Angola reveals some of its bird secrets
A six-day expedition visited northern Angola at the end of January 2005 to look for three little-known species: the Orange-breasted Bush-shrike Laniarius brauni is only known from this region and had not been seen since 1957; the White-headed Robin-chat Cossypha heinrichi, found only in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, was also last seen in 1957; and the Black-tailed Cisticola Cisticola melanurus, also restricted to Angola and the DRC, was last seen in 1972.
Ian Sinclair, David Chamberlain and Margot Chamberlain (from South Africa) and Pedro vaz Pinto (Angola) were the first ornithologists to visit the region since the country's 27-year civil war ended in 2002. They were attempting to visit the type localities of the three species (which were only vaguely documented) and to search suitable remaining habitat which might still contain the birds.
Whilst travelling in Uige Province on 30 January, roughly 40 km north-east of the type locality, the group heard a distinct call and located three pairs of Orange-breasted Bush-shrike (also known as Braun's Bush-shrike after its early 20th century German collector).
On 1 February, 30 km north of Calandula, the first White-headed Robin-chats were seen. Nearby elderly villagers remembered a large group of Portuguese collectors staying in the area in the 1950s, accompanied by one German. This would have been Gerd Heinrich, who collected the type specimen and lent his surname to the species' other common name, Heinrich's Robin-chat. From this information, the expedition concluded they had found the type locality of the species. A number of robin-chats were seen and the species' calls recorded for the first time.
"These exciting rediscoveries are welcome news, but illustrate how poorly known the birds of Angola are. Further surveys are urgently needed in order to establish a more accurate picture of the species’ true status and conservation needs." —Dr Stuart Butchart, Global Species Programme Coordinator, BirdLife International
A pair of Black-tailed Cisticolas was discovered in nearby miombo woodland on 2 February. The species exhibited a peculiar wing-flicking and snapping when agitated or disturbed. The expedition also found Bob-tailed Weaver Brachycope anomala, a new species to Angola.
The White-headed Robin-chat is currently classified as Vulnerable, Orange-breasted Bush-shrike as Endangered, and Black-tailed Cisticola as Data Deficient.