Uluguru bush-shrike (Malaconotus alius)

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Uluguru bush-shrike adult specimen
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Uluguru bush-shrike fact file

Uluguru bush-shrike description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyMalaconotidae
GenusMalaconotus (1)

Regarded as one of the rarest birds in Africa (4), the Uluguru bush-shrike is a relatively large, heavy-bodied shrike with a thick, black, hook-tipped beak. The upperparts, including the wings and tail, are uniformly olive-green in colour, while the underparts are yellow, becoming more greenish on the sides and lower abdomen, and greenish-grey on the underside of the tail. The head and back of the neck are glossy black, helping to distinguish this species from other large forest shrikes, and the legs are bluish-grey (2) (3). The female Uluguru bush-shrike resembles the male, but is duller, with more greenish underparts (3). The Uluguru bush-shrike has a loud and distinctive call, consisting of a far-carrying series of three to five whistles, which rise slightly in pitch on the last notes. The calls of one individual are often answered by another (2) (3).

Also known as
blackcap bush-shrike, black-capped bush-shrike, Uluguru bush shrike, Uluguru bushshrike.
French
Gladiateur à tête noire.
Size
Length: 22 - 24 cm (2) (3)
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Uluguru bush-shrike biology

Very little information is available on the biology of the Uluguru bush-shrike. It feeds on large arthropods, and is thought to forage alone or in pairs, although it may also join mixed-species flocks (2) (5). Nothing is known about reproduction in this species, although breeding was suspected in Uluguru South Forest Reserve in March, and an immature bird has been seen in July (2) (3) (5).

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Uluguru bush-shrike range

The Uluguru bush-shrike, as its name suggests, is endemic to the Uluguru Mountains of Tanzania (2) (3) (5). Until recently it was known only from the Uluguru North Forest Reserve, but in 2007 was also recorded for the first time in the nearby Uluguru South Forest Reserve (2) (5) (6).

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Uluguru bush-shrike habitat

This species inhabits the canopy of moist montane and submontane forest, at elevations of around 1,200 to 2,100 metres. It usually prefers areas of high rainfall and little disturbance, generally between 1,200 and 1,700 metres, but has also been found in degraded forest at the edge of reserves or where tall, mature trees still remain (2) (3) (5) (7).

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Uluguru bush-shrike status

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered

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Uluguru bush-shrike threats

Despite being found to have a larger population and to occur at more sites than previously thought (2) (4) (6), the Uluguru bush-shrike is still restricted to an extremely small area, and is believed to have a total population of no more than 1,200 pairs (2) (4) (5). Much of the terrain within its range is too steep for cultivation, but, nevertheless, the main threat to this shrike remains the extensive loss of forest habitat, due to clearance for cultivation and cutting for timber and firewood. Most of this destruction has occurred at lower elevations in the submontane forest, the preferred habitat of this species (2) (3) (4) (5) (8). A further threat, introduced to the area more recently, is banana farming, with bananas planted beneath the forest canopy as a cash crop (3) (4) (9). Unfortunately, this involves clearing shrubs and thinning the trees, as well as gradually felling further trees to provide additional nutrients for the banana plants. Eventually this process destroys the forest, with the land then usually converted to subsistence maize farming (9).

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Uluguru bush-shrike conservation

Uluguru North and Uluguru South Forest Reserves are managed as important water catchment areas for the 3.5 million people of the city of Dar-es-Salaam, and are also of high importance in terms of biodiversity (2) (5) (8) (9). There are plans underway to reconnect the two reserves and to upgrade them to the status of Nature Reserve (2) (5) (7), and a range of conservation projects are underway in the area, including work with local communities, habitat restoration, further surveys of the Uluguru bush-shrike population, and monitoring of the species’ preferred habitat (2) (7) (8) (9). The development of ecotourism may also provide an alternative source of income for local people, and an incentive to protect the forest (8) (9). Further conservation measures recommended for this rare endemic bird include additional monitoring and population estimates, increased efforts to reduce firewood and timber harvesting within the reserves, reforestation at lower elevations, raising awareness of the importance of the area, and continuing to work closely with local communities to ensure the appropriate management and sustainable utilisation of forest resources (2) (5) (8).

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

To find out more about conservation in Tanzania and in the Uluguru Mountains, see:

For more information on efforts to conserve the world’s most endangered bird species see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Arthropods
A very diverse phylum (a major grouping of animals) that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Montane forest
Forest occurring in the montane zone, a zone of cool upland slopes below the tree line dominated by large evergreen trees.
Submontane forest
Forest occurring at elevations just below those of montane forest.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. BirdLife International (February, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=6199&m=0
  3. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2009) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-Shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  4. Burgess, N., Romdal, T.S. and Rahner, M. (2001) Forest loss in the Ulugurus, Tanzania and the status of Uluguru bush shrike Malaconotus alius. Bulletin of the African Bird Club, 8: 89-90. Available at:
    http://www.easternarc.or.tz/
  5. BirdLife International: Uluguru bush-shrike found over the limit (February, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/2007/03/uluguru_bush-shrike.html/
  6. Hirschfeld, E. (2008) BirdLife International: Rare Birds Yearbook. MagDig Media Limited, Shrewsbury.
  7. BirdLife International: Species Guardian Action Update: November 2008 - Uluguru Bush-shrike, Malaconotus alius (February, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/extinction/pdfs/Uluguru_Bush-shrike_Guardian_Action_Update_Nov08.pdf
  8. Bhatia, Z. and Buckley, P. (1998) The Uluguru slopes planning project: promoting community involvement in biodiversity conservation. Journal of East African Natural History, 87: 339-347.
  9. African Conservation Foundation: Uluguru Mountains, Tanzania (February, 2010)
    http://www.africanconservation.com/uluguru/
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Image credit

Uluguru bush-shrike adult specimen  
Uluguru bush-shrike adult specimen

© Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen

Dr Jon Fjeldså
Curator Bird Collections Department
Natural History Museum of Denmark
Universitetsparken 15
2100 København Ø
Denmark
Tel: +45 (353) 21023
jfjeldsaa@snm.ku.dk
http://zoologi.snm.ku.dk/

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