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Aberdare Cisticola Cisticola aberdare
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Within this species's very small range, much of its habitat is probably being lost rapidly and becoming severely fragmented, owing to agricultural development and intensified livestock production. It is therefore listed 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.

12-15 cm. Medium-sized, grass-dwelling warbler. Well-streaked buff-and-black on upperparts. Uniform buffy underparts. Similar spp. Stout Cisticola C. robustus has rufous nape and hindneck and slightly longer tail. Voice Mixture of peeuu tew tew and shorter trills. Mostly silent except when breeding. Hints Upland moorland above 3,000 m in Aberdare Mountains, and grassland above 2,300 m around Molo and Mau Narok.

Distribution and population
Cisticola aberdare is found in central Kenya where it is locally common in suitable habitat (Zimmerman et al. 1996) on both sides of the Rift Valley, at Molo, Mau Narok and the Aberdare Mountains. Recent studies confirm the presence of the species in very low numbers at 2,400 m-2,700 m on the Kinangop Plateau, at the base of the Aberdare Mountains (L. Bennun in litt. 1999, 2000, P. Adhiambo in litt. 2008). Simple extrapolation of density figures in the Aberdares indicates a population there of c.50,000 birds (L. Bennun in litt. 1999, 2000, W. Gatarabirwa in litt. 1999, 2000). In 2000, 1,750 ±60 individuals were estimated at Mau Narok and Molo (P. Adhiambo in litt. 2007). A 2011 survey found the species in fairly good numbers in suitable habitat, with 137 individuals counted within an area of 35.6 ha (c4 birds/ha) (Malaki et al. 2011), however the rapid loss of grassland at Mau Narok and Molo, which now covers less than a third of the extent estimated in the late 1990s (P. Adhiambo in litt. 2007), suggests that the population is experiencing a rapid, ongoing population decline.

Population justification
Simple extrapolation of density figures in the Aberdares indicates a population there of c.50,000 birds (L. Bennun in litt. 1999, 2000, W. Gatarabirwa in litt. 1999, 2000), thus the population is placed in the range bracket for 50,000-999,999 individuals.

Trend justification
The rapid loss of grassland at Mau Narok and Molo, which now covers less than a third of the extent estimated in the late 1990s (P. Adhiambo in litt. 2007), suggests that the population is experiencing a rapid and ongoing population decline.

It inhabits moist highland grassland above 2,300 m (Zimmerman et al. 1996), although in the Aberdares it occurs only on moorland above c.3,000 m. It is often the most abundant cisticola species present (Urban et al. 1997), with a mean density of 3.2 birds/ha in the Aberdares (W. Gatarabirwa in litt. 1999, 2000), and overlaps with the closely-related C. robustus in several places, at around 2,300-2,400 m (Urban et al. 1997). It feeds on insects (Urban et al. 1997). Five clutches (four of two eggs and one of one egg) have been found between early March and mid-June (W. Gatarabirwa in litt. 1999, 2000). A nest found on moorland in 2000 was described as a ball of woven soft grass tussocks (Deschampsia flexuosa), lined with the cotton-like seed-head of a thistle species Carduus chamaecephalus, with a side entrance near the top (Eshiamwata and Karimi 2003). It was sandwiched in grass about 30 cm off the ground amongst tough grass tussocks and Alchemilla argyrophylla (Eshiamwata and Karimi 2003).

In the Mau Narok/Molo grasslands, this species is probably threatened by rapid habitat loss and fragmentation due to expanding cultivation and intensified livestock production (Keith et al. 1992, Lens et al. 1996, P. Adhiambo in litt. 2007). Many areas of grassland, especially in Mau Narok, are subjected to burning by farmers to improve grazing quality, often repeatedly with the onset of the rainy season, which may destroy grass tussocks used for nesting (P. Adhiambo in litt. 2007). Fires in the dry season (late January to March), possibly started by illegal honey-gatherers, sometimes burn large areas of moorland in the Aberdare National Park, and may be a further threat, given that densities are much lower in recently burned areas (L. Bennun in litt. 1999, 2000, W. Gatarabirwa in litt. 1999, 2000). The nests may be vulnerable to damage by livestock and tractors (Eshiamwata and Karimi 2003, P. Adhiambo in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions Underway
Its range in the Aberdare Mountains is entirely within the Aberdare National Park. Elsewhere, its habitat is poorly conserved by the protected-area system (Lens et al. 1996). Fieldwork took place in 2000 as part of a project to study the species's altitudinal distribution and the effects of fire in the Aberdare central moorlands (Eshiamwata and Karimi 2003). Conservation Actions Proposed
Assess its status on the Mau Narok/Molo grasslands and initiate conservation measures there (L. Bennun in litt. 1999, 2000). Initiate a scheme to monitor its population and distribution. Monitor threats to the species, and collect nest records to assess the danger from trampling (Eshiamwata and Karimi 2003). Survey the Kinangop Plateau for its presence. Study the species's tolerance of land-use changes (P. Adhiambo in litt. 2007). Work with farmers to change land management practices. Increase the area of suitable habitat that has protected status.

Eshiamwata, G. W.; Karimi, S. 2003. First Aberdare Cisticola nest and eggs in moorland. Kenya Birds 10(1&2): 6.

Keith, S.; Urban, E. K.; Fry, C. H. 1992. The birds of Africa vol. IV. Academic Press, London.

Lens, L.; Duchateau, L.; Bennun, L. 1996. How grassland fragmentation and change in land-use affect Sharpe's Longclaw Macronyx sharpei, a Kenyan highland endemic. Ninth Pan-African Ornithological Congress: programme and book of abstracts, pp. 57. Ghana Wildlife Society, Accra.

Malaki, P.; Wamiti, W.; Opany, C.; Waweru, J. 2011. Survey of the current status of Aberdare Cisticola Cisticola aberdare in the central moorlands of Aberdares National Park. Unpublished report.

Urban, E. K.; Fry, C. H.; Keith, S. 1997. The birds of Africa vol. V. Academic Press, London.

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
Benstead, P., Ekstrom, J., Evans, T., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J.

Adhiambo, P., Bennun, L., Gatarabirwa, L.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Cisticola aberdare. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

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 - Aberdare cisticola (Cisticola aberdare) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Cisticolidae (Cisticolas and allies)
Species name author Lynes, 1930
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 1,300 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species