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White-breasted Guineafowl Agelastes meleagrides
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is classified as Vulnerable because it is suspected to have suffered a rapid population decline over the last 12 years (three generations), based on the rate of forest destruction throughout its range, which is now highly fragmented. It is also heavily persecuted in some parts of its range. This decline is likely to continue in the future, and it is possible the species will disappear from all but a few protected areas. Effective protection is essential for the maximum number of sites where it still occurs.

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.

40-45 cm. Medium-sized, terrestrial bird with small head. Bare red head and upper neck. Pure white lower neck, breast and upper back. Rest of plumage black, finely vermiculated with white. Female similar to male but slightly smaller. Voice Low deep kok-kok, also loud, ringing, melodious call. Rather vocal, uttering dry ticking calls. Hints Occurs singly, in pairs or small groups, but more commonly in groups of 15-24 birds, constantly moving in search of food and occupying large territories.

Distribution and population
Agelastes meleagrides is endemic to the Upper Guinea Forest ecosystem, which once covered a large part of West Africa, but is now severely reduced and highly fragmented. It now occurs in remnant forest patches in Sierra Leone (Gola Forest region only; the population has been put at c.5,700-8,700 [Allport et al. 1989], although this was probably an over-estimate [J. Lindsell in litt. 2007]), Liberia (population estimated at more than 10,000 in 1985 [Gatter 1997]), Côte d'Ivoire (notably in the Taï region, where the population was estimated at 42,400 to 119,800 in 2000/01 [Waltert et al. 2010], but also at Haute Dodo, where it is rare, and Cavally Forest Reserves, where it may be fairly common [H. Rainey in litt. 2007]) and Ghana (population estimated at 1,000 birds, although with the possible exception of Ankasa, these could be remnant populations that are not viable given the level of hunting pressure in the country [Allport 1991, B. Phalan in litt. 2009]). Its scarcity in Ghana is confirmed by a lack of records from surveys and interviews with local hunters in Draw River, Boi-Tano and Krokosua forest reserves in 2003 (H. Rainey in litt. 2007). In 1995, the total population was estimated at 85,000-115,000 individuals (Gartshore et al. 1995). This estimate was thought to be optimistic (H. Rainey in litt. 2007); however, more recent surveys in southwestern Côte d'Ivoire suggest that it may be reasonably accurate (Waltert et al. 2010). Although recent observations suggest that the species is more tolerant of habitat degradation than previously thought (Waltert et al. 2010), logging, forest clearance for agriculture and hunting are believed to be driving on-going declines across the region (H. Rainey in litt. 2007, Waltert et al. 2010). However, this species is shy and difficult to observe, and could consequently be under-recorded (E. Klop in litt. 2007).

Population justification
In 1995, the world population was estimated at 85,000-115,000 individuals (Gartshore et al. 1995). Although this numbers was thought to be optimistic (H. Rainey in litt. 2007), surveys carried out at the species stronghold in the Taï region of Côte d'Ivoire, (which suggest a local population of between 42,400 and 119,800 individuals [Waltert et al. 2010]), indicate that it may be a reasonable estimate.

Trend justification
The species is suspected to be in rapid decline owing to the rapid destruction of habitat through logging and forest clearance for agriculture across the Upper Guinea region (H. Rainey in litt. 2007). Where it still occurs in large numbers, it suffers high mortality from poaching. Increased hunting in logged areas may prevent recovery at some sites (Allport et al. 1989, Holbech 1992, 1996).

Ecology poorly known. Lives in small groups of typically 15-20 individuals, although the largest flock recorded consisted of 38 birds (Waltert et al. 2010). Surveys conducted in the Taï region of Côte d'Ivoire suggest a preference for drier forest (Waltert et al. 2010). It has been suggested that population density is much lower in secondary forest (Urban et al. 1986, Allport et al. 1989, H. Rainey in litt. 2007); however, surveys conducted by Waltert et al. (2010) show that it can occurs at high densities in areas of past disturbance and is not confined to unlogged primary forest. It has been reported in old secondary forest in Ghana (Holbech 1992, 1996) and Sierra Leone (E. Klop in litt. 2007, J. Lindsell in litt. 2007) and in cocoa plantations along the Kwadi river, south of Gola North (E. Klop in litt. 2007). It feeds on insects, small molluscs, berries and fallen seeds of forest trees (Urban et al. 1986). The breeding season is October-May, possibly year-round (Martinez 1994). The species joins groups of sooty mangabeys Cercocebus atys and other terrestrial mammals to forage in Taï National Park (H. Rainey in litt. 2007).

