This species qualifies as Vulnerable because habitat is being lost within its small, possibly fragmented range. In addition, it is suspected to be declining. If it is confirmed to occupy a much larger range, as is suspected, it may be eligible for downlisting.
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.
Pternistis harwoodi (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously placed in the genus Francolinus.
Francolinus harwoodi Blundell & Lovat, 1899
Distribution and populationFrancolinus harwoodi
30-34 cm. Rotund, short-tailed, terrestrial gamebird. Overall dark. Heavily streaked and marked underparts. Red bill and skin around eye. Similar spp. Clapperton's Francolin F. clappertoni paler, with bold, black crescents on underparts. Erckel's Francolin F. erckelii has black bill and skin around eye. Voice Loud, raucous, crowing ko ree in early morning. Hints Best-known locality is bridge over Blue Nile in Jemma valley (Ethiopia).
is restricted to the highlands of central Ethiopia
around the Abbay (Blue Nile) river and its tributaries (McGowan 1994)
. According to local reports its range extends northwards into Southern Wello and north-west into Eastern Gojam Administrative Zones (Wondafrash 1998)
. Research in 1996 found it locally abundant in the Jemma and Jara valleys and the adjacent valleys and river catchments of North Showa Zone, with an estimated maximum density of 92 birds per km2
at Jemma valley (McGowan 1994, Wondafrash 1998). It is not known if birds move between adjacent valleys but, if not, it is probable that some subpopulations number more than 1,000 individuals (P. Robertson in litt.
. Surveys in 1998 found it at a number of new sites within its known range (A. Shimelis in litt.
. It is now believed to occupy a range of 200,000 km2
within the Abbay Basin, and is most abundant in the high and middle courses of the river (Wondafrash 2005)
. Interviews with local people suggest that the species has declined, although it is not clear what the magnitude of this decline has been (Wondafrash 2005)
. Population justification
The population size is preliminarily estimated to fall into the band 10,000-19,999 individuals. This equates to 6,667-13,333 mature individuals, rounded here to 6,000-15,000 mature individuals.Trend justification
Interviews with local people suggest that the species has declined, although it is not clear whether the decline has been significant (Wondafrash 2005).Ecology
The species was believed to be almost entirely restricted to Typha
(bulrush) beds growing along small, shallow watercourses and Acacia
thorn-scrub (EWNHS 1996, Robertson et al
. However, studies in 1996 found it at a site with no permanent river or Typha,
with evidence of birds roosting in extensive thorn-scrub on hillsides (Robertson et al
. The species is now known to occur in a variety of suitable habitats from 1,200 to 2,600 m asl, including slopes, scrub, river banks, thickets, rocky areas, dense woodland, cropland and at the base of cliffs (Wondafrash 2005)
. The breeding season is reported to be from August to December and the clutch-size as 3-10 (Wondafrash 2005)
. Observations suggest that it may be polygamous (Robertson et al
. 1997, Wondafrash 1998, 2005)
. It feeds mainly on seeds and takes those sown by farmers in May-June, but is not considered a pest (Wondafrash 2005)
. It also takes worms, crops, fruit and leaves (Wondafrash 2005)
There is intense pressure on resources within the species's range and consequently even marginal scrubland (favoured by the species for cover) is being cleared for agriculture and timber for fuel and construction (EWNHS 1996, Wondafrash 1998, 2005). Surveys in 1998 found that areas between localities had thin and patchy vegetation (A. Shimelis in litt.
. Scrubland and woodland act as refuges for the species, and their loss potentially makes it more susceptible to predation (Wondafrash 2005)
beds are burnt annually, so that farmers can plant cotton, and are also cut for thatching (EWNHS 1996, Robertson et al
. 1997, Wondafrash 2005)
. Habitat clearance, and burning to encourage new grass growth and reduce populations of ticks and crop pests, reportedly forces birds to seek refuge around human habitations, where they are easily hunted (Wondafrash 2005)
. Despite its significance in local culture (Wondafrash 2005)
, the species is heavily hunted for food and is sometimes also caught for sale at local markets (EWNHS 1996, Wondafrash 1998, 2005)
, by hand or with the use of snares (Wondafrash 2005)
. It is considered a delicacy and is believed to have medicinal properties (Wondafrash 2005)
. The species's habit of associating with domestic poultry also increases the threat from hunting (Wondafrash 2005)
. Eggs are taken for food (Robertson et al
. 1997, A. Shimelis in litt.
1998, Wondafrash 2005)
and captive-rearing, although most chicks escape captivity (Wondafrash 2005)
. Conservation Actions Underway
Although four or five Game Reserves in the Blue Nile basin have been proposed, none have been established (EWNHS 1996)
.Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct further surveys to assess its distribution (Wondafrash 2005)
. Study its habitat requirements (Wondafrash 2005)
. Assess the importance of different threats (Wondafrash 2005)
. With the full involvement of all concerned stakeholders, develop a comprehensive species action plan to address the conservation of the species and its habitat (Wondafrash 2005)
. Develop an area-based action plan and create a conservation task force (Wondafrash 2005)
. Conduct an environmental education campaign to help relieve hunting pressure and promote sustainable harvesting (Wondafrash 2005)
. Raise awareness in government and local communities of this Ethiopian endemic (Wondafrash 2005)
. Encourage the development of legal structures to prohibit the unsustainable exploitation of the species (Wondafrash 2005)
. Complete population surveys to the north and north-west of the species's currently known range. Protect key areas in collaboration with local communities, in order to allow habitat regeneration (Wondafrash 2005)
, possibly concentrating on the Mid-Abbay (Blue Nile) River Basin IBA. Consider the promotion of ecotourism for the benefit of local communities (Wondafrash 2005)
EWNHS. 1996. Important Bird Areas of Ethiopia: a first inventory. Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society, Addis Ababa.
Fuller, R. A.; Carroll, J. P.; McGowan, P. J. K. 2000. Partridges, quails, francolins, snowcocks, guineafowl, and turkeys. Status survey and conservation action plan 2000-2004. IUCN and World Pheasant Association, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
Keane, A.M.; Carroll, J. P.; Fuller, R. A.; McGowan, P.J. K. in press. Partridges, quails, francolins, snowcocks, guineafowl and turkeys: status survey and conservation action plan 2005-2009. IUCN and WPA, Gland, Switzerland.
McGowan, P. J. K. 1994. Phasianidae (Pheasants and Partridges). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (ed.), Handbook of the birds of the world, pp. 434-552. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Robertson, P. A.; Dellelegn, Y.; Dejene, S.; Shimelis, A.; Alemayehu, T. W.; Alemayehu, M.; Alemayehu, M. 1997. Harwood's Francolin Francolinus harwoodi: recent observations on its status, distribution, habitat requirements, behaviour and threats. Bird Conservation International 7: 275-282.
Wondafrash, M. 1998. Assessment of Harwood's Francolin Francolinus harwoodi.
Wondafrash, M. 1999. Concept paper on research project of the Harwood's Francolin Francolinus harwoodi.
Wondafrash, M. 2005. The globally-threatened Harwood's Francolin Francolinus harwoodi: range, ecology, threats and conservation measures.
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., Keane, A., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J.
Robertson, P., Shimelis, A., Spottiswoode, C., Wondafrash, M.
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Pternistis harwoodi. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 27/11/2014.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 27/11/2014.
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.
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.