email a friend
printable version
Swierstra's Francolin Pternistis swierstrai
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information
BirdLife Species Champion Become a BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme Supporter
For information about BirdLife Species Champions and Species Guardians visit the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

This species is classified as Endangered as analysis has shown that it has a very small range which is declining in quality and size, and a very small population which is suspected to be decreasing owing to habitat loss and hunting pressure. Urgent conservation action is required to preserve tracts of forest in Angola large enough to support a viable population.

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.

Taxonomic note
Pternistis swierstrai (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously placed in the genus Francolinus.

Francolinus swierstrai (Roberts, 1929)

33 cm. Black-and-white, terrestrial gamebird with red bill and legs. Adult male striking black-and-white with broad, black breast-band on white with black spotted underparts. Upperparts at closer range very dark brown. Female has similar underparts to male, but shows paler, more rusty back, mantle and upperwings. Voice Described as a cackling similar to Jackson's Francolin F. jacksoni or Hildebrandt's Francolin F. hildebrandti.

Distribution and population
Francolinus swierstrai is uncommon in western Angola and is found from Tundavala in Huila District north to Cariango in Cuanza Sul District, on inselbergs in Huambo District and in the Bailundu Highlands (Dean 2000). On Mt Moco in the Bailundu Highlands (the area with the most forest remaining) only c.15 patches of true Afromontane forest survive (1-15 ha), all in deep ravines (Dean 2001), although there are other more extensive patches of sub-montane forest in western Angola (M. S. L. Mills in litt. 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010). There were no records of this species between 1971 and 2005, when c.10 individuals were recorded (seven birds were seen and another pair or group were heard) at Mts Moco and Soque (M. S. L. Mills in litt. 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010; Mills and Dean in prep). Population estimates are hampered by a lack of data, however it has been estimated at between 465-1,052 pairs and 1,040-2,080 pairs depending on the amount of forest cover left in Angola and how tolerant the species is of non-forest habitats (M. S. L. Mills in litt. 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010).

Population justification
The global population has been estimated at between 465-1,052 pairs and 1,040-2,080 pairs. The latter is an over-estimate unless the species is tolerant of a wider range of habitats than is currently known, hence the global population is best placed in the band 1,000-2,499 mature individuals (M. S. L. Mills in litt. 2010).

Trend justification
This species is suspected to be in decline owing to habitat destruction (Dean 2001; M.S.L. Mills in litt. 2005, 2010) and hunting pressure.

It is found in montane areas where it is known mainly from forest and forest edge, but it is also recorded from rocky and grassy mountain sides, tall grass savannas on mountain tops and gullies. In August 2005, the seven birds that were seen were in rank growth and bracken (M. S. L. Mills in litt. 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010). In forest, it stays within the dense undergrowth of bushes, shrubs, grasses and large ferns. It feeds on grass and legume seeds and insects picked from the leaf-litter. Its breeding ecology is virtually unknown, but juvenile specimens collected in August suggest a breeding season in May or June.

On Mt Moco, it is threatened by clearing and burning for subsistence farming and the remaining forest patches are disappearing rapidly (Dean 2001; M. S. L. Mills in litt. 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010). Hunting may also be a serious problem in this area, although in August 2005 birds were recorded very near to the largest village (M. S. L. Mills in litt. 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010).

Conservation Actions Underway
A protected area of c.60 km2 at Mt Moco was proposed in the 1970s, but has not yet been established (Huntley and Matos 1994). Conservation Actions Proposed
Use satellite imagery to assess the current extent of forest cover and, if possible, identify potential areas of suitable habitat. Design and evaluate a robust survey technique, perhaps based on playback of vocalisations. Conduct surveys to determine the species's distribution, population numbers and habitat requirements. Initiate long-term conservation at Mt Moco IBA, perhaps though a Site Support Group.

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.

Dean, W. R. J. 2000. The birds of Angola. British Ornithologists' Union, Tring, UK.

Dean, W. R. J. 2001. Angola. In: Fishpool, L.D.C.; Evans, M.I. (ed.), Important Bird Areas in Africa and associated islands: Priority sites for conservation, pp. 71-91. Pisces Publications and BirdLife International (BirdLife International Conservation Series No.11), Newbury and Cambridge, UK.

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.

Huntley, B. J.; Matos, E. M. 1994. Botanical diversity and its conservation in Angola. Strelitzia 1: 53-74.

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.

Mills, M.S.L.; Dean W. R.J. in prep.. A revision of the avifauna of Angola..

Further web sources of information
Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This species has been identified as an AZE trigger due to its IUCN Red List status and limited range.

Click here for more information about the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE)

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
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Keane, A., Shutes, S., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Dean, R., Mills, M. & Vaz Pinto, P.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Pternistis swierstrai. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016.

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 Endangered
Family Phasianidae (Pheasants, Partridges, Turkeys, Grouse)
Species name author (Roberts, 1929)
Population size 1000-2499 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 18,500 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species