Western Angola

Country/Territory Angola,Namibia
Area 150,000 km2
Altitude 0 - 2000m
Priority critical
Habitat loss unquantified
Knowledge poor

General characteristics

Several vegetation zones meet in western Angola: it is bounded to the north by the lowland rain forests of the Zaïre basin, to the south by the Namib desert and to the east by a vast area of Zambesian miombo woodland. At the western edge of Angola's high plateau is a steep escarpment (at 400-1,000 m) where the cold Benguela current creates almost continuous cloud cover. A band of semi-evergreen forest which is between 1 km and 15 km wide extends here for c.300 km almost as far south as Lubango-but becomes very narrow and dry at the southern end; the estimate of its area (1,300-2,000 km2) requires confirmation by satellite imagery. This habitat-one of the most important for the EBA's restricted-range species-is bordered to the west by an arid coastal belt and inland by miombo woodland. Another important habitat is Afromontane forest, of which there are now only a few isolated patches in Huambo, Benguela, Cuanza Sul and Huila provinces, mainly in deep mountain ravines (Barbosa 1970, White 1983, Huntley 1992, Hawkins 1993).

Restricted-range species

Angola is among Africa's ornithologically least-known countries (Dowsett 1985, Dean et al. 1987). In the arid lowlands (see 'Habitat associations' table), Euplectes aureus is found in northern and central Angola below the escarpment zone, but most records of Estrilda thomensis are from south-west Angola and along the Angola-Namibia border, further south than any of the other restricted-range species. Seven species appear confined to the semi-evergreen forests of the escarpment zone, and Platysteira albifrons is only in the escarpment forest and coastal lowland gallery forest; note that, according to Lippens and Wille (1976), this species occurs in extreme south-west Zaïre, but we have been unable to trace the source of this record. Laniarius amboimensis, Prionops gabela and Sheppardia gabela are known only from the escarpment in the vicinity of Gabela, south of the Cuanza valley, and Macrosphenus pulitzeri is known just from here and one other locality further south on the escarpment. Laniarius brauni has been recorded only from the escarpment in Cuanza Norte, north of the Cuanza valley, and Malaconotus monteiri (in this EBA) from here and the vicinity of Gabela. Four of the restricted-range species are associated with Afromontane vegetation (both forest and non-forest) in the higher parts of western Angola, including the monotypic endemic genus Xenocopsychus. Three of these species are locally common and occur on vegetated quartzite outcrops which are probably not threatened (W. R. J. Dean in litt. 1993), but Francolinus swierstrai is present in just a few small forest patches.

Species IUCN Category
Grey-striped Francolin (Pternistis griseostriatus) LC
Swierstra's Francolin (Pternistis swierstrai) EN
Gabela Helmetshrike (Prionops gabela) EN
White-fronted Wattle-eye (Platysteira albifrons) NT
Monteiro's Bush-shrike (Malaconotus monteiri) NT
Braun's Bush-shrike (Laniarius brauni) EN
Gabela Bush-shrike (Laniarius amboimensis) EN
Pulitzer's Longbill (Macrosphenus pulitzeri) EN
Angola Slaty-flycatcher (Melaenornis brunneus) LC
Angola Cave-chat (Xenocopsychus ansorgei) LC
Gabela Akalat (Sheppardia gabela) EN
(Nectarinia ludovicensis) NR
Golden-backed Bishop (Euplectes aureus) LC
Cinderella Waxbill (Estrilda thomensis) LC

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
AO004 Camabatela Angola
AO007 Chongoroi Angola
AO011 Gabela Angola
AO012 Iona National Park Angola
AO018 Mombolo (Missão da Namba) Angola
AO019 Mount Moco Angola
AO022 Quiçama Angola
AO023 Tundavala Angola
NA001 Epupa - Ruacana Namibia

Threat and conservation

The density of Angola's human population is relatively low, but some of the EBA's most important forests are believed threatened. For example, the montane forests on Mt Moco in the Bailundu highlands (which are the EBA's best remaining examples of this forest type: Huntley 1992) are small and are vulnerable to fire and felling (Dowsett 1985). The escarpment zone was developed for coffee-growing from the 1930s, and by the 1970s there was little undisturbed forest remaining; it was estimated then that 95% of forest was under coffee production (which leaves the canopy largely intact), although much of this has now been abandoned for 30 years or more, with (possibly much) less than 25% now producing coffee. Clearance for subsistence agriculture is now a threat, and an estimated 30% of the forest has been so used; some forms of agriculture leave some canopy trees, but others remove virtually all of them. Hunting for food is probably widespread (Hawkins 1993).

All seven restricted-range birds confined to escarpment forest, and the montane Francolinus swierstrai, are threatened by habitat pressures, and the two francolins are also probably widely hunted. A more-widespread threatened species in montane habitats in the Bailundu highlands is Black-chinned Weaver Ploceus nigrimentum (classified as Vulnerable).

There are several protected areas in the EBA, but a number of new ones have been proposed to improve coverage of key habitats (Huntley 1992; see also Collar and Stuart 1988, IUCN 1992b). Kisama National Park includes an area of escarpment forest, but probably supports only a few of the restricted-range species, so Gabela and Chongoroi Strict Nature Reserves and Tala Mungongo National Monument have been proposed as new conservation areas. It may also prove possible to designate most of the southern part of the escarpment as a Biosphere Reserve (Hawkins 1993). The Afromontane habitats of western Angola are currently unprotected, so Namba and Monte Moco Strict Nature Reserves and Tundavala Regional Nature Park have been proposed. Estrilda thomensis occurs in Iona National Parks, and Chimalavera Regional Nature Park may support all three of the lowland species. The proposed Serra de Neve Strict Nature Reserve could also support some restricted-range species.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Western Angola. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/03/2023.