Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very small range, within which its small population is likely to be declining as a result of ongoing clearance of habitat. It is therefore listed as Endangered.
Gedeon et al. (2017) estimated the population size to be 1,100-2,100 mature individuals, which is placed here in the range 1,000-2,499 mature individuals. The species is potentially split into multiple sub-populations and it is likely that the largest sub-population contains fewer than 1,000 mature individuals (especially given the lower end of the potential population size estimate). However, there is insufficient evidence currently to conclude that the largest sub-population is ≤250 mature individuals.
Surveys by Töpfer et al. (2014) and Gedeon et al. (2017) have found the species to be currently scarce, and as such the species has most likely declined from when it was considered common (Macworth-Praed and Grant 1952, Urban and Brown 1971). Given that threats are ongoing, declines are therefore likely to continue. Thus, the species is assessed as undergoing a continuing decline, though there is insufficient evidence to estimate the exact rate.
Pternistis atrifrons has only been reported from southern Ethiopia, around the town of Mega, and in the extreme north of Kenya. A recent, brief survey failed to locate the species where it had been seen in Kenya, and the species has only been sighted once in this country, in 1975 (Töpfer et al. 2014, del Hoyo et al. 2017). This is despite the presence of suitable habitat for the species (areas of woodland containing low shrubs, interspersed with open patches and taller vegetation [Töpfer et al. 2014]). Historically, it had been considered to be common (Macworth-Praed and Grant 1952, Urban and Brown 1971), but estimates from recent surveys put the population size at only c.1,100-2,100 mature individuals (Gedeon et al. 2017).
Contradictory to former descriptions that said the species occurred in a variety of forest habitats, recent field surveys have only located it in shrubland areas associated with rocks, and areas of 'scrubby-woodland' (Töpfer et al. 2014, Gedeon et al. 2017). Rocks may be important for the species, as males have been reported to take up exposed spots on rocks to call from (Gedeon et al. 2017). Even though individuals may hold territories up to the edge of agricultural land, there is no evidence that the species uses this or grassland, and it has not been found on rocky, dry slopes either (Töpfer et al. 2014, Gedeon et al. 2017).
Juniper forest is threatened by the expansion of agriculture, grazing and logging (Töpfer et al. 2014), and so these ongoing threats could be having a severe impact on the species if it is dependent on such forest. Hunting is also likely to be having a significant effect, and it could even be the most important threat currently (Töpfer et al. 2014). Increasing temperatures as a result of climate change could also have a large effect on the species (Gedeon et al. 2017).
Conservation Actions Underway
No targeted conservation actions are known for this species, but there have been recent surveys conducted on this species (Töpfer et al. 2014, Gedeon et al. 2017).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct further surveys to see whether the species persists in Kenya, and further investigate its habitat preferences. Monitor population trends and increase knowledge of the species's ecology and threats (Gedeon et al. 2017). Restrict agricultural spread and prevent forest fires and the practice of slash-and-burn (Gedeon et al. 2017). Extend Borana National Park to incorporate the core part of this species's range (Gedeon et al. 2017). Enforce sustainable use of natural resources within key parts of the range and ban hunting with snares (Gedeon et al. 2017). Increase awareness of the species and its conservation needs with people living within its range (see Gedeon et al. 2017).
Text account compilers
Taylor, J., Butchart, S., Westrip, J., Ekstrom, J., Symes, A.
Töpfer, T., Nagel, H., Gedeon, K.
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Pternistis atrifrons. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 20/10/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 20/10/2019.