Black-crowned barwing (Actinodura sodangorum)

Black-crowned barwings
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Black-crowned barwing fact file

Black-crowned barwing description

GenusActinodura (1)

The black-crowned barwing was first described in 1999, following two years of ornithological exploration in a previously un-surveyed region of Vietnam (3). It is a slender, long tailed bird, with a grey head and a distinct black crown. The underparts are an attractive ochre colour, whilst the wings are dark olive, with buff barring, and the tail is chestnut-buff, with strong black barring (2) (4). In pairs, these birds sing an answering duet, alternating between the male and female (2) (3) (4).

Length: 24 cm (2)

Black-crowned barwing biology

In contrast with most other species within the babbler family (Timalidae), which tend to be highly gregarious (6), sightings of the black-crowned barwing have been of single birds or pairs (2) (5). It is most often observed foraging high up in the canopy, appearing to glean insects off the leaves of smaller branches, but also along larger moss covered branches and around the bases of tree trunks (3) (5). To date, nothing is known of its breeding behaviour, and aside from possible short seasonal movements, it appears to remain resident in one locality throughout the year (5).


Black-crowned barwing range

The black-crowned barwing is currently known from the Kontum province in the western highlands of Vietnam and the Dakchung plateau of Laos (2) (3) (4) (5).


Black-crowned barwing habitat

The black-crowned barwing has been observed at altitudes of 1,000 to 2,400 metres in a range of habitats including evergreen forest, tall damp grassland, and small forest fragments on steep slopes chequered with banana groves (2) (5).


Black-crowned barwing status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Black-crowned barwing threats

In Vietnam, and to lesser extent in Laos, deforestation has had, and continues to have, a large impact on the availability of habitat within the black-crowned barwing’s range (5). It is therefore likely that its already restricted population is gradually declining (2). However, with so little known about its general ecology and especially its exact habitat requirements, it is not clear how significant the loss of forest habitat is for this species. It may be that it is relatively tolerant of secondary growth, grassland or scrub habitat, in which the case the scale of the impacts may not be that severe (2) (5). Nonetheless, in the absence of reliable data and in the interest of caution, particularly given its small range, the black-crowned barwing is currently classified as Vulnerable (1) (5).


Black-crowned barwing conservation

There are no specific conservation measures currently in place for the black-crowned barwing, but fortunately it does occur within the protected Ngoc Linh (Kon Tum) Nature Reserve in Vietnam (2) (5). Furthermore, there are proposals to expand the Ngoc Linh Nature Reserve, to protect other areas within the species’ range in Vietnam, and to investigate potential sites for protection in Laos (5). In order to address this species’ specific conservation needs, it is vital that further research is conducted to accurately assess its habitat requirements and distribution (2) (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on the black-crowned barwing see:



Authenticated (30/03/09) by Jonathan C. Eames, Indochina Programme Manager, BirdLife International.



Secondary growth
Forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.


  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2007)
  2. BirdLife International (October, 2008)
  3. Eames, J.C., Le Trong, T., Nguyen, C. and Eve, R. (1999) New species of barwing Actinodura (Passeriformes: Sylviinae: Timaliini) from the western highlands of Vietnam. Ibis, 141: 1 - 10.
  4. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2001) Handbook of the Birds of the World Volume 12: Picathartes to Tits and Chickadees. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  5. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
  6. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.

Image credit

Black-crowned barwings  
Black-crowned barwings

© Ron Hoff

Ron Hoff
United States of America


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