Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Near Threatened because evidence of widespread threats suggests that its population is in moderately rapid decline.
Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) estimate that total the population could number in the upper thousands, although given its range this is perhaps likely to be an underestimate and they also state that, for this reason, an estimate of tens of thousands might be expected. On this basis, the population is estimated at 5,000-50,000 mature individuals until better information becomes available.
This species is threatened by persecution through trapping, shooting and nest destruction, competition for prey from humans, and habitat loss through deforestation (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). This suite of widespread threats implies that the species is in moderately rapid decline, especially considering its slow reproductive rate (Thomsett 2011), although the decline is currently not thought to be more severe, owing to the species's tolerance of modified habitats.
Stephanoaetus coronatus is a widespread resident of sub-Saharan Africa, occurring in easternmost Sudan and South Sudan, western Ethiopia, southernmost Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and southern Togo, southern Nigeria and Cameroon, through Gabon, into Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo, south to north-western Angola, east to Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, south-east through Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, to northern and eastern Zimbabwe, north-eastern, eastern and south-eastern South Africa and Swaziland (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). The species's range in Malawi is regarded as certainly decreasing, and habitat clearance there is expected to be impacting the species (Dowsett-Lemaire and Dowsett 2006). It has also declined in southern Mozambique owing to forest destruction along the coast (Parker 1999). The negative effects of habitat loss in South Africa are regarded as being partly offset by the establishment of exotic plantations (Hockey et al. 2005 and references therein), and afforestation of urban greenspace in affluent city suburbs (McPherson et al. 2016a). The species is thought to be in decline overall as a result of a suite of widespread threats, including direct persecution and competition from humans for prey species, in addition to habitat loss.
It inhabits forest, woodland, savanna and shrubland, as well as some modified habitats, such as plantations and secondary growth (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001), and can persist in small forest fragments including urban greenspace forests (Dowsett-Lemaire and Dowsett 2006, McPherson et al. 2016a). It shows high resilience to heavy deforestation and degradation in some areas (F. Dowsett-Lemaire in litt. 2012), although such changes are assumed to cause local declines in population density. The use of exotic invasive trees (especially Eucalyptus and Pinus spp.) for nesting permits persistence in degraded and mosaic landscapes (McPherson et al. 2016a). In South Africa there may have been a 14% decline in range over the past c.25 years, using data from the Southern African Bird Atlas Projects (Cooper 2015). It shows dietary plasticity and can feed on a diversity of prey (although maybe almost entirely mammals [Swatridge et al. 2014]) according to habitat type, which may allow it to persist in certain areas; and mesopredator release in some modified habitats may provide extra prey for this species allowing it to occur at higher densities than expected (see Swartridge et al. 2014, Symes and Antonites 2014, McPherson et al. 2016b, C. Symes in litt. 2016).
Although the species is welcomed by foresters in some areas, it is subjected to a number of significant threats throughout much of its range, including deforestation (carried out for timber extraction, charcoal production, the encroachment of agriculture and plantations, shifting cultivation and mining), collisions with anthropogenic structures (wires, fences, vehicles, glass buildings, wind turbines) and electrocution on utility networks (S. McPherson in litt. 2016, B. Reeves in litt. 2016), competition from humans for prey species (with apparently unsustainable levels of exploitation for bushmeat in some areas), direct persecution in an estimated 90% of its range (e.g. for food, arrow-fletching, witchcraft, ornaments and its pest status and threat to humans) and human disturbance (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001, Hockey et al. 2005, Thomsett 2011, McPherson 2015). Conflict with humans can arise because this species will take small amounts of livestock and pets (McPherson et al. 2016b). In Ghana, it is threatened by deforestation and hunting, including of its main prey (F. Dowsett-Lemaire in litt. 2012). Some once-occupied areas in Ghana have now been almost totally deforested, whilst others, such as Bosomoa Forest Reserve, have been converted to teak plantations (F. Dowsett-Lemaire in litt. 2012). The species may have altered its diet to partly accommodate declines in primate abundance in parts of Ghana, but its population is unlikely not to have been affected by such a dramatic decline in its prey base (which has probably worsened further since the mid-1990s) (B. Phalan in litt. 2012). Although the species appears to be doing well at Udzungwa, Tanzania, it may be absent as a breeding species from several areas (e.g. Uzungwa scarp, Kising’a-Rugaro, New Dabaga), owing to prey depletion by humans (T. Jones in litt. 2012). In Nigeria, it seems likely that the population has been impacted by widespread forest clearance in the south of the country (P. Hall in litt. 2012). In South Africa, wind turbines are becoming more of a threat to this species, with several reported casualties (B. Reeves in litt. 2016).
Conservation Actions Underway
The species occurs in a number of protected areas across its vast range.
Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct regular surveys to monitor populations at selected sites throughout its range. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation across its range. Carry out research into the impacts of human competition for prey species. Increase the total area of suitable habitat that is protected. Conduct education activities to reduce direct persecution and hunting pressure on prey species. Upgrade electrical networks to raptor safe designs.
Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Taylor, J., Westrip, J., Harding, M.
Dowsett-Lemaire, F., Lindsell, J., Baker, N., McPherson, S., Cizek, A., Symes, C., Hall, P., Reeves, B., Ewbank, D., Plumptre, A., Pomeroy, D., Jones, T., Phalan, B.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Stephanoaetus coronatus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 05/02/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 05/02/2023.