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This species is considered Critically Endangered because it has a tiny occupied range of c.1.5 km2, within which its montane forest habitat has become severely fragmented and continues to decline in both extent and quality. Its very small population has consequently been fragmented into extremely small subpopulations. Recent surveys suggest that the species has experienced a severe population decline in its remaining habitat and that the population may now be lower than previously estimated. Further study and analyses are required to confirm these findings.
Apalis thoracica (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) has been split into A. thoracica, A. fuscigularis, A. lynesi and A. flavigularis following Collar et al. (1994). A. t. fuscigularis (1) does not respond to tape playback of nearest neighbours; and further differs from them in having (2) an all-dark throat with brown chin (3) underparts with virtually no yellow or buffy tinge (appearing stone-white); (4) slightly darker brownish head than majority of others; (5) darkest back. Also differs from nominate in (1-5) and in having lores to lower cheek brown not black. Compared to morphologically closest race youngi (Ufipa) differs in having (1) white throat; (2) very slightly yellowish-washed lower flanks and rump; (3) paler lores; (4) underparts clearer white; (5) darker tail; (6) pale tips to T3. No information on vocal differences.
11-12 cm. Medium-sized, arboreal warbler. Sooty-grey upperparts, with darker wings and tail. Black throat and breast. White to off-white belly and vent. Silvery-white eyes. Voice Repeated call pilllipp pillipp, similar to Bar-throated Apalis (A. thoracica). Hints Easily found in forest patches in Taita Hills, Kenya.
This species is now restricted to a small number of forest fragments in the Dabida and Mbololo massifs, Taita Hills, Kenya (Samba in litt. 1997). Surveys in 1996 found the species only in Ngangao (120 ha), Chawia (86 ha), Fururu (8 ha) and Vuria (1 ha) forest fragments (Brooks et al. 1998). Analysis of unlimited point count data collected in 2001 suggests that the global population numbered 310-654 individuals (Borghesio et al. 2010). The same surveys found it occurred at much lower density in Chawia than in Ngangao and Vuria (Samba in litt. 1997, Borghesio et al. 2010). Surveys in 2009-2011 located the species on the Mbololo massif (200 ha of forest remaining), and at Fururu and Yale (16 ha of indigenous forest with a 98 ha plantation), as well as at Ngangao, Chawia and Vuria. Moreover, one small subpopulation of the species was discovered in 2011 in Msidunji (8 ha), a previously unmapped forest fragment (L. Borghesio in litt. 2012). Data collected during surveys in 2009, 2010 and 2011 strongly suggest that the species has undergone a severe decline since 2001, with the population estimate now preliminarily put at 100-150 individuals including the newly discovered Msidunji population (Githiru and Borghesio 2010, BirdLife International 2010, L. Borghesio in litt. 2012). The reasons for the apparent decline are uncertain, as illegal logging and disturbance have been significantly reduced, although a serious drought in 2009 may have been a factor.
Analysis of data from unlimited distance point counts carried out in 2001 suggests that the total population numbered 310-654 individuals (Borghesio et al. 2010), roughly equating to 210-430 mature individuals, which is the estimate used here; however, surveys conducted in 2009-2011 suggest that a severe decline has recently taken place, and that the population may now number only 100-150 individuals (BirdLife International 2010, L. Borghesio in litt. 2012). Further study and analyses are required to confirm the population trend and new population estimate.
Most of the original forest in the Taita Hills has been cleared for cultivation or reforested with non-native, timber-tree species. Surveys in 2009-2010 strongly suggest that the species has undergone a severe decline of up to 80% since 2001 (Githiru and Borghesio 2010, BirdLife International 2010, L. Borghesio in litt. 2012). The reasons for the apparent decline are uncertain, as illegal logging and disturbance have been significantly reduced, although a serious drought in 2009 may have been a factor.
The species inhabits the understorey of montane forest, favouring gaps and edges with thick undergrowth, where it gleans insects from vegetation mainly between 0-2 m above ground (Samba in litt. 1997, M. Githiru in litt. 2008). It shows a preference for areas with a high cover of climbers and, to a lesser extent, of Dracaena, although in general the species's occurrence in forest fragments shows only a weak relationship with habitat characteristics such as structure and floristics (Borghesio et al. 2010). The high frequency of this species in the disturbed, scrub-like vegetation of Vuria suggests that it is tolerant of wood-cutting and disturbance by humans (Borghesio et al. 2010). It normally moves singly or in pairs (rarely in small family parties of 3 to 4 individuals), searching leaves, twigs, branches and tree-trunks, sometimes descending to the ground and flycatching, feeding on small invertebrates and occasionally berries and seeds (Urban et al. 1997, M. Githiru in litt. 2008). It is territorial, with a clutch-size of 2-4 (Urban et al. 1997).
Most of the original forest in the Taita Hills has been cleared for cultivation or reforested with non-native, timber-tree species, and the remaining tiny area is under serious threat (Urban et al. 1997, Brooks et al. 1998). Lack of clear boundary demarcations for some protected forest fragments may compromise conservation efforts. Wildfires have also been recorded as one of the threats to the forest fragment at Vuria, and a serious drought in 2009 may have been a factor in the apparent recent population crash. Nest predation in the Taita hills may be high due to edge effects compounded by the small size of forest fragments (Spanhove et al. 2009), which may also be affecting the species. Remaining forest fragments have been reasonably well protected and habitat loss is unlikely to have caused recent declines. Having a montane distribution that is close to the maximum altitude within its range, this species is potentially susceptible to climate change (BirdLife International unpublished data). Since 2012, sightings of A. thoracica in the Taita Hills have been increasing, creating fears of hybridization between the two species.
