Serengeti plains

Country/Territory Kenya; Tanzania
Area 160,000 km2
Altitude 1000 - 2200 m
Priority urgent
Habitat loss moderate
Knowledge incomplete

General characteristics

This EBA includes the semi-arid plains to the south and east of Lake Victoria in north-central Tanzania and south-west Kenya. Its boundaries, defined by the combined distributions of the restricted-range species, correspond to an isolated region of Somalia- Masai Acacia-Commiphora deciduous bushland and thicket (White 1983). In Tanzania, the EBA extends southwards from Serengeti National Park to the Lake Eyasi basin, which includes the Wembere steppe. In Kenya, it extends northwards from the border with Tanzania through the plateau to the west of the Rift Valley to the high valley bottom regions surrounding Lakes Naivasha and Nakuru. The northern part of this EBA lies adjacent to the Kenyan mountains (EBA 109), but the birds of the latter area occur mainly in montane habitats at higher altitudes.

Restricted-range species

The restricted-range species include the monotypic endemic genus Histurgops. They all occur in Acacia or Acacia-Commiphora woodland and bushed or wooded grassland, habitats which are patchily distributed within the EBA. Only two of the restricted-range species, Trachyphonus usambiro and Prionops poliolophus, are recorded from Kenya, where they both range northwards up the Rift Valley to the area around Lake Naivasha, P. poliolophus also as far as Lake Nakuru (Lewis and Pomeroy 1989). P. poliolophus is rare and localized in Tanzania (N. E. Baker in litt. 1993), but T. usambiro is widespread in the Tanzanian section of the EBA, as are Francolinus rufopictus, Agapornis fischeri and Histurgops ruficauda (see Schmidl 1982, Stronach 1990, Moyer 1995). Apalis karamojae is restricted (in this EBA) to stands of whistling thorn Acacia drepanolobium in the southern Serengeti National Park, Maswa Game Reserve and the Wembere steppe (D. C. Moyer in litt. 1994).

Species IUCN Red List category
Grey-breasted Francolin (Pternistis rufopictus) LC
Usambiro Barbet (Trachyphonus usambiro) LC
Fischer's Lovebird (Agapornis fischeri) NT
Grey-crested Helmetshrike (Prionops poliolophus) NT
Karamoja Apalis (Apalis karamojae) VU
Rufous-tailed Weaver (Histurgops ruficauda) LC

Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs)
Country IBA Name IBA Book Code
Kenya Hell's Gate National Park KE065
Kenya Lake Elmenteita KE046
Kenya Lake Naivasha KE048
Kenya Lake Nakuru National Park KE049
Kenya Masai Mara KE050
Kenya South Nguruman KE056
Tanzania Lake Manyara TZ004
Tanzania Maswa Game Reserve TZ015
Tanzania Ngorongoro Conservation Area TZ013
Tanzania Serengeti National Park TZ009
Tanzania Tarangire National Park TZ010
Tanzania Wembere steppe TZ043
Tanzania Yaida Chini TZ079

Threat and conservation

A large part of the EBA is included in protected areas, but outside the reserves the habitats of the restricted-range species are coming under increasing pressure from pastoralists and agriculturalists. In the past, some habitat was lost through the tsetse fly control programme, but now human population pressure is leading to general degradation because of overstocking and the cultivation of marginal areas. The band of woodland and wooded grassland which extends south from Maswa Game Reserve to the Wembere steppe is of particular concern, as it probably supports populations of all of the restricted-range species but is under considerable pressure. There is currently no protection for the whole of Lake Eyasi basin, including the Wembere steppe and Lake Kitangiri (N. E. Baker in litt. 1993). The main threat to the EBA in Kenya is the spread of agriculture in and around the Rift Valley, where areas of grassland and woodland outside protected areas are vanishing, such that the populations of the restricted-range species are likely to become confined to the area protected in the Serengeti and Masai Mara reserves (L. A. Bennun in litt. 1993). Prionops poliolophus and Apalis karamojae are threatened because their particularly restricted ranges largely lie outside protected areas. Agapornis fischeri populations have been reduced locally by capture for the wild-bird trade, but it remains a numerous species within protected areas (Moyer 1995, N. Stronach in litt. 1993).

A large part of this EBA is protected within the contiguous Serengeti National Park, Maswa Game Reserve, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Masai Mara Game Reserve. However, much of this area (such as the extensive grasslands in the north of the Serengeti National Park) contains no suitable habitat for the restricted-range species. The Masai Mara Game Reserve itself will not effectively conserve the restricted-range species in Kenya, but its buffer zones, which are presently managed in a similar way to the main reserve, should contain both Trachyphonus usambiro and Prionops poliolophus (L. A. Bennun in litt. 1996). At least three other protected areas contain suitable habitat for the restricted-range birds (see IUCN 1992b).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Serengeti plains. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/eba/factsheet/99 on 03/10/2023.