.

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

Morris, P.; Hawkins, F. 1998. Birds of Madagascar: a photographic guide. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, UK.

Seddon, N. 2001. The ecology, communication and conservation of the Subdesert Mesite Monias benschi. dissertation. Ph.D., University of Cambridge.

Seddon, N.; Tobias, J. A. 2007. Population size and habitat associations of the Long-tailed Ground-roller Uratelornis chimaera. Bird Conservation International 17(1): 1-12.

Seddon, N.; Tobias, J. A. Undated. Population size and habitat associations of the Long-tailed Ground-roller Uratelornis chimaera.

Seddon, N.; Tobias, J.; Yount, J. W.; Ramanampamonjy, J. R.; Butchart, S.; Randrianizahana, H. 2000. Conservation issues and priorities in the Mikea forest of southwest Madagascar. Oryx 34: 287-304.

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

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

Hawkins, F., Langrand, O., Seddon, N., Tobias, J.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Uratelornis chimaera. Downloaded from on 23/04/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/04/2014.

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.

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Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Long-tailed ground roller (Uratelornis chimaera) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Brachypteraciidae (Ground-rollers)
Species name author Rothschild, 1895
Population size 9487-32687 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 10,500 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species