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Yellow-crested Helmet-shrike Prionops alberti
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is likely to have a small population which is probably declining as its habitat, particularly in the Itombwe Mountains, is highly threatened. It is therefore classified as Vulnerable.

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.

20 cm. All-black shrike of forest canopy. Slightly glossy, black plumage relieved only by brilliant golden crest. Similar spp. Any black forest starling or drongos lack the yellow crest. Voice Musical, far-carrying double notes, with a second bird overlaying an oriole-like liquid bubbling type call in the middle of the sequence (Plumptre et al. 2007). Also, an up-slurred dzreeeeooo repeated twice, then a chattering call typical of helmet-shrikes, and a sharply down-slurred zwerp, zwerp followed by a nasal gurry-gurry, repeated four times, followed by a piping vaguely reminiscent of Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo Cercococcyx mechowi (Plumptre et al. 2007).

Distribution and population
Prionops alberti is known from four mountain ranges (west of Lake Edward, west of Lake Kivu, Itombwe, and Misotshi-Kabogo, formerly Mt Kabobo [Plumptre et al. 2007]) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a record from Bwindi (Impenetrable) Forest in Uganda being rejected. Surveys in southern and central Itombwe in 1996 recorded the species on multiple occasions west of the central savanna plateau, but it is apparently absent from similar habitat to the east (Omari et al. 1999).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be declining in line with the clearance of forest for agriculture within the species's range. The likely rate of decline, however, has not been estimated.

The species is found in montane forest above 1,400 m, being recorded between 1,700 m and 1,900 m in Itombwe in flocks of 5-8 birds (Omari et al. 1999) and between 1,770 m and 2,474 m in the Misotshi-Kabogo and Muganja Hills area in flocks of 3-8 birds (Plumptre et al. 2007).

It is threatened by forest clearance for smallholder agriculture throughout its range. This is a serious threat in Itombwe where human population densities are high and a blight has reduced yields of maize since the early 1990s, forcing farmers to clear new farms in the forest (Omari et al. 1999). All these problems are exacerbated by domestic and neighbouring civil unrest and large numbers of refugees in the area ( Clearance of forest for cattle pasture is also a threat in Itombwe, particularly at higher altitudes (Omari et al. 1999). Satellite image data suggest that the Itombwe region has lost at least 5-6% of its forest since 1980 (Plumptre et al. 2003); the true figure may be much higher.

Conservation Actions Underway
In the Itombwe Mountains there are projects run by WWF, WCS and ARCOS (Albertine Rift Conservation Society) (A. Plumptre in litt. 2007). These organisations are working with ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature) to delimit the boundary of a newly created community reserve (A. Plumptre in litt. 2007). ARCOS has initiated youth education in the area and has facilitated training in biodiversity assessment and monitoring techniques for a local team in Eastern DRC ( Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out surveys to assess the population size, utilising the recent recordings of the species's calls. Conduct regular surveys to monitor population trends, as long as the region is safe enough. Continue to monitor the clearance of forest within the species's range. Facilitate conservation initiatives in Itombwe, in collaboration with traditional authorities to limit further degradation (Butynski et al. 1997, Omari et al. 1999, Initiate habitat management and environmental education through the Albertine Rift Conservation Society.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Butynski, T. M.; Agenonga, U.; Ndera, B.; Hart, J. F. 1997. Rediscovery of the Congo Bay (Itombwe) Owl Phodilus prigoginei. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 4(1): 32-35.

Omari, I.; Hart, J. A.; Butynski, T. M.; Birnashirwa, N. R.; Upoki, A.; M'Keyo, Y.; Bengana, F.; Bashonga, M.; Baguruburnwe, N. 1999. The Itombwe Massif, Democratic Republic of Congo: biological surveys and conservation, with an emphasis on Grauer's gorilla and birds endemic to the Albertine Rift. Oryx 33: 301-322.

Plumptre, A. J.; Behangana, M.; Davenport, T. R. B.; Kahindo, C.; Kityo, R.; Ndomba, E.; Nkuutu, D.; Owiunji, I.; Ssegawa, P.; Eilu, G. 2003. The biodiversity of the Albertine Rift. Wildlife Conservation Society, New York.

Plumptre, A. J.; Kujirakwinja, D.; Matunguru, J.; Kahindo, C.; Kalaeme, P.; Marks, B.; Huhndorf, M. 2007. Biodiversity surveys in the Mishotshi-Kabogo and Marungu regions of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, with a focus on chimpanzees.

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
Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J.

Plumptre, A., Stevenson, T.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Prionops alberti. 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.

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 Vulnerable
Family Malaconotidae (Helmetshrikes, bushshrikes and puffbacks)
Species name author Schouteden, 1933
Population size 2500-9999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 33,700 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change