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Gabela Akalat Sheppardia gabela
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This poorly known species has a very small range, which is severely fragmented, and its forest habitat is likely to be declining in area, extent and quality. Its population is likely to be highly fragmented and declining. It is therefore classified as Endangered.

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.

13 cm. Small, drab, featureless robin. Dull brown upperparts and white to off-white underparts with brown breast-band. White throat contrasts with breast-band. Voice Mournful two-note whistle, repeated; also high pitched weeh-weeh-weeh repeated with intermittent mechanical scraping call. Hints Very shy and difficult to observe.

Distribution and population
Sheppardia gabela is known only from a few forest patches within 40 km of Gabela, on the escarpment of western Angola. A recent brief survey (2003) found that the forest around Gabela has largely been transformed, but three individuals of this species were recorded at a single, large forest block which survives near the village of Kumbira, in regenerating coffee and in secondary bush near the town of Seles (C. Cohen, M. Mills and C. Spottiswoode in litt. 2003, Mills et al. 2004, Ryan et al. 2004). Surveys in 2005 found the species at two additional sites within the known range (Mills 2010). It may possibly occur in other relict patches of forest on the escarpment, but suitable habitat is severely restricted. The species's global range of 1,090 km2 and the estimated local deforestation rate of 20-70% can be used to estimate the area of available habitat at 327-872 km2 (Sekercioðlu and Riley 2005). With this information, and assuming a territory size of 3 ha per pair (maximum for well-studied Sheppardia species), the minimum global population is estimated to number 21,800 mature individuals (Sekercioðlu and Riley 2005). However, the area of available habitat is probably much smaller than the estimate used (M. Mills in litt. 2007), thus this is considered a maximum population estimate. This calculation may include unsuitable forest habitat, and the deforestation rate may be over 70%, however countering this, the species is common in some modified habitats (Sekercioðlu and Riley 2005).

Population justification
Using an estimate of the area of available habitat of 327-872 km2, and assuming a territory size of 3 ha per pair the minimum global population is estimated to number 21,800 mature individuals. The area of suitable habitat is probably much smaller than the estimate used (M. Mills in litt. 2007), so this may well be an overestimate: the population is thus precautionarily placed in the band 10,000-19,999 mature individuals. This equates to 15,000-29,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 15,000-30,000 individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in moderate decline owing to the ongoing clearance of its habitats for subsistence agriculture.

It is found in the dense understorey of a few remaining primary and secondary forest patches at or above 1,100 m, but as low as 810 m (Mills et al. 2004). It has been observed in scrubby edges of managed "coffee forest", but is probably dependent on nearby, more intact forest. It has been observed mostly at heights of 4-6 m above the forest floor (Sekercioðlu and Riley 2005). It is probably exclusively insectivorous, gleaning insects from leaves and branches of undergrowth. Its breeding ecology is unknown although birds in breeding condition have been found in September. Two immature birds were trapped in Kumbira Forest in January 2004, probably constituting the first breeding record for the species (Sekercioðlu and Riley 2005). Territory size is probably in the range of other well-studied Sheppardia species, at around 0.5-3 ha per pair (Sekercioðlu and Riley 2005).

It is threatened by loss of habitat from subsistence agriculture, which possibly affects 30% of forest in the Kumbira area (Sekercioðlu and Riley 2005). In some areas, 20-70% of canopy trees and all the undergrowth in valley bottoms is being cleared to plant bananas and sweet potatoes (Dean 2001). In other areas, up to 95% of the forest canopy is being removed to plant cassava and maize (Dean 2001). Since the 1930s, shaded coffee plantations have been developed in the forests of the escarpment (Sekercioðlu and Riley 2005). It is likely that suitable habitat has increased since the mid-1970s, as civil war has forced out commercial farmers and resulted in the abandonment of shaded coffee plantations (Mills et al. 2004, Sekercioðlu and Riley 2005), however, relict coffee plantations are now being encroached by subsistence agriculture (Sinclair et al. 2004). With the return of peace, commercial activities on the Angolan escarpment (such as coffee growing) (Sinclair et al. 2004) are expected to resume, presenting a serious threat to the species (Mills et al. 2004). In particular, the replacement of shade-grown coffee with sun-tolerant varieties could pose a serious threat (Ryan et al. 2004). The marketing of local produce is currently limited by the poor state of the Sumbe-Gabela road, however this is a priority for reconstruction, which would contribute to increased development and agriculture in the area (Ryan et al. 2004). Most of Kumbira Forest was selectively logged before the civil war (Sinclair et al. 2004) and, although there is no evidence of ongoing logging, the forest continues to be a source of firewood (Sekercioðlu and Riley 2005).

Conservation Actions Underway
A protected area of 50 km2 in the region was recommended in the early 1970s, but has not been established (Dean 2001). Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to estimate the population size and ascertain its presence in other forest patches. Survey forest cover in the Gabela region by studying satellite imagery, in order to improve the population estimate (Sekercioðlu and Riley 2005). Designate the forest at Gabela as a protected area (the only effective conservation action possible) (W. R. J. Dean in litt. 1999). Implement a conservation strategy for the Angolan escarpment in reaction to the resumption of commercial activities (Mills et al. 2004). Promote ecotourism as a viable supplement to agriculture (as tourism becomes possible) (Sinclair et al. 2004). Study the species's territory size by radio-tracking individuals (Sekercioðlu and Riley 2005). Preserve Kumbira Forest through official protection and community-based conservation (Sekercioðlu and Riley 2005).

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. 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.

Mills, M. S. L. 2010. Angola's central scarp forests: patterns of bird diversity and conservation threats. Biodiversity and Conservation 19(7): 1883-1903.

Mills, M.; Cohen, C.; Spottiswoode, C. 2004. Little-known African bird: Gabela Akalat, Angola's long-neglected Gabelatrix. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 11: 149-151.

Ryan, P. G.; Sinclair, I.; Cohen, C.; Mills, M.S. L.; Spottiswoode, C.N.; Cassidy, R. 2004. The conservation status and vocalizations of threatened birds from the scarp forests of the Western Angola Endemic Bird Area. Bird Conservation International 14: 247-260.

Sekercioglu, C.H.; Riley, A. 2005. A brief survey of the birds in Kumbira Forest, Gabela, Angola. Ostrich 76(3&4): 111-117.

Sinclair, I.; Spottiswoode, C.; Cohen, C.; Mills, M.; Cassidy, R.; vaz Pinto, P.; Ryan, P. 2004. Birding western Angola. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 11(2): 152-160.

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

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Ekstrom, J., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J.

Cohen, C., Dean, R., Mills, M., Spottiswoode, C.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Sheppardia gabela. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016.

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 - Gabela akalat (Sheppardia gabela) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Muscicapidae (Chats and Old World flycatchers)
Species name author (Rand, 1957)
Population size 10000-19999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 1,100 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species