email a friend
printable version
Long-billed Tailorbird Artisornis moreaui
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information
BirdLife Species Champion Become a BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme Supporter
BirdLife Species Guardian Norbert Cordeiro
For information about BirdLife Species Champions and Species Guardians visit the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

While this species can now be found reliably in parts of the East Usambara plateau, Tanzania, virtually nothing is known about its recent status in northern Mozambique. Its low population density and the small area of suitable habitat indicate that its total population is extremely small. Given that much of its habitat is being altered rapidly and is becoming increasingly fragmented, the species is likely to be undergoing a continuing decline, at least in some parts of its global range. Over 90% of its very small global population has been suspected to be confined to one subpopulation (Amani Nature Reserve), and on this basis it is considered Critically Endangered, however recent research suggests that total numbers, while still small, are larger than previously thought, and that Mt Nilo holds a significant proportion of the population. If this is confirmed the species is likely to warrant downlisting.

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.

Taxonomic note
Apalis moreaui is transferred to the genus Artisornis following Urban et al. (1997) and Dickinson (2003).

Apalis moreaui Dowsett and Forbes-Watson (1993), Apalis moreaui BirdLife International (2004), Orthotomus moreaui BirdLife International (2000), Orthotomus moreaui Collar et al. (1994), Orthotomus moreaui Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993)

10 cm. Small, rotund warbler of forest edge and canopy gaps. Overall greyish, slightly paler below. Warm brownish tinge on face and crown (can be absent). Very long, black bill. Very rounded head, with filoplumes extending over to the back of the head. Long tail invariably cocked when excited. Similar spp. African Tailorbird O. metopias has much shorter bill and more extensive russet wash on face and breast. Voice Repeated, Apalis-like but more metallic peedoo peedoo. Hints Very secretive, extremely inconspicuous, best located by call (Baker and Baker 2001). Most reliable site is near Amani in East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania.

Distribution and population
This species occurs at low density in two widely separated forests, the East Usambaras in Tanzania (nominate subspecies) and the Njesi Plateau in northern Mozambique (subspecies sousae), where it was recently rediscovered (Ryan and Spottiswoode 2003), not having been visited since 1945 (Benson 1946). These two subpopulations are 1,000 km apart, and despite much recent fieldwork, there are still no records from any of the intervening forests (Baker and Baker 2001). In the East Usambaras it is more common than previously suggested (Cordeiro 2000), but still somewhat local and infrequent. Recent records from Mt Nilo were followed by the discovery of territories around Zirai in May 2009, and later surveys located a total of 10 territories in Nilo Nature Reserve, in the areas of Nkombola, Kweng'wiza, Kilangangua and Kiziga and northward to Lutindi (Kyonjola and Njilima 2010). The species occurs over ten broad localities near Amani (Cordeiro 1998, Baker and Baker 2001); Amani Nature Reserve was conservatively estimated to hold 150-200 individuals in 2000 (Cordeiro 2000), and surveys in 2008-2009 found around 80 territories at Amani and in the surrounding area. Further survey work has since identified further territories, including 20 in the Nilo Nature Reserve; Mt Nilo covers 43.6 km2 and may hold up to 75% of the total East Usambaras population, which has been estimated to number at least 371 individuals but these numbers have yet to be confirmed. Intensive surveys during 2014 discovered 17 more territories (Torto 2015). Only c.110 km2 of suitable habitat remains in the East Usambaras. Given that it is uncommon, elusive and exists at low densities, it may yet be found in other forests of the Eastern Arc (Baker and Baker 2001) now that the microhabitats and vocalisations are known (Cordeiro 2000, McEntree et al. 2005).

Population justification
Cordeiro (2000) estimated 150-200 in Amani Nature Reserve. The populations on Mount Nilo and the Njesi Plateau are unknown, but may be small, so the global estimate is placed precautionarily in the band 50-249 individuals. This equates to 33-166 mature individuals, rounded here to 30-200 mature individuals.

Trend justification
This species is suspected to be declining in parts of its range owing to strong pressures that are impacting unprotected forests in parts of the East Usambaras and Njesi Plateau, and recent disturbance within protected areas such as Amani Nature Reserve. Therefore, we employ a negative population trend overall (though this may be slight). If further research confirms that the species's global population size is stable it may warrant downlisting in the future.


