Albertine Owlet Glaucidium albertinum


Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Vulnerable because it has a very small population (being known from only four widely separated locations) that is severely fragmented and probably declining, given the continuing clearance and degradation of its forest habitat.

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 is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be declining in line with the clearance and degradation of forest within the species's range.

Distribution and population

Glaucidium albertinum is known from just 3-5 specimens, collected in the Itombwe Mountains (2 specimens) and in forest west of Lake Edward (2 at relatively low altitude [1,100 m], and originally identified as G. capense castaneum [Prigogine 1953] may need re-examination; F. Dowsett-Lemaire in litt. 2000), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as in Nyungwe Forest (1), Rwanda. There is also a recent sight record from Kahuzi-Biéga National Park, west of Lake Kivu (DRC). It may be fairly common in parts of Itombwe (T. Butynski in litt. 1999) - as a nocturnal species, it may have been under-recorded by past ornithological surveys. The song of a barred owlet, assumed to be of this form, was heard in Nyungwe, Rwanda at the altitude of 2500 m (Dowsett-Lemaire 1990); it is evidently very rare in Nyungwe (F. Dowsett-Lemaire in litt. 2016).


This bird is found in very open montane and transitional forest, with many clearings and a dense understorey, and probably occurs up to 2,500 m at least (based on Glaucidium spp. heard calling at this altitude at Nyungwe, almost certainly G. albertinum [Dowsett-Lemaire 1990]). Diet includes invertebrates. Its breeding ecology is unknown (Butynski et al. 1997).


Deforestation and forest degradation are the most likely threats throughout its range. Forest in the Itombwe Mountains and Kahuzi-Biéga National Park is under increasing pressure from pastoralists, farmers, pit-sawyers, miners and hunters (Hall et al. 1998, Omari et al. 1999). The human population in this volatile area is increasing rapidly and thousands of refugees from Burundi and Rwanda live in camps at the base of Itombwe's eastern escarpment and to the north (Hall et al. 1998, Omari et al. 1999). Clearance for agriculture, particularly along the southern and western edges of gallery montane forest, has increased dramatically in the past few years as maize crops have failed, causing famine (Butynski et al. 1997). Nyungwe Forest was initially reduced in size from 114,000 ha in 1958 to 97,100 ha in 1979, mainly at the expense of forest below 1,700 m (Fishpool and Evans 2001). Reports suggest that there was very little encroachment in the 1990s, due to the conflict-related emigration of local people (F. Dowsett-Lemaire in litt. 2000).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. It occurs in Kahuzi-Biéga National Park and Nyungwe National Park. Itombwe Forest has been gazetted as a community reserve, although the boundaries still need to be defined (A. Plumptre in litt. 2007). Other parts of the Itombwe Mountains are not protected.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Reassess its taxonomic status. If the taxon is confirmed as a species, survey its distribution and status within the projected range, once the security situation permits this. Once a baseline population estimate has been obtained, continue to monitor population trends as long as the security situation is conducive. Monitor the loss and degradation of habitat within its range. Increase the area of suitable habitat that has protected status.


20 cm. Small, large-headed owl with no ears. Rounded head heavily spotted with white. Mantle/back not barred. Barred breast. Spotted belly and flanks. Pale yellow eyes. Similar spp. African Barred Owlet G. capense is less intensely coloured, with barred head and mantle/back. Voice Not certainly described.


Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Khwaja, N., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Westrip, J.

Dowsett-Lemaire, F., Plumptre, A., Butynski, T.M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Glaucidium albertinum. Downloaded from on 21/09/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/09/2020.