Udzungwa forest-partridge (Xenoperdix udzungwensis)
|Also known as:||Udzungwa Forest Partridge, Uzungwa Francolin|
|French:||Francolin d'Uzungwa, Xénoperdrix de Tanzanie|
|Spanish:||Perdiz de Udzungwa|
|Size||Length: 29 cm (2)|
The Udzungwa forest-partridge is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).
Described as recently as 1991, the Udzungwa forest-partridge (Xenoperdix udzungwensis) was discovered by chance when two Danish explorers happened to find two very unusual bird feet in the stew they were served in Tanzania. A local snared this bird for the explorers the next day, and the Udzungwa forest-partridge was discovered (3).
The Udzungwa forest-partridge has rich reddish-brown upperparts streaked heavily with black, and grey underparts dappled with black blotches. The throat and ‘eyebrow’ stripes are orange-red, the bill is bright pinkish-red and the legs are vivid yellow (2). Male and female Udzungwa forest-partridges are similar in appearance (4).
The calls of the Udzungwa forest-partridge are most often heard in the mornings, particularly during the rainy season when there is a peak in breeding activity. It has a soft, low-pitched call, as well as a whistle-like ‘teedli teedli’, and gives what has been described as an ‘explosive’ cry if alarmed (2).
Endemic to Tanzania, the Udzungwa forest-partridge is found only in the Udzungwa Highlands (in the Nymubanitu and Ndundulu Mountains) and 150 kilometres north in the northern Rubeho Highlands (2) (5) (6).
Some scientists believe that the forest partridges in the Rubeho Highlands should be classed as a separate species, due to slight differences in appearance and genetics (7), but others consider these differences to not be significant, and that it should remain as a single species (2).
Mature montane and submontane evergreen forest between 1,300 and 2,400 metres is the favoured habitat of the Udzungwa forest-partridge (2) (5). It is typically found in forest containing Podocarpus trees (conifers) where Cyperus species (sedges) cover the forest floor (8).
The Udzwunga forest-partridge feeds on the forest floor in small groups of between 3 and 13 individuals, for invertebrates, such as beetles, and seeds (2). It roosts in trees, in groups of more than ten (2).
It is thought that mating occurs between November and March, at the start of the rainy season, and adults are first seen with young chicks from late November to early January (2).
Already one of Africa’s rarest birds (7), the Udzwunga forest-partridge is further threatened by hunting and habitat destruction (2).
Recent surveys have shown that although hunting of this species is not very common, due to the Udzungwa forest-partridge’s already low numbers any hunting can have a great affect on the population (2).
Extensive areas of the Udzungwa forest have been deforested, due to farmers clearing land for agriculture, commercial logging, and bushfires (8). Bushfires are often intentionally started to maintain open, less dangerous, habitats that are easy to access. Large areas of forest on mountain slopes and high ridges are burned annually (8).
The relatively fast growing human population in the region means that demand for agricultural land and hunting for forest-dwelling species is likely to increase (2).
In the Udzungwa Highlands, the Udzwunga forest-partridge occurs within the Kilombero Nature Reserve and Udzungwa Mountain National Park (2). This should offer this bird’s habitat some level of protection, although unfortunately logging, bushfires and hunting still occurs in these areas (2).
The Udzungwa Mountains are home to a number of other rare birds, as well as primates and duikers (small antelope species), which are found nowhere else in the world (8). The forests that cover these mountains also act a vital catchment area for large rivers and provide water for nationally important hydropower stations. Thus, conservation of the Udzungwa Mountains is essential not just to protect the animals that live there, but also to ensure the continued provision of drinking water, irrigation and power to thousands of people (8).
Conservation projects in the Udzungwa Mountains should integrate conservation with development, and concentrate their activities in villages adjacent to forests (8). Conservation priorities include fire management, plans for forest regeneration, and raising awareness about sustainable forest use (8).
The forest-partridge population in the Rubeho Highlands occurs within the Mafwomero Forest Reserve (9), although due to limited staff and small budgets, it is often hard to adequately protect this area (9). Additional support is needed to implement conservation action that will ensure the survival of this forest and the rare bird it is home to (9).
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- Endemic: a species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Evergreen forest: forest consisting mainly of evergreen trees, which retain leaves all year round. This is in contrast to deciduous trees, which completely lose their leaves for part of the year.
- Invertebrates: animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms and spiders.
- Montane: of mountains, or growing in mountains.
- Submontane: occurring at elevations just below those of montane forest.
IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
BirdLife International (November, 2010)
- Jeffries, M.J. (2005) Biodiversity and Conservation. Routledge, New York.
- Stevenson, T. and Fanshawe, J. (2002) Birds of East Africa. T&AD Poyser Ltd, London.
- Fuller, R.A., Carroll, J.P. and McGowan, P.J.K. (2000) Partridges, Quails, Francolins, Snowcocks, Guineafowl, and Turkeys. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 2000–2004. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
- Fjeldså, J. and Kiure, J. (2003) A new population of Udzwunga forest partridge. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists Club, 123(1): 52-57.
- Bowie, R.C.K. and Fjeldså, J. (2005) Genetic and morphological evidence for two species in the Udzungwa forest partridge (Xenoperdix udzungwensisi). Journal of East African Natural History, 94(1): 191-201.
- Dinesen, L., Lehmberg, T., Rahner, M.C. and Fjeldså, J. (2001) Conservation priorities for the forests of Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania, based on primates, duikers and birds. Biological Conservation, 99(2): 223-236.
- Doggart, N., Perkin, A., Kiure, J., Fjeldså, J., Poynton, J. and Burgess, N. (2006) Changing places: how the results of new field work in the Rubeho Mountains influence conservation priorities in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania. African Journal of Ecology, 44(2): 134-144.