In the East Usambaras, its primary habitat is forest edge and large canopy gaps (Cordeiro 2000). It has been found in submontane and montane forest (Baker and Baker 2001), chiefly in open forest edge-type habitat with a high density of vines and climbers (Cordeiro 2000, McEntree et al. 2005) such as clearings and drainage lines (Ryan et al. 1998), in addition to glades on the edge of, or deep inside forest (Cordeiro 2000, McEntree et al. 2005, Borghesio unpubl. data). It can also be found in degraded forest (Baker and Baker 2001, Kyonjola and Njilima 2010), in habitats buffering tea plantations (e.g. secondary Lantana growth and Eucalypt plantations) (Cordeiro 2000, Borghesio unpubl. data), but never far from indigenous forest, as none of >80 currently known territories is more than 100 m from forest edge (Borghesio unpubl. data). However forest areas consistently disturbed by humans, such as agricultural fields that are burned or weeded regularly, are clearly not favoured (Cordeiro 2000). 

Its preference for early successional habitats may mean it is dependent on some form of recurrent disturbance to create forest gaps (Borghesio et al. 2008). It is often absent from large areas of apparently suitable habitat. It forages alone but can sometimes be found in mixed-species parties in the lower and middle storeys (up to 18 m) (Cordeiro 2000, Borghesio unpublished data), preferring the tangled vegetation nearer the ground where it searches foliage for invertebrates (Cordeiro 1998) avoiding sunlit places (Urban et al. 1997, McEntree et al. 2005). It is apparently territorial; one probable male colour-ringed in 2000 has maintained the same territory at the headquarters of Amani Nature Reserve up to 2007 (Cordeiro unpubl. data). Its breeding ecology remains poorly known (Urban et al. 1997). In an initial population assessment, 26% of records were of pairs (Cordeiro 2000). A. m. sousae has been confirmed to inhabit the forest canopy (Benson 1946, Ryan and Spottiswoode 2003).

Despite favouring some open forest-edge habitats, it remains vulnerable to forest destruction, especially as it may not cross open spaces easily (Urban et al. 1997). Although the extent of protected forest in the East Usambaras has recently been increased, there is heavy pressure on most unprotected forest, especially for mining, pole-cutting, cultivation and firewood-collection (Evans 1997b, Kessy 1998, Doggart et al. 2004). As this forest becomes depleted, pressure on smaller forest reserves is likely to increase (Evans 1997b, Kessy 1998). In addition, the harvesting of plants for medicinal purposes may cause some disturbance, clearance of vegetation along powerlines has resulted in the loss of some territories. Introduced species, such as the tree Maesopsis eminii, appear to reduce habitat suitability (Kyonjola and Njilima 2010). Nothing is known of the recent status of this species in forests in northern Mozambique. 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).

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
Two current projects in the East Usambaras are working to increase the amount of forest, including all lowland remnants, in protected areas. In particular the Amani Nature Reserve has an active conservation programme which attempts to engage with local stakeholders such as plantation owners (Cordeiro 2000). In 2009, a stakeholder's awareness meeting was held at Amani Nature Reserve, which involved village leaders, tea companies, private landowners, the energy sector, government institutions and non-governmental organisations, amongst others, and garnered substantial support for the species's conservation and recognition of the zonation of the reserve (Kyonjola and Njilima 2010). A population monitoring programme of this species by the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania and The Field Museum has begun. A Darwin Initiative funded project run by the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust and working in the mountains of northern Mozambique may visit the Njesi plateau in the future.

As part of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions programme the following actions are underway: 1. Extensive surveys have been carried out in the Amani Nature Reserve and its immediate vicinity, and have been extended towards the eastern and northern parts of the East Usambaras to cover the Derema Corridor as well as the Ngua and Ndola areas. Each known territory of the Long-billed Tailorbird is being monitored every two months. 2. Implementation of an education and awareness scheme for local landowners and other key stakeholders is in progress. Educational materials including posters and leaflets have been designed in both English and Swahili. 3. Work is currently underway to identify key conservation areas for the Long-billed Tailorbird and incorporate these as part of the Amani Nature Reserve Management Plan. All territories discovered are logged by GPS and their coordinates plotted, and territory marking is taking place in areas with high densities. In 2010, work planned for the future included the removal of juvenile Maesopsis and replanting with native gap-dependent species, and the introduction of more efficient wood stoves that reduce the need for tree-cutting and firewood removal (Kyonjola and Njilima 2010). Research is also being undertaken to study whether habitat management will encourage the species to colonize new areas. The BirdLife International project office in Tanzania are working on a collaborative project with the RSPB to conserve endemic and threatened biodiversity in the East Usambaras, focusing on this species. The first action was to collect data on the species's distribution and create a high resolution distribution map indicating where levels of disturbance are likely to be greatest (Torto 2015).

