Cisticola aberdare


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Cisticola aberdare
Species Authority: Lynes, 1930
Common Name/s:
English Aberdare Cisticola
French Cisticole des Aberdares

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B1ab(i,ii,iii,iv,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor/s: BirdLife International
Reviewer/s: Taylor, J. & Butchart, S.
Contributor/s: Adhiambo, P., Bennun, L. & Gatarabirwa, L.
Facilitator/s: Benstead, P., Ekstrom, J., Evans, T., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J.
Within this species's very small range, much of its habitat is probably being lost rapidly and becoming severely fragmented, owing to agricultural development and intensified livestock production. It is therefore listed as Endangered.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Cisticola aberdare is found in central Kenya where it is locally common in suitable habitat (Zimmerman et al. 1996) on both sides of the Rift Valley, at Molo, Mau Narok and the Aberdare Mountains. Recent studies confirm the presence of the species in very low numbers at 2,400 m-2,700 m on the Kinangop Plateau, at the base of the Aberdare Mountains (L. Bennun in litt. 1999, 2000, P. Adhiambo in litt. 2008). Simple extrapolation of density figures in the Aberdares indicates a population there of c.50,000 birds (L. Bennun in litt. 1999, 2000, W. Gatarabirwa in litt. 1999, 2000). In 2000, 1,750 ±60 individuals were estimated at Mau Narok and Molo (P. Adhiambo in litt. 2007). A 2011 survey found the species in fairly good numbers in suitable habitat, with 137 individuals counted within an area of 35.6 ha (c4 birds/ha) (Malaki et al. 2011), however the rapid loss of grassland at Mau Narok and Molo, which now covers less than a third of the extent estimated in the late 1990s (P. Adhiambo in litt. 2007), suggests that the population is experiencing a rapid, ongoing population decline.

Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Simple extrapolation of density figures in the Aberdares indicates a population there of c.50,000 birds (L. Bennun in litt. 1999, 2000, W. Gatarabirwa in litt. 1999, 2000), thus the population is placed in the range bracket for 50,000-999,999 individuals.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It inhabits moist highland grassland above 2,300 m (Zimmerman et al. 1996), although in the Aberdares it occurs only on moorland above c.3,000 m. It is often the most abundant cisticola species present (Urban et al. 1997), with a mean density of 3.2 birds/ha in the Aberdares (W. Gatarabirwa in litt. 1999, 2000), and overlaps with the closely-related C. robustus in several places, at around 2,300-2,400 m (Urban et al. 1997). It feeds on insects (Urban et al. 1997). Five clutches (four of two eggs and one of one egg) have been found between early March and mid-June (W. Gatarabirwa in litt. 1999, 2000). A nest found on moorland in 2000 was described as a ball of woven soft grass tussocks (Deschampsia flexuosa), lined with the cotton-like seed-head of a thistle species Carduus chamaecephalus, with a side entrance near the top (Eshiamwata and Karimi 2003). It was sandwiched in grass about 30 cm off the ground amongst tough grass tussocks and Alchemilla argyrophylla (Eshiamwata and Karimi 2003).

Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In the Mau Narok/Molo grasslands, this species is probably threatened by rapid habitat loss and fragmentation due to expanding cultivation and intensified livestock production (Keith et al. 1992, Lens et al. 1996, P. Adhiambo in litt. 2007). Many areas of grassland, especially in Mau Narok, are subjected to burning by farmers to improve grazing quality, often repeatedly with the onset of the rainy season, which may destroy grass tussocks used for nesting (P. Adhiambo in litt. 2007). Fires in the dry season (late January to March), possibly started by illegal honey-gatherers, sometimes burn large areas of moorland in the Aberdare National Park, and may be a further threat, given that densities are much lower in recently burned areas (L. Bennun in litt. 1999, 2000, W. Gatarabirwa in litt. 1999, 2000). The nests may be vulnerable to damage by livestock and tractors (Eshiamwata and Karimi 2003, P. Adhiambo in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
Its range in the Aberdare Mountains is entirely within the Aberdare National Park. Elsewhere, its habitat is poorly conserved by the protected-area system (Lens et al. 1996). Fieldwork took place in 2000 as part of a project to study the species's altitudinal distribution and the effects of fire in the Aberdare central moorlands (Eshiamwata and Karimi 2003).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Assess its status on the Mau Narok/Molo grasslands and initiate conservation measures there (L. Bennun in litt. 1999, 2000). Initiate a scheme to monitor its population and distribution. Monitor threats to the species, and collect nest records to assess the danger from trampling (Eshiamwata and Karimi 2003). Survey the Kinangop Plateau for its presence. Study the species's tolerance of land-use changes (P. Adhiambo in litt. 2007). Work with farmers to change land management practices. Increase the area of suitable habitat that has protected status.

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Cisticola aberdare. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 19 April 2014.
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