This species qualifies as Vulnerable as data indicates that it has a small population which is declining owing to the drainage and degradation of its highland wetland habitat, and potentially the more recent threat posed by hunting.
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.
Distribution and populationCyanochen cyanoptera
Cyanochen cyanopterus BirdLife International (2000), Cyanochen cyanopterus Dowsett and Forbes-Watson (1993), Cyanochen cyanopterus Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993), Cyanochen cyanopterus BirdLife International (2004)
is endemic to the highlands of Ethiopia
, and although it remains locally common and widespread, with the total population probably lying in the range 5,000-15,000 individuals (Brown et al.
1982; Callaghan and Green 1993; Scott and Rose 1996)
, it is thought to be declining as suitable breeding habitats are lost (M. Wondafrash in litt.
2007). Population justification
The population is estimated to number 5,000-15,000 individuals, roughly equating to 3,300-10,000 mature individuals.Trend justification
M. Wondafrash in litt
. (2007) indicates from census data that the species is declining at a slow to moderate rate, owing to habitat degradation.EcologyBehaviour
This species is mostly sedentary but demonstrates some small-scale seasonal altitudinal movements (del Hoyo et al
. 1992; Kear 2005). It breeds during the dry season months of March - June (Kear 2005), during which time it occurs in dispersed single pairs or small groups (del Hoyo et al
. Little is known about breeding behaviour due to the species's nocturnal habits (Soothill and Whitehead 1978)
. It moves to lower altitudes during the wet, non-breeding season (Kear 2005), where it sometimes congregates in relatively large, loose flocks of 50-100 individuals (Dodman et al
. 1999; Kear 2005). Important concentrations occur at Areket (Dodman et al
. 1999) and on the Sululta plain area during the rains and post-rains period (Callaghan and Green 1993; Scott and Rose 1996). Habitat Breeding
The species often breeds in open Afro-alpine moorland (Kear 2005). Non-breeding
The species occurs on the banks of highland rivers and lakes with adjacent meadows of short grass (del Hoyo et al
. 1992; Johnsgard 1978)
. It also inhabits the edges of highland lakes, marshes, bog pools, swamps and streams with abundant grassland surroundings. It is rarely found in overgrown areas and does not venture into deep water (del Hoyo et al
. 1992; Johnsgard 1978). In the central parts of its range it occurs most commonly at altitudes of 2000-3000m in areas with waterlogged black cotton-soils (vertisols) (Kear 2005)
. At the northern and southern extremities of its range it occurs at higher altitude where the substrate is granitic and the grasses coarser and longer (Kear 2005). Diet
The species is primarily herbivorous, grazing on grasses, sedges and other herbaceous vegetation (Brown et al.
1982; Scott and Rose 1996; Johnsgard 1978)
. However it is also reported to take worms, insects, insect larvae, freshwater molluscs and even small reptiles (del Hoyo et al
. 1992; Kear 2005; Johnsgard 1978)
. Breeding Site
The nest is built on the ground concealed amongst vegetation (Soothill and Whitehead 1978). Threats
It was not formerly thought to be threatened by hunting as, for religious reasons, it is not traditionally eaten (Callaghan and Green 1993). However, recent reports and observations show that local people now trap this and other wildfowl for sale to the country's growing Chinese population. At some sites such as Gefersa Reservoir (30km west of Addis Ababa) which used to hold large populations, the species is now scarce (Y. Abebe in litt.
2012). It is now also almost certainly under pressure because of the rapidly expanding human population and resulting drainage and degradation of wetlands and grasslands, and increased levels of disturbance (Scott and Rose 1996). Agricultural intensification (privatisation) and droughts are also possible threats (T. Dodman in litt
. 2000; Scott and Rose 1996).
Conservation Actions Underway
Important breeding areas in the Bale Mountains National Park and Guassa Community Conservation Area are protected. Conservation Actions Proposed
Regularly monitor the species at selected sites across its range to determine trends. Study movements using radio telemetry to discover additional important sites. Protect important breeding and non-breeding sites, in both strictly protected areas and in multiple use community led conservation units. Monitor, raise awareness of, and encourage the authorities to control hunting, perhaps through dialogue with the Chinese Embassy (Y. Abebe in litt.
Brown, L. H.; Urban, E. K.; Newman, K. 1982. The birds of Africa vol I. Academic Press, London.
Callaghan, D. A.; Green, A. J. 1993. Wildfowl at risk, 1993. Wildfowl 44: 149-169.
del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Dodman, T.; BÃ©ibro, H. Y.; Hubert, E.; Williams, E. 1999. African waterbird census 1998. Les denombrements d'oiseaux d'eau en Afrique, 1998. Wetlands International, Dakar.
Johnsgard, P. A. 1978. Ducks, geese and swans of the World. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London.
Kear, J. 2005. Ducks, geese and swans volume 1: general chapters; species accounts (Anhima to Salvadorina). Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.
Scott, D. A.; Rose, P. M. 1996. Atlas of Anatidae populations in Africa and western Eurasia. Wetlands International, Wageningen, Netherlands.
Soothill, E., Whitehead, P. 1978.
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
Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Shutes, S., Symes, A.
Abebe, Y., Bart, T., Dodman, T., Stroud, D., Wondafrash, M.
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Cyanochen cyanoptera. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 28/03/2015.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 28/03/2015.
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
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