Abbott's Starling Poeoptera femoralis


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a small range, within which it is generally rare. Its forest habitat is declining in both extent and quality, indicating that its presumably small population is probably declining too. It is therefore considered Vulnerable.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
The species's population is suspected to be declining in line with the clearance and degradation of highland forest within its range. The likely rate of decline, however, has not been estimated.

Distribution and population

Cinnyricinclus femoralis is found in a few montane forest localities in Kenya and northern Tanzania. It is generally scarce and local in forest on Mt Kenya (Zimmerman et al. 1996), but common in Kikuyu Escarpment Forest in the southern Aberdare Mountains (375 km2) (Bennun and Njoroge 1999), where flocks of up to 40 have been seen (Taylor and Taylor 1988). However, there have been few recent records from the Kikuyu Escarpment, possibly suggesting a decline in numbers (Bennun in litt. 1999). It has also been recorded from the isolated Chyulu Hills (old records of flocks of up to 100 birds on fruiting trees [Lewis and Pomeroy 1989], but no recent records) and Taita Hills (recent records [Brooks et al. 1998]), suggesting that it may make substantial movements between forests (Zimmerman et al. 1996). In Tanzania, it is found on Mt Kilimanjaro where it was considered quite common above 1,800 m, in 1977 (Turner 1977), but there have been few recent records (N. Baker in litt. 1999) and it was regarded in 1991 as probably rare (Cordeiro 1994). It is also known from forests on Mt Meru, where it is scarce and may be only seasonal in occurrence (Turner 1977). Flocks of 20-25 were seen at 1,600 m in Kindoroko Forest Reserve in the North Pare Mountains in July 1993 (Cordeiro and Kiure 1995).


This little-known frugivore occurs in the canopy of highland forest, being present throughout the year in at least some locations (e.g. the Aberdares), albeit with seasonal fluctuations (Taylor and Taylor 1988).


Forest loss and degradation are likely to pose a threat over most of its range. Illegal logging and agricultural encroachment have been major problems in Mt Kenya Forest and the Kikuyu Escarpment Forest (Bennun and Njoroge 1999). Encroachment for cultivation and cattle-grazing continues at Kikuyu, however encroachment of the forest edge at Mt Kenya has ceased, whilst cultivation of forest glades continues (K. Mwangi in litt. 2007). As this species nests in holes in trees, it is probably sensitive to the cutting of mature trees. Forest Reserves in the North Pare Mountains did not appear to be under any immediate threat in 1993, although there was some pit-sawing and encroachment by cattle (Cordeiro and Kiure 1995). Since then however, fires, hunting and tree-cutting have escalated and have become severe in parts of the North Pares (N. Cordeiro in litt. 2008).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Forest Reserves on Mt Kenya cover 1,995 km2, including about 1,400 km2 of forest and forest/bamboo/scrub mosaic (Bennun and Njoroge 1999). The Forest Department is able to exert very little control over the management of Kikuyu Escarpment Forest Reserve (Bennun and Njoroge 1999). Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya are both National Parks, and the former protects most of the forest cover whereas only higher altitudes of Mt Kenya are protected, leaving much lower altitude forest unprotected (N. Cordeiro in litt. 2008).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Study its ecology, especially its nesting and breeding requirements (Bennun in litt. 1999). Estimate its population size (Bennun in litt. 1999). Once a baseline population estimate has been obtained, conduct regular surveys in order to monitor population trends. Monitor rates of forest clearance and degradation at known sites. Support existing forest-conservation programmes within its range, and initiate new schemes at other key sites (Bennun in litt. 1999).


16-18 cm. Small starling of forest. Black head and breast. White underparts. Bright orange eye. Similar spp. Magpie Starling Speculipastor bicolor has obvious white wing-patches and occurs in much drier woodland. Voice Musical, whistled call, up and down scale. Short, high-pitched song. Hints Best seen in montane forest on Mt Kenya above Naro Moru and Embu, or in Kerita (Gatamaiyu), part of the Kikuyu Escarpment Forest, near Nairobi. It is gregarious except during the breeding season, when it nests in tree-cavities (Zimmerman et al. 1996).


Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Westrip, J.

Baker, N., Bennun, L., Cordeiro, N. & Mwangi, K.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Poeoptera femoralis. Downloaded from on 02/07/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 02/07/2020.