Its habitat is rapidly receding and where it still occurs in large numbers it is heavily poached. During the recent conflict, forest in Côte d'Ivoire was logged illegally and opportunistically (H. Rainey in litt. 2007). Logging and forest clearance for agriculture may increase in Liberia with the return of peace (H. Rainey in litt. 2007). Increased hunting in logged areas may push the species beyond recovery at some sites (Allport et al. 1989, Holbech 1992, 1996). In the Taï region, levels of poaching are thought to be increasing and the species is now almost absent from the southeast of Taï National Park where hunting is most prolific (Waltert et al. 2010). In Gola forest, the trapping of Crested Guineafowl Guttera pucherani using snares may be a threat (E. Klop in litt. 2007). A. meleagrides may be especially susceptible to poaching since groups are reported to be easily shot by imitating their grouping call which causes individuals to assemble rather than spread as in G. pucherani (Bechinger 1964, Waltert et al. 2010). Interspecific competition with the larger G. pucherani may exclude the species from some logged forest (Gartshore et al. 1995, Gatter 1997).

Conservation Actions Underway
In Sierra Leone, the species is restricted to Gola Forest, which is now well-protected, and surrounding areas (J. Lindsell in litt. 2007, 2012). In Côte d'Ivoire, Taï National Park is one of the largest and best-preserved areas of Upper Guinea forest. Plans are underway to establish a trans-boundary reserve across the Sierra Leone-Liberia border. The park will link the 72,000 ha Gola Forest Reserve in Sierra Leone with the proposed 98,000 ha Gola National Rainforest National Park in Liberia via cross-border forest corridors potentially covering a further 50,000 ha. Work has begun to build national capacity (both government and civil society) to manage the trans-boundary protected area and ensure that local forest communities will benefit from future management (BirdLife International 2011).Conservation Actions Proposed
In Liberia, conduct surveys and identify key sites (P. Robertson in litt. 1998). In Ghana, carry out population surveys to ascertain its status (Holbech 1992, 1996). Where possible, conduct education campaigns (Martinez 1994, H. Rainey in litt. 2007) in part to address hunting pressure (Martinez 1994). In Taï National Park and Gola Forest, ensure that future studies include support for local people to contribute to research, management and tourism in and around the park (Gartshore et al. 1995, H. S. Thompson in litt. 1999). Promote community participation in conservation planning and other activities (H. Rainey in litt. 2007). Enforce laws for protected areas (H. Rainey in litt. 2007). Ensure de facto protection of protected areas in and around the Taï forest (H. S. Thompson in litt. 1999, H. Rainey in litt. 2007), such as Haute Dodo, Cavally, Goin-Debe and Nzo Fauna Reserve (H. Rainey in litt. 2007, Waltert et al. 2010). At Taï National Park the main priority is to control poaching more effectively through stronger legal protection and community-based programmes that find alternatives to bushmeat (Waltert et al. 2010).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Allport, G. 1991. The status and conservation of threatened birds in the Upper Guinea Forest. Bird Conservation International 1: 53-74.

Allport, G. A.; Ausden, M.; Hayman, P. V.; Robertson, P.; Wood, P. 1989. The conservation of the birds of the Gola Forest, Sierra Leone. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Bechinger, F. 1964. Beobachtungen am Weißbrust-Waldhuhn (Agelastes meleagrides) im Freileben und in der Gefangenschaft. Gefied. Welt 88: 61-62.

BirdLife International. 2011. Forests in Sierra Leone and Liberia are being linked by the region’s first trans-boundary reserve. Available at:

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.

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.

Gartshore, M. E.; Taylor, P. D.; Francis, I. S. 1995. Forest birds in Côte d'Ivoire. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Gatter, W. 1997. Birds of Liberia. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, UK.

Holbech, L. H. 1996. Faunistic diversity and game production contra human activities in the Ghana high forest zone, with reference to the Western Region.

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.

Martinez, I. 1994. Numididae (Guineafowl). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (ed.), Handbook of the birds of the world, pp. 554-567. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Urban, E. K.; Fry, C. H.; Keith, S. 1986. The birds of Africa vol. II. Academic Press, London.

Waltert, M.; Seifert, C.; Radl, G.; Hoppe-Dominik, B. 2010. Population size and habitat of the White-breasted Guineafowl Agelastes meleagrides in the Taï region, Côte d'Ivoire. Bird Conservation International 20(1): 74-83.

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., Allinson, T

Demey, R., Gartshore, M., Klop, E., Lindsell, J., Phalan, B., Rainey, H., Robertson, P., Thompson, H.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Agelastes meleagrides. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016.

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.

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Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - White-breasted guineafowl (Agelastes meleagrides) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Numididae (Guineafowl)
Species name author Bonaparte, 1850
Population size 50000-99999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 69,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change