Conservation and Research Actions Underway
The Forest Department is now safeguarding the remaining forest fragments of the Taita Hills. An international collaborative research project is ongoing and includes a large ornithological component, which aims to provide the necessary ecological data to plan conservation policies for this and other restricted-range bird species in the area (L. Bennun in litt. 1999). The Taita Hills have been designated as an IBA and Nature Kenya are committed to conserving the area. Recent conservation work in the Taita Hills has resulted in the reduced attrition of indigenous forests, and with plans to carry out reforestation and connect forest patches, there is optimism that the habitat will improve. As part of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions programme for this species and Taita Thrush, the following actions were planned (BirdLife International 2008): 1. Tree nurseries to be established by local community-led Environmental Committees. Indigenous trees will be used to restore degraded habitat and enhance the connectivity of scattered forest fragments, whilst on adjacent agricultural land fast-growing non-native species will be planted to provide a buffer zone. 2. Income-generating activities including bee-keeping and butterfly-rearing have been initiated and farmers have been educated in environmentally responsible agriculture practices. 3. Data from the first in-depth study on the Taita Apalis is being analysed and should provide valuable insights into the ecology of the species, aiding effective conservation. 4. Nature Kenya has initiated the development of local capacity through catalyzing the formation of a Site Support Group (SSG), which aims to enable local people to constructively engage in conservation of the IBA. A Darwin Initiative project has been set up in the Taita Hills and as part of this an International Species Action Plan is being developed (A. Ward-Francis in litt. 2014). Msidunyi Forest, a 6.28 ha area of forest habitat containing 6% of the global population of the species has been leased by Nature Kenya with funding from the World Land Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the African Bird Club (Anon. 2015). Nature Kenya also plans to restore 115 ha of forest adjacent to Msidunyi Forest.
Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Study its ecology and continue to monitor its population size (L. Bennun in litt. 1999). Initiate an outreach programme to local communities, in particular to discuss the benefits of conserving the remaining forests (Brooks 1997, L. Bennun in litt. 1999). Draw up management plans based on the results of the ongoing ecological surveys, in close conjunction with the Forest Department and local communities (Brooks 1997, L. Bennun in litt. 1999). Remove non-native trees from within indigenous forest and continue to reforest cleared areas with native trees (Brooks 1997, L. Bennun in litt. 1999). Continue sustainable forest-use schemes based on ecotourism and the harvest of forest products (Brooks 1997, L. Bennun in litt. 1999). Estimate the species's population trend and, if a severe decline is confirmed, carry out research into the possible causes. Evaluate the possibility of strengthening the very small Chawia population with translocated individuals (L. Borghesio in litt. 2012). Protect the currently ungazetted Msidunji forest (L. Borghesio in litt. 2012). Investigate the potential and impact of hybridization with A. thoracica. Nature Kenya plan to buy or lease more private land to ensure key habitat for the species is protected (Anon. 2015).
Related state of the world's birds case studies
Anon. 2015. Help save the Taita Apalis from extinction. Nature Kenya. Available at: http://www.naturekenya.org/content/help-save-taita-apalis. (Accessed: 27/07/2015).
BirdLife International. 2008. Species Guardian Action Update: November 2008: Taita Thrush Turdus helleri, Taita Apalis Apalis fuscigularis. Available at: #http://www.birdlife.org/extinction/pdfs/Taita_Thrush_and_Taita_Apalis_Guardian_Action_Update_Nov08.pdf#.
BirdLife International. 2010. A review of local conservation groups in Africa.
Borghesio, L.; Samba, D.; Githiru, M.; Bennun, L.; Norris, K. 2010. Population estimates and habitat use by the Critically Endangered Taita Apalis Apalis fuscigularis in south-eastern Kenya. Bird Conservation International 20(4): 440-455.
Brooks, T. 1997. Threatened birds of Kenya 9: Taita Thrush. Kenya Birds 5(2): 102-104.
Brooks, T.; Lens, L.; Barnes, J.; Barnes, R.; Kageche Kihuria, J.; Wilder, C. 1998. The conservation status of the forest birds of the Taita Hills, Kenya. Bird Conservation International 8: 119-139.
Collar, N. J.; Crosby, M. J.; Stattersfield, A. J. 1994. Birds to watch 2: the world list of threatened birds. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
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.
IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 19 November 2015).
Sibley, C.G. and Monroe, B.L. 1990. Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Sibley, C.G. and Monroe, B.L. 1993. A supplement to 'Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World'. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Spanhove, T.; Lehouck, V.; Lens, L. 2009. Inverse edge effect on nest predation in a Kenyan forest fragment: an experimental case study. Bird Conservation International 19: 367-378.
Urban, E. K.; Fry, C. H.; Keith, S. 1997. The birds of Africa vol. V. Academic Press, London.
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Wright, L & Ashpole, J
Bennun, L., Githiru, M., Borghesio, L. & Ward-Francis, A.
IUCN Red List evaluators
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Apalis fuscigularis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/09/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/09/2016.
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.
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Additional resources for this species
|Current IUCN Red List category||Critically Endangered|
|Family||Cisticolidae (Cisticolas and allies)|
|Species name author||Moreau, 1938|
|Population size||210-430 mature individuals|
|Distribution size (breeding/resident)||240 km2|
|Links to further information|
|- Additional Information on this species|