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Shelley's Crimson-wing Cryptospiza shelleyi
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This rare species has shown population declines at least locally in the past, for reasons unknown, but possibly related to ongoing deforestation and forest degradation throughout its range.. It is therefore likely to have a small, severely fragmented and declining population, and it is therefore considered Vulnerable.

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.

13 cm. Brightly-coloured terrestrial finch. Male has bright red crown, face and back, with contrasting black wings and tail. Olive-yellow underparts with warmer tones on flanks and belly. Female drabber with olive head and some red on mantle and rump. Both sexes have bright red bills. Voice Sharp, high-pitched tit tit tit call. Rising and falling series of high-pitched tu tutu ti ti ti.

Distribution and population
Cryptospiza shelleyi is known from many parts of the mountains of the Albertine Rift, including the Itombwe Mountains, Kahuzi-Biéga National Park and mountains west of Lake Kivu in Democratic Republic of Congo, Nyungwe, Gishwati, Makwa and Mukura Forests in Rwanda, Bururi Forest and elsewhere in Burundi, the Rwenzori Mountains and Bwindi (Impenetrable) Forest in Uganda, as well as the Virunga Mountains (2,200-3,000 m) on the border between DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. It is generally rare (Butynski et al. 1997), only being common in a few threatened forests (Omari et al. 1999), and shows unexplained fluctuations in abundance. In Uganda, the species has only been encountered rarely during recent surveys (A. Plumptre in litt. 2007, D. Pomeroy in litt 2007), possibly because it is much rarer than previously thought, or perhaps because it is very difficult to locate (A. Plumptre in litt. 2007). Surveys targeted specifically at mist-netting crimson-wings in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in 2009-2010 failed to locate the species (Krüger and du Toit 2010), however in August 2010 there were reports of up to four birds seen on two days by local bird guides leading visitors in the Ruhija sector of Bwindi ( Between the late 1970s and the early 1990s, it may have suffered population declines locally (Catterall 1992), although it is not a well-known species and there are few baseline data (F. Dowsett-Lemaire in litt. 2000).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 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 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
The species's population is suspected to be declining in line with the clearance and degradation of forest within its range, although the likely rate of decline has not been estimated.

It inhabits the understorey of closed-canopy moist forest, often in lush valley bottoms near water, as well as low secondary growth at forest edges, forest clearings and glades dominated by large herbs, bamboo thickets and the upper forest/moorland ecotone.

Any decline in the species's population is most likely related to deforestation and forest degradation (Catterall 1992), which are prevalent throughout its range, both for agriculture and for timber, and have increased recently as a result of war. Forest in the Itombwe Mountains and Kahuzi-Biéga National Park is under increasing pressure from pastoralists, farmers, pit-sawyers, miners and hunters (Hall et al. 1998, Omari et al. 1999). Thousands of refugees from Burundi and Rwanda live in camps at the base of Itombwe's eastern escarpment and to the north (Hall et al. 1998, Omari et al. 1999). Clearance of forest for agriculture has increased dramatically in the past few years as maize crops have failed, causing famine (Butynski et al. 1997). There is also some localised forest loss in Itombwe as a result of gold-mining (R. Beyers in litt. 1993). In contrast, reports suggest that there has been been very little encroachment at Nyungwe in recent years, due to the conflict-related emigration of local people (F. Dowsett-Lemaire in litt. 2000).

Conservation Actions Underway
The species occurs in protected areas in part of its range, including the Virunga National Park in the DRC, Nyungwe Forest Reserve in Rwanda, and Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Bwindi-Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. A research project on crimson-wings, including this species, is underway at Bwindi Forest (A. Plumptre in litt. 2007, D. Pomeroy in litt 2007), and further fieldwork is planned for Bwindi, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Rwenzori Mountains National Park, dependent on funding (E. Meyjes in litt. 2011). Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to estimate the population size. Carry out regular surveys to monitor population trends. Investigate declines or fluctuations in the population, in order to assess threats. Survey and monitor the extent of habitat. Increase the area of suitable habitat that has protected status.

Butynski, T. M.; Agenonga, U.; Ndera, B.; Hart, J. F. 1997. Rediscovery of the Congo Bay (Itombwe) Owl Phodilus prigoginei. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 4(1): 32-35.

Catterall, M. J. 1992. Conservation priorities for the Albertine Rift Endemic Bird Area. thesis. MSc, Wye College, University of London.

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.

Hall, J. S.; Saltonstall, K.; Inogwabini, B.-I.; Omari, I. 1998. Distribution, abundance and conservation status of Grauer's gorilla. Oryx 32: 122-130.

Krüger, P. E.; du Toit, J. G. 2010. Final report on the status, habitat preference and distribution of the Crimsonwing species in Africa (phase 2).

Omari, I.; Hart, J. A.; Butynski, T. M.; Birnashirwa, N. R.; Upoki, A.; M'Keyo, Y.; Bengana, F.; Bashonga, M.; Baguruburnwe, N. 1999. The Itombwe Massif, Democratic Republic of Congo: biological surveys and conservation, with an emphasis on Grauer's gorilla and birds endemic to the Albertine Rift. Oryx 33: 301-322.

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
Benstead, P., Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J.

Butynski, T., Catsis, M., Dowsett-Lemaire, F., Meyjes, E., Plumptre, A., Pomeroy, D., Stevenson, T.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Cryptospiza shelleyi. 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 - Shelley’s crimson-wing (Cryptospiza shelleyi) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Estrildidae (Waxbills, grass finches, munias and allies)
Species name author Sharpe, 1902
Population size 2500-9999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 46,200 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change