The short-billed crombec is a little-known, diminuitive warbler, endemic to the Horn of Africa. The most striking features of this species are its yellow underparts and bright pinkish-brown legs. The head is ashy grey, with narrow white streaks running from the base of the bill over the top of the eyes, while its upperparts are a lighter greyish-olive (2)(3). Like other warblers, this species is highly vocal, producing a song consisting of a repeated ti-chirr-cheesis, and a loud, metallic tchink call when agitated (4)(5).
Little is known about the biology of the short-billed crombec. The few field observations that exist record that it generally feeds on insects, such as tiny beetles and small, green caterpillars (3), foraging for its prey around the flowers, leaves and thorny branches of Acacia bushes (3)(5). The breeding season appears to be from May to June, with both the male and female providing food for the young (2)(5).
The majority of the short-billed crombec’s population is situated in Somalia, where it can be found in the north-western, central and south-western regions (6). It is also found in south-eastern Ethiopia, around the Somalian border, although its range is likely to extend further westwards (5).
The short-billed crombec inhabits arid scrubland, favouring dense thickets of white-flowered Acacia and gum-producing Commiphora species, as well as other bushes that grow where the soil is either rocky or red and sandy (2).
Although the short-billed crombec appears to be fairly common (2), its small, restricted range means that it could be vulnerable to detrimental human activities and unforeseen natural events. Currently, its habitat is under threat from overexploitation of Acacia species for use in charcoal production, and Commiphora species for gum collection. In addition, overgrazing is destroying much of the vegetation that this species relies upon for foraging and shelter (6).
The first steps towards conserving this species are to survey its populations and investigate its ecology, only then can the impacts of habitat loss on its population be accurately assessed and any necessary conservation measures implemented (6). Unfortunately, due to the breakdown of centralised government in Somalia, it may prove difficult to carry out these aims in the immediate future (7).
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