Drakensberg Rockjumper Chaetops aurantius


Justification of Red List Category
Data from Southern African Bird Atlas Projects suggests that this species is experiencing at least a moderately rapid decline, but there is uncertainty over the rate of decline. Therefore, this species is now listed as Near Threatened, but further information regarding population trends may mean that the Red List status requires re-evaluation.

Population justification
The global population has been estimated at 100,000-500,000 individuals (del Hoyo et al. 2007), with 10,000-100,000 individuals estimated to be in Lesotho (per Hockey et al. 2005). The Lesotho highlands are a stronghold for this species. In the Sehlabethebe National Park, 11 breeding pairs per 32 km transect were found in the afro-montane grassland (Kopij 2002). In the highlands above 2,200 m, 14 pairs per 54 km transect were found (Kopij 2015a). 10 pairs per 120 km transect were found in the foothills, but this species was not recorded at all in the lowlands (Kopij 2015a). In Afro-montane Themeda-Festuca grassland, 29 pairs were found per 61.2 km transect, while 32 breeding pairs were found per 44.7 km transect in the Afro-alpine grasslands 2,500 - 3,000 m above sea level (Kopij 2015b). 8 pairs per 104 km transect, and 1 pair per 110 km transect were found in the upper Senque and lower Senque river drainages respectively (Kopij 2013).  

Trend justification
Lee et al. (2017) analysed Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP) data (SABAP1 1987-1992; SABAP2 2007-2014. Note SABAP2 is ongoing but data taken from 2014) and suggested that this species is experiencing a decline in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Lee et al. (2017) suggest that the reporting rate has declined 28.5%, the range has declined 42.0% and the core range has declined 35.5% between SABAPs (although the corrected population change metric suggests population declines may be lower than this). Declines may in part be due to incomplete sampling during SABAP2 and the time period for these declines is greater than three generations (c.11 years), but it is precautionarily assessed that the species may be at least declining moderately rapidly over three generations.

Distribution and population

Chaetops aurantius has a range predominantly centred on Lesotho, spreading into the surrounding areas of South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Eastern Cape) (Hockey et al. 2005; Taylor et al. 2015).


This species occurs in high altitude steep grasslands and rocky areas down to 1,800 m in some areas, but generally above 2,250 m (see Hockey et al. 2005). In some areas it is a dominant species in avian assemblages in the Alti-mountain grassland (Kopij 2010, 2015b).


Afforestation could potentially be a threat to the species (e.g. Allan et al. 1997). Given the species's ecology, climate change will likely impact upon this species (Simmons et al. 2004; Taylor et al. 2015), and temperatures in South Africa have been reported to be rising (van Wilgen et al. 2016). However, the presented declines of Lee et al. (2017) suggest that there is a factor driving current declines. It could, therefore, be that there is a separate unknown threat impacting the species.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
No targeted actions are known.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to get better estimates of population size and trends. Conduct research to investigate what may be causing declines.


Text account compilers
Clark, J.

Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Kopij, G. & Westrip, J.R.S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Chaetops aurantius. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/drakensberg-rockjumper-chaetops-aurantius on 01/06/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 01/06/2023.