Justification of Red List Category
This species survives in three small populations where habitat is severely threatened and the larger, eastern population is becoming increasingly fragmented. All populations are likely to be declining rapidly, and it is therefore classified as Endangered.
The population size is preliminarily estimated to fall into the band 10,000-19,999 individuals. This equates to 6,667-13,333 mature individuals, rounded here to 6,000-15,000 mature individuals. The eastern population extends into western Côte d'Ivoire (Goin Débé and Cavally Forest Reserves), covering an area of at least 18,000 km2, where it is locally common; the population has been estimated to lie in the region of 20,000-50,000 birds. However, this estimate is considered optimistic (H. Rainey in litt. 2007). Extrapolated data for the total population must be treated with caution as the species appears to be very rare and localised in the western part of its range (J. Lindsell in litt. 2007).
The total population is suspected to be declining very rapidly in line with severe habitat loss and degradation.
Malimbus ballmanni is confined to parts of the Upper Guinea rainforest block of West Africa in Sierra Leone (Gola Rainforest National Park, where it is considered very rare [E. Klop in litt. 2007]), Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire (first found near but not in Taï National Park), and Guinea (Diecke Forest Reserve, where four groups containing nine individuals have been recorded [H. Rainey in litt. 2007]). Fieldwork in 1988-1989 in the Gola Forest failed to relocate the species, but it was relocated in Gola North in February 2007 (E. Klop in litt. 2007, J. Lindsell in litt. 2007). It has not been seen again in Taï National Park. Field work in Cavally Forest Reserve, north-east of Taï National Park, failed to relocate this species in 2002 (H. Rainey in litt. 2007) (it had previously been found to be common there [Gatter and Gardner 1993]). Surveys in Liberia have shown that it may also be present in western Liberia in an area of 200-300 km2 (population size unknown), including in Gola National Forest and its neighbouring community forest, which is probably contiguous with the population in Sierra Leone (J. Lindsell in litt. 2012, N. Tubbs in litt. 2016), in eastern Liberia (Grand Gedeh/Sinoe County) (although none were seen during a 2013 expedition [Phalan et al. 2013]), and a recent record from Nimba County (Anon. 2012). The eastern population extends into western