This poorly known species is likely to be declining moderately rapidly overall, as a result of habitat loss and degradation in large parts of its range, although the effects of these changes are unclear, and may vary regionally. It is currently considered Near Threatened.
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Distribution and populationPrinia burnesii
Prinia burnesii (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) was split into P. burnesii and P. cinerascens by Rasmussen and Anderton (2005): this treatment is under review by the BirdLife Taxonomic Working Group.
appears to have three disjunct populations, with subspecies burnesii
in the plains of the Indus in Pakistan
and adjacent north-west India
, subspecies cinerascens
in the plains of the Brahmaputra River, Assam and western Bihar in north-east India and adjacent northern Bangladesh
(with possibly no records in Bangladesh since the early 1970s [P. Thompson in litt
. 2011]), and subspecies nepalicola
, discovered in April 2005 and restricted to islands in the Koshi River in Nepal, although birds in Bihar (India) may also belong to this subspecies
(T. Inskipp in litt
. The population in Pakistan and north-west India is locally common or abundant in its restricted habitat in the Punjab and northern Sind, much less so in southern Sind, and the eastern population was also formerly locally common, but with few recent published records. Subspecies cinerascens
now appears to be very localised or present at very low densities along the Brahmaputra River, perhaps owing to specialised habitat requirements (J. Eaton in litt
. 2010, R, Kumar Das in litt
. 2011). The population in Nepal (subspecies nepalicola
) was estimated at c.500 birds in 2007, although flooding in 2008 may have impacted its habitat (C. Inskipp and H. Baral in litt
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is described as locally numerous in the Indus floodplain in Pakistan and locally frequent in parts of India (del Hoyo et al
. 2006), while it is evidently very scarce and localised in other areas (e.g. J. Eaton in litt
. 2010, R. K. Das in litt
. 2011).Trend justification
A moderately rapid and on-going decline is suspected, owing to habitat loss and degradation.Ecology
This species is found in long grasslands, sometimes where mixed with acacias and tamarisks, mainly in the vicinity of large rivers and their tributaries and in swamps. In Pakistan and north-west India, subspecies burnseii
is able to utilise some agricultural habitats, occurring around lakes, irrigation channels and watercourses. The spread of these habitats has apparently allowed it to colonise new areas. Subspecies cinerascens
may have very specialised habitat requirements that result in a very localised distribution or low population densities (J. Eaton in litt
. 2010, R. K. Das in litt
. 2011). In Nepal, subspecies nepalicola
is known to inhabit grassland patches of about five years of age, and is absent from heavily disturbed grasslands (C. Inskipp and H. Baral in litt
. 2011). Threats
The destruction and modification of grassland and wetland habitats for agricultural development is on-going throughout the species's range. The effects of these changes are unclear - populations in Pakistan and India (burnesii
) are apparently able to tolerate some agricultural habitats. The population in Bangladesh and north-east India is poorly known and seldom recorded, and may be less tolerant of habitat change. There are unlikely to be any patches of suitable year-round habitat remaining in Bangladesh, as most floodplain grasslands are harvested before complete innundation during the monsoon (P. Thompson in litt
. 2011). Monitored birds near Dibru-Saikhowa National Park suffered almost total habitat loss in 2010 when local villagers cleared grassland for agriculture, and birds have since been seen in open grassland nearby (R. K. Das in litt
. 2011). It is probably also threatened by the impacts of livestock grazing in reserves such as Dibru Saikhowa (J. Eaton in litt
. 2011). The known population of subspecies nepalicola
may have suffered habitat alteration caused by severe monsoon flooding in 2008 (C. Inskipp and H. Baral in litt
. 2011).Conservation Actions Underway
The species has been the subject of monitoring at Dibru-Saikhowa National Park (Rajan Kumar in litt
. 2011), and it occurs in a number of other protected areas.Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys within the species's range to determine its current distribution, local abundance, total population size and population trends. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation throughout its range. Conduct ecological studies to improve understanding of its precise habitat requirements, with a particular focus on levels of tolerance of secondary habitats in subspecies cinerascens
. Effectively protect significant areas of suitable habitat at key sites, in both strictly protected areas and community-led multiple use areas. Conduct further research to understand the taxonomy of subspecies nepalicola
BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Christie, D. 2006. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 11: Old World Flycatchers to Old World Warblers. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).
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., Gilroy, J., Taylor, J.
Baral, H., Das, K., Eaton, J., Inskipp, C., Inskipp, T., Thompson, P., Wilson, D.
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Prinia burnesii. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 28/06/2016.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 28/06/2016.
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.