Arabian Waxbill Estrilda rufibarba


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is described as rare in southern Saudi Arabia and southern Yemen and slightly commoner in North Yemen (Clement 1999).

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline due to habitat loss as a result of the increasing use of modern agricultural techniques in parts of its range.

Distribution and population

This species is endemic to Saudi Arabia and Yemen. It occurs in the mesic uplands of the Tihamah foothills (occasionally straying onto the lowland Tihamah proper (Jennings 1995)), including the eastern fringe of the montane plateau in Yemen (Christensen and Porter 1987). It is most frequently recorded in the southern Tihamah foothills and the lower slopes and Wadis of the western escarpments in Yemen. It is also found locally along the south coast of Yemen east to Wadi al-Jahr and, apparently disjunctly, in the extensively irrigated intensive agricultural areas of Wadi Hadramawt between Shibam and Tarim (Martins et al. 1996).


This species is highly social, and occurs from 250-2,500 m in fertile cultivated Wadis, plains, rocky hillsides and terraced slopes, usually with a dense cover of trees and bushes (Meinertzhagen 1954). The species roosts communally in this dense vegetation, and recently fledged juveniles have been recorded in May (Martins et al. 1996). It has become closely associated with regularly irrigated agricultural areas (especially cereal cultivation) which provide accessible drinking water. In a survey between July and September 1982-85, 73.5% of observations were in areas with flowing water. Modern irrigation techniques (increasing farmed areas adjacent to surface water) are beneficial to the species.


Recent use of imported agricultural machinery in Yemen has destroyed some traditional sites (Christensen and Porter 1987), particularly those in the Tihamah foothills (an area characterised by seasonally heavy precipitation and with a water table close to ground level for short periods annually) where local environmental factors used to maintain localised small marshes and damp areas with Typha stands until c.1985 when agricultural techniques began to change. Regular roost sites are being destroyed through burning and land-use change.


Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Harding, M., Fisher, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Estrilda rufibarba. 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.