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Knysna Warbler Bradypterus sylvaticus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This rarely seen species is classified as Vulnerable because it has a small, severely fragmented range and population, which are suspected to be undergoing a continuing decline owing to the loss and degradation of suitable habitat. In 1992, it was reported to be extremely numerous and under no threat, but recent information indicates otherwise.

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.

14-15 cm. Medium-sized, drab, brown warbler. Paler brown underparts. Pinkish-brown bill. Olive-brown legs. Similar spp. Difficult to separate from African Scrub-warbler B. barratti, which has spotted throat and longer tail. Voice Song is an accelerating trill.

Distribution and population
Bradypterus sylvaticus is endemic to South Africa, being restricted to remnant forest patches in coastal regions of the Eastern and Western Cape. The population is highly fragmented, with four main isolated subpopulations. These are concentrated upon: the coast between Port St Johns and Dwesa Nature Reserve, the Southern Cape, from Tsitsikamma to Sedgefield, the south slopes of the Langeberg Mountains, near Swellendam, and the east slopes of Table Mountain. It also formerly occurred around Durban. Estimates of a population of hundreds of thousands in 1992 have been revised by the paucity of atlas records, which strongly suggest that it is far rarer, and probably numbers c.2,500 individuals. Some of the atlas data may, however, be misleading as the area between Durban and East London in the former Transkei was not well covered, giving the impression of a discontinuous distribution (N. Smith in litt. 2007). The small and most westerly population, located on the Cape Peninsula and now isolated by urbanisation, is believed to have halved in size since the late 1980s and may now number as few as 25-30 pairs (Pryke et al. 2010).

Population justification
The paucity of atlas records strongly suggests that it is far rarer than previously thought, and probably numbers c.2,500 individuals. Some of the atlas data may, however, be misleading as the area between Durban and East London in the former Transkei was not well covered, giving the impression of a discontinuous distribution (N. Smith in litt. 2007), thus it is probably best placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals. This estimate equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
This species's population is suspected to be declining in line with habitat loss and degradation within its range. The likely rate of decline, however, has not been estimated.

It typically occurs in thick, tangled vegetation along the banks of watercourses, or covering drainage lines in fynbos forest patches, or on the edges of afromontane forest. It occurs at the base of vegetation, and appears to frequently forage on the ground. It has adapted well to thickets of non-native brambles Rubus, and on the Cape Peninsula has retreated from natural, protected forests and colonised narrow belts of suburban riverine woodland, which may provide the dense understorey vegetation which appears critical for nesting (Pryke et al. 2010). Despite this, there are absolutely no records of range extension, suggesting that it either has very poor dispersal ability or very poor reproductive capacity.

Habitat loss, which resulted in the demise of the Durban population, is the primary threat and is largely a result of clearance of coastal forests. Burning of fire-breaks adjacent to forests is also causing habitat loss, and may prevent uncontrollable wildfires - like those recently on the Cape Peninsula - which could burn substantial areas of habitat. Conversely, the lack of a natural fire regime may also prove detrimental, as fynbos vegetaion may eventually become replaced by forest and the understorey vegetation required for nesting may become more sparse (Pryke et al. 2010). Removal of non-native brambles, the subject of several eradication campaigns, may ironically have negative impacts. Inbreeding depression may become a problem, particularly in the tiny, fragmented Eastern Cape subpopulation.

Conservation Actions Underway
The Table Mountain subpopulation falls within the boundaries of the Cape Peninsula Protected Natural Environment, but a large proportion occurs in suburbia. It is also frequently recorded in the Tsitsikamma National Park, and the scarce Eastern Cape population probably occurs at Dwesa and Cwebe Nature Reserves. Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct thorough surveys of singing males in the breeding season to clarify distribution and abundance. Conduct research into its habitat preferences, reproductive capacity and dispersal. Assess genetic divergence between the widely separated Eastern and Southern Cape races. Preserve suitable native habitat. Prevent clearance of non-native brambles, if this will negatively affect core populations.

Barnes, K. N. 2000. The Eskom Red Data Book of birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.

Pryke, J. S.; Samways, M. J.; Hockey, P. A. R. 2010. Persistence of the threatened Knysna warbler Bradypterus sylvaticus in an urban landscape: do gardens substitute for fire? African Journal of Ecology 49(2): 199-208.

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., Pilgrim, J., Symes, A., Taylor, J.

Smith, N.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Bradypterus sylvaticus. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016.

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 - Knysna warbler (Bradypterus sylvaticus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Sylviidae (Old World warblers)
Species name author Sundevall, 1860
Population size 2500-9999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 8,800 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change