Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Passeriformes Hirundinidae

Scientific Name: Hirundo megaensis
Species Authority: Benson, 1942
Common Name(s):
English White-tailed Swallow
French Hirondelle à queue blanche
Taxonomic Notes: The BirdLife Taxonomic Working Group is aware that phylogenetic analyses have been published which have proposed generic rearrangements which may affect this species, but prefers to wait until work by other taxonomists reveals how these changes affect the entire groups involved.
Identification information: 13 cm. Small swallow. Male deep, iridescent blue (appears black) above, white below, with white tail. Female and juvenile similar but white on tail much reduced, sometimes absent. Similar spp. No other swallow has completely white underparts and white tail. Voice High-pitched, swallow-like twittering. Hints Easily seen year-round at 20 km east of Yabello in southern Ethiopia.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable C2a(ii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Taylor, J. & Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Borghesio, L., Collar, N., Mellanby, R. & Robertson, P.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J.
This species is believed to have a small population, and is suspected to be declining owing to the intensification of land-use across much of its small range. It is therefore treated as Vulnerable, although there is little information on its population status and the seriousness of threats.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2008 Vulnerable (VU)
2006 Vulnerable (VU)
2004 Vulnerable (VU)
2000 Vulnerable (VU)
1996 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Vulnerable (VU)
1988 Threatened (T)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Hirundo megaensis has a restricted range around Mega and Yabello in southern Ethiopia. No survey-based population estimate has been made, but while one survey in 1989 suggested densities had remained constant through the 1980s, another established slightly larger geographical and altitudinal ranges but recorded lower numbers. Field surveys in 1996 found it to be fairly common in small numbers (P. Robertson in litt. 1998). Surveys in 2005 found less than two individuals per 15 minute point count or 500 m transect (R. Mellanby in litt. 2005). In June 2006 small numbers were observed on the Liben Plains east of Negele, c.120 km northeast of the previously-known range. Further sightings have since been made there in October-December 2006, February 2007 and January 2008 (Gabremichael et al. 2009). It is not yet confirmed to breed on the Liben Plains and has not been recorded there in April-May, but the spread in seasonality of sightings so far suggests that the species may prove to occur regularly in the area. The population is estimated to number less than 10,000 individuals because the species probably occurs at relatively low densities across its range, (N. J. Collar in litt. 2003), , although it is no longer believed to be dependent on termite mounds to nest as it has since been found to nest in traditional houses and wells.

Countries occurrence:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 14800
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Number of Locations: 11-100
Continuing decline in number of locations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Lower elevation limit (metres): 1500
Upper elevation limit (metres): 1700
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The population is estimated to number less than 10,000 individuals because the species probably exists at relatively low densities across its range, although it is no longer believed to be dependent on termite mounds to nest as it has since been found to nest in traditional houses and wells (N. J. Collar in litt. 2003). It is placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals, equating to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend Justification:  The population is suspected to be in decline owing to changes in land use across much of the species's range, however the magnitude of this decline is unclear.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 2500-9999 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
No. of subpopulations: 1 Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: Yes
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation: 100

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The species is found in open, semi-arid country above 1,500 m with short grass and low Acacia thorn-scrub (dense to sparse) with some clearings (EWNHS 1996, P. Robertson in litt. 1998, Mellanby et al. 2008). It occurs less commonly over farmland (R. Mellanby in litt. 2005, Mellanby et al. 2008). Sightings on the Liben Plains come from open grassland at c.1,650 m (Gabremichael et al. 2009). It breeds during the main rainy season (April-May), with nests being found in early May. It has been suspected of breeding in termite mounds, but the only confirmed breeding records come from rafters in houses, and deep traditional wells (EWNHS 1996, Mellanby et al. 2009).

Systems: Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Yes
Generation Length (years): 4
Movement patterns: Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is potentially threatened by the conversion of Acacia thorn-scrub to grazing land, and pastoralism to crop agriculture (N. Collar in litt. 2005). Surveys in 2005 found it at lower densities in farmland (R. Mellanby in litt. 2005), suggesting that the species's population is declining in the face of such increases in grazing pressure and conversion to crops. The Ethiopian Bush-crow Zavattariornis stresemanni, which is endemic to a similar area and habitat, has declined significantly over the last ten years, probably owing to fire suppression in Yabello Wildlife Sanctuary leading to increased vegetation cover (L. Borghesio in litt. 2005).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
Yabello Sanctuary (c.2,500 km2) was designated in 1985 to protect this species and Ethiopian Bush-Crow Zavattariornis stresemanni, but it has not yet been gazetted and there is no active management. Responsibility for protected areas has now passed to the Regional Government, so it is hoped that collaboration between Regional and Zonal Governments and local communities may result in more substantive protection (P. Robertson in litt. 1998).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys in order to obtain a population estimate. Establish the regularity and seasonality of occurrence on the Liben Plains, and survey between Negele and Arero to establish whether there is a continuous population (Gabremichael et al. 2009). Once a baseline population estimate has been obtained, carry out regular surveys to monitor population trends. Monitor rates of Acacia clearance and conversion to cultivation. Better define the species's habitat requirements. Determine why it is restricted to such a small range. Determine whether it is affected by the clearance of thorn-scrub for rangeland development. Formerly gazette Yabello Wildlife Sanctuary and initiate active management. Increase the area of suitable habitat that has protected status.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2012. Hirundo megaensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22712330A38577127. . Downloaded on 08 October 2015.
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