email a friend
printable version
Sao Tome White-eye Zosterops ficedulinus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species qualifies as Vulnerable because it is thought to have a small population, given the small area of suitable primary and mature secondary forest habitat within its range.

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 cm. Dark, olive-green and yellow, warbler-like bird of forest. Greenish-grey upperparts with greyer tones on head and a narrow white eye-ring. Greyish-yellow underparts with paler flanks. Voice Trilling ptirrr ptirrr and variations on this call.

Distribution and population
Zosterops ficedulinus is confined to São Tomé (subspecies feae) and Príncipe (subspecies ficedulinus), São Tomé e Príncipe. On Príncipe, it appears to have always been rare and is confined to the central massif, with a recent record from the south-east (J. Baillie and A. Gascoigne in litt. 2000). On São Tomé, its status is unclear. Various surveys have shown it to be patchily common, others that it is rare. Overall, it appears to be uncommon, being most abundant in the central massif and less so in the south-west with a spatially and temporarily variable distribution (Atkinson et al. 1991, Christy and Clarke 1998). It was thought to have declined between 1970 and 1990, but there is little evidence for this continuing.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 250-999 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 375-1,499 individuals in total, rounded here to 350-1,500 individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be stable as the species is not thought to face any serious threats at present.

On São Tomé, it prefers mid- to high-altitude forest up to 1,600 m, but also occurs in the lowlands. It utilises primary forest, old secondary growth and shade-forest in former cocoa plantations (Atkinson et al. 1991, Christy and Clarke 1998). The subspecies on Príncipe is confined to primary forest and forest edge (J. Baillie and A. Gascoigne in litt. 2000). It is usually found in small groups, often in mixed-species parties and is insectivorous.

Historically, large areas of primary forest, on both islands, were cleared for cocoa and coffee plantations. Today, land privatisation is leading to an increase in the number of small farms and the clearance of trees. This does not currently affect primary forest, but may be a threat in the future (J. Baillie and A. Gascoigne in litt. 2000). Limited areas of secondary and primary forest, particularly in the north of its range on São Tomé, are threatened by clearance for cultivation, timber and fuelwood-collection (Atkinson et al. 1991). Road developments along the east and west coasts of São Tomé are increasing access to previously remote areas (A. Gascoigne in litt. 2000). Construction for the country's developing oil industry, including the established idea of building 'free ports' (free economic zones) (M. Melo in litt. 2003), was seen as a potential threat to the species's habitat. However, prospecting on land was unsuccessful, and any construction is likely to be offshore (F. Olmos in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions Underway
A new law providing for the gazetting of protected areas and the protection of threatened species (A. Gascoigne in litt. 2000, M. Melo in litt. 2003) has been ratified (F. Olmos in litt. 2007). Legislation for the creation of Obo National Park has also been ratified (F. Olmos in litt. 2007) and protection of primary forest as a zona ecologica has been proposed. Conservation Actions Proposed
Research its population size and distribution. Study its habitat requirements. Ensure legal protection of all remaining lowland primary forest. List it as a protected species under national law.

Atkinson, P.; Peet, N.; Alexander, J. 1991. The status and conservation of the endemic bird species of Sao Tomé and Príncipe, West Africa. Bird Conservation International 1: 255-282.

Christy, P.; Clarke, W. V. 1998. Guide des Oiseaux de Sao Tome et Principe. ECOFAC, Sao Tome.

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., Peet, N., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J.

Baillie, J., Gascoigne, A., Melo, M., Olmos, F.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Zosterops ficedulinus. 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 - Sao Tome white-eye (Zosterops ficedulinus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Zosteropidae (White-eyes)
Species name author Hartlaub, 1866
Population size 250-999 mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 440 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species