Papyrus yellow warbler (Chloropeta gracilirostris)

French: Fauvette jaune aquatique
GenusChloropeta (1)
SizeLength: 14 cm (2)

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

In comparison with the browns and greys that typify the plumage of other warblers in swamp habitats, the papyrus yellow warbler is a relatively brightly coloured bird. Perched upright against the papyrus stalks, it displays an underbelly of rich yellow contrasting attractively with olive-brown upperparts (2). The song of this species consists of melodious liquid warblings (2) (3).

The distribution of the papyrus yellow warbler is severely fragmented across several countries within the Great Lakes region of Africa, including Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia (2). The population occurring in Zambia and in parts of the DRC is considered to be a separate subspecies, Chloropeta gracilirostris bensoni (2) (4).

As its name suggests, this species is often found in papyrus swamps, but it also occurs in reed beds and other marshy habitats (2) (3).

Very little has been documented about the ecology and reproductive biology of the papyrus yellow warbler. General observations have been of single birds, or pairs, foraging for tiny insects amongst papyrus (2).

Drainage of wetland sites to provide land for agriculture threatens much of the habitat suitable for the papyrus yellow warbler. For instance, in Kenya, the ongoing drainage of Yala swamp will reduce the range of the papyrus yellow warbler in this country by a third. Exacerbating the negative impacts of habitat conversion is the increasing over-exploitation of papyrus for fuel and local crafts, particularly around Lake Victoria where man-made ecological changes have seen the fisheries collapse (2). Furthermore, in some parts of this species’ range, the papyrus swamps are burnt by hunters in order to drive out game (2) (3).

While the destruction of papyrus swamps is having a significant impact on the population of papyrus yellow warblers (2), this species, along with several other papyrus dwelling birds, is actually dependant on low-levels of disturbance. Consequently, the implementation of conservation measures requires a delicate balance between protecting habitat from degradation and over-exploitation, whilst allowing controlled harvesting. Although there are several protected parks which support large areas of papyrus, such as the Ugandan National Parks of Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth, community participation and regulated harvest quotas are seen as a vital component in papyrus yellow warbler conservation initiatives (3).

For further information on the papyrus yellow warbler see:

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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)