Central Ethiopian highlands

Country/Territory Eritrea,Ethiopia
Area 120,000 km2
Altitude 1300 - 3300m
Priority urgent
Habitat loss unquantified
Knowledge poor

General characteristics

A total of 29 species of birds are endemic to Ethiopia and Eritrea, including the endemic genera Cyanochen, Rougetius, Parophasma and Zavattariornis. Most of them are associated with the extensive areas of Afromontane habitats in the Ethiopian highlands (see White 1983), and many are too widespread to be treated as restricted-range species. The eleven species whose ranges are estimated to be less than 50,000 km2 are grouped in this EBA and the South Ethiopian highlands (EBA 114), with single species in the Jubba and Shabeelle valleys (EBA 113) and Northern Ethiopia (Secondary Area s063).

The species included in this EBA are found in a variety of montane grassland-scrub mosaic habitats in the central and northern parts of the highlands, from near Addis Ababa northwards to central Eritrea. The boundary of the EBA has been based on the documented records and altitudinal limits of the restricted-range bird species present.

Restricted-range species

The distributions and habitat requirements of the restricted-range species are, in general, known only poorly. Three of them are associated with sparse vegetation in rocky areas: Serinus ankoberensis has been recorded only from escarpment tops and faces near Ankober, where it is known from just two sites 15 km apart, although there is other suitable adjoining habitat where it may occur (Atkins 1992, J. Atkins in litt. 1993); Serinus flavigula is recorded from an area of c.30 km2 in the highlands of north-west Shoa region, c.20 km to the east of Ankober (Ash and Gullick 1990); Myrmecocichla melaena is relatively widespread in the central and northern highlands, and extends northwards to central Eritrea. A survey in 1996 to assess the current status of Francolinus harwoodi recorded it at several localities in the Jemma valley and adjacent river systems in North Shoa administrative region, where it was locally common, and there were local reports that its range extends northwards into Southern Wello administrative region; it was mainly recorded in, or close to, thorn scrub, and was rarely observed near Typha beds which had previously been thought to be its main habitat (Robertson et al. in prep.).

Species IUCN Category
Harwood's Francolin (Pternistis harwoodi) NT
Rüppell's Chat (Myrmecocichla melaena) LC
Yellow-throated Seedeater (Crithagra flavigula) EN
Ankober Serin (Crithagra ankoberensis) VU

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
ER007 Asmara escarpment Eritrea
ER013 Senafe Eritrea
ET003 Simien Mountains National Park Ethiopia
ET015 Jemma and Jara valleys Ethiopia
ET016 Mid-Abbay (Blue Nile) river basin Ethiopia
ET018 Ankober - Debre Sina escarpment Ethiopia
ET019 Aliyu Amba - Dulecha Ethiopia
ET028 Awash National Park Ethiopia
ET044 Mugo highlands Ethiopia

Threat and conservation

All the endemic species of the Ethiopian highlands are under some degree of threat from habitat modification (J. C. Hillman in litt. 1993). Three of the restricted-range birds are threatened, the two Serinus species because of their vulnerability to habitat loss in their tiny known ranges, and Francolinus harwoodi because its thorn scrub habitat continues to be cleared for cultivation, fuelwood and construction and to control crop pests, and it is hunted for food (Robertson et al. in prep.). More widespread threatened species which have been recorded in this region include White-winged Flufftail Sarothrura ayresi (classified as Endangered) in marshes near Addis Ababa (Atkinson et al. 1996), and Wattled Crane Grus carunculatus (Vulnerable).

The only restricted-range species recorded from a protected area in this EBA is Myrmecocichla melaena in Simien Mountains National Park (P. O. Syvertsen in litt. 1993; see IUCN 1992b). A proposed new highland conservation area in the Termaber-Wufwasha-Ankober area would be far more relevant to the conservation of the restricted-range species, and the small-scale and dispersed relict forest conservation carried out by FARM-Africa will also benefit these birds (J. C. Hillman in litt. 1993).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Central Ethiopian highlands. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 11/07/2020.