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Revisit the Njesi Plateau and nearby areas to assess its status and population size. Search for the species at Monte Sanga, the areas between Monte Gatala and Chiconono, the Lupilichi Highlands and the Serra Juzagombe (Ryan and Spottiswoode 2003). Evaluate the effectiveness of selected forest-management techniques that could benefit this species (Baker and Baker 2001, Cordeiro 2000). Engage stakeholders on the Amani Plateau in forest management and raise awareness of this species's status. Consider methods to reduce disturbance in and around tea plantations (Cordeiro 2000). Conduct ecological surveys to understand why it is apparently so rare and thinly distributed (Baker and Baker 2001). Test techniques to control the expansion of Maesopsis eminii in indigenous forest and to restore heavily invaded forest tracts (L. Borghesio in litt. 2012). Sensitize local farmers to conserve patches of bushy and regenerating vegetation in farms located along forest edges in Amani, Derema and Nilo.

Baker, N. E.; Baker, L. M. 2001. Tanzania. In: Fishpool, L.D.C.; Evans, M.I. (ed.), Important Bird Areas in Africa and associated islands: Priority sites for conservation, pp. 897-945. Pisces Publications and BirdLife International (BirdLife Conservation Series No.11), Newbury and Cambridge, UK.

Benson, C. W. 1946. A collection from near Unangu, Portuguese East Africa. Ibis 88: 240-241.

BirdLife International. 2009. Species Guardian Action Update: February 2009 Long-billed Tailorbird Artisornis moreaui. Available at: #

Borghesio, L.; John, J. R. M.; Mulungu, E.; Mkongewa, V.; Joho, M.; Cordeiro, N. J. 2008. Observations of threatened birds in the East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 15(1): 59-70.

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.

Cordeiro, N. J. 1998. A preliminary survey of the montane avifauna of Mt Nilo, East Usambaras, Tanzania. Scopus 20: 1-18.

Cordeiro, N. J. 2000. Report on a preliminary census of the Long-billed Tailorbird Orthotomus moreaui in the east Usambara Mountains.

Dickinson, E. C. 2003. The Howard and Moore complete checklist of the birds of the world. Christopher Helm, London.

Doggart, N.; Kahemela, A.; Mbaga, P. 2004. Gold mining threatens the forests of the Eastern Arc. The Arc Journal 16: 2-3.

Evans, T. D. 1997. Records of birds from the forests of the East Usambara lowlands, Tanzania, August 1994 - February 1995. Scopus 19: 92-108.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Kessy, J. F. 1998. Conservation and utilization of natural resources in the East Usambara forest reserves: conventional views and local perspectives. Wageningen Agricultural University, Wageningen, Netherlands.

Kyonjola, M., Borghesio, L., Mkongewa, V., Joho, M. and Cordeiro, N. 2012. Will habitat management along forest edges save the Long-billed Tailorbird in East Usambara Mountains? BirdLife Africa Newsletter 13(6): 17+29.

McEntee, J.; Cordeiro, N. J.; Joho, M. P.; Moyer, D. C. 2005. Foraging observations of the threatened Long-billed Tailorbird Artisornis moreaui in Tanzania. Scopus 25: 51-54.

Ryan, P. G.; Spottiswoode, C. 2003. The conservation status of Long-billed Tailorbird Orthotomus moreaui and other birds on Serra Jeci, northern Mozambique. Ostrich 74: 141-145.

Ryan, P.; Barnes, K.; Sinclair, I. 1998. Tanzania's eastern arc: endemic hotspot of eastern Africa. Africa - Birds & Birding 3(3): 46-52.

Torto, O. 2015. Survey success in Tanzania: 17 new territories found for Critically Endangered Long-billed Tailorbird. Available at: (Accessed: 26th May 2015).

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

Species Guardian Action Update

Text account compilers
Bird, J., Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Wright, L & Ashpole, J

Borghesio, L., Cordeiro, N., John, J. & Spottiswoode, C.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Artisornis moreaui. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016.

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 - Long-billed tailorbird (Artisornis moreaui) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Critically Endangered
Family Sylviidae (Old World warblers)
Species name author (Sclater, 1931)
Population size 50-249 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 950 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species