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Papyrus Gonolek Laniarius mufumbiri
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is estimated to be in moderately rapid population decline owing to the on-going conversion and degradation of its wetland habitats.

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.

Distribution and population
Laniarius mufumbiri has a local distribution in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, eastern Rwanda, Burundi, north-western Tanzania and western Kenya. Within its range it is restricted to papyrus swamps (up to 1,600 m), where it is locally common in Kenya (Zimmerman et al. 1996) and abundant in eastern Rwanda (Vande weghe 1981). The species's population has been estimated at c.2,000,000 mature individuals (Maclean 2004, Maclean et al. 2013).

Population justification
A recent estimate put the total population at c.2 million adults (Maclean 2004, Maclean et al. 2013), roughly equivalent to 3 million individuals in total.

Trend justification
Maclean et al. (2013) estimate that, between 1984–1987 and 1999–2001 the areal extent of papyrus in its range declined by 6.7% from 1,643 to 1,532 km2. This species is estimated to have decreased by 20.6% (80% CI: 7.7-42.5%) over three generations, based on a comparison of data from 1984-1987 and 1999-2001. Rates of population decline were estimated by assuming that relationships between density, occurrence and habitat variables derived from 1999–2001 data, were the same in 1984–1987, and assumed a constant geometric annual rate of decline. The population is therefore estimated to be in moderately rapid decline based on estimated losses of papyrus swamp habitat and decreases in local population density (Maclean et al. 2013).

The species is confined to papyrus Cyperus papyrus swamps and beds, in meandering river valleys and along lake-shores (Fry et al. 2000). It feeds on ants, beetles, weevils, small flies, Hymenopterans, catepillars, snails and fruit (Fry et al. 2000).

This species's highly specialised habitat requirements make it susceptible to threats such as drainage, burning and the over-exploitation of wetlands. In Kigezi district, Uganda, and neighbouring regions in Rwanda and DRC, more than 75% of wetlands were drained between the early 1980s and 2001 (Maclean et al. 2013). Geographical variation in the conversion of wetlands points to agricultural development being the main cause. On-going and future habitat losses are likely, particularly in western Kenya. Yala Swamp, the largest remaining area of intact papyrus, is highly threatened by on-going agricultural developments, with further plans to construct dams and embark on aquaculture and industrial development projects, which could render the entire site unsuitable for papyrus (Maclean et al. 2013). Papyrus swamps are also reported to be declining rapidly in Rwanda, primarily through conversion to agriculture, especially sugar cane plantations, as well as subsistence farming (J. Anderson in litt. 2013, J. Hogg in litt. 2013, C. Nsabagasani in litt. 2013). Papyrus in Rugei Marsh has been completely cleared, followed by the disappearance of the species, and Akanyaru and Nyabarongo have also been heavily affected by crop production (C. Nsabagasani in litt. 2013). Similar trends and threats are noted in Burundi (L. Ntahuga in litt. 2013). In addition to outright conversion, many smaller swamps are subject to the harvesting of sand and vegetation, with papyrus culms used in construction, handcrafts and fuel, as well as periodic burning and use for fish ponds (Maclean et al. 2013, M. Odino in litt. 2013). It is noteworthy that, around Lake Victoria, many of these activities have been catalysed by the collapse of the region's fisheries (Maclean et al. 2013, M. Odino in litt, 2013). Another threat, particularly in urban areas, is dredging for brick-making clay, which is fuelled by rapid economic development (Maclean et al. 2013). Pollution of papyrus swamps, caused by fertiliser run-off from agricultural fields, leading to algal blooms, is a further threat to the species's habitat (J. Anderson in litt. 2013).

Conservation Actions Underway
No targeted conservation actions are known for this species, although its status has received attention recently through surveys and trend analysis (Maclean et al. 2013). Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor population trends through regular surveys. Monitor trends in the area and quality of suitable habitat. Protect suitable habitat for the species. Investigate potential community initiatives, such as encouraging alternative livelihoods in order to alleviate pressure on wetlands.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

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.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Christie, D. 2009. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Fry, C. H.; Keith, S. 2000. The birds of Africa vol. VI. Academic Press, London.

Maclean, I. M. D.; Bird, J. P.; Hassall, M. 2013. Papyrus swamp drainage and the conservation status of their avifauna. Wetlands Ecology and Management.

Maclean, I.M.D. 2004. An ecological and socio-economic analysis of biodiversity conservation of East African wetlands. . PhD Thesis.

Vande weghe, J. P. 1981. L'avifaune des papyraies du Rwanda et du Burundi. Le Gerfaut 71: 489-536.

Zimmerman, D. A.; Turner, D. A.; Pearson, D. J. 1996. Birds of Kenya and northern Tanzania. Helm, London.

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
Evans, M., Fisher, S., O'Brien, A., Robertson, P., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Anderson, J., Baker, N., Hogg, J., Nsabagasani, C., Ntahuga, L. & Odino, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Laniarius mufumbiri. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016.

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.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Papyrus gonolek (Laniarius mufumbiri) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Malaconotidae (Helmetshrikes, bushshrikes and puffbacks)
Species name author Ogilvie-Grant, 1911
Population size 2000000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 99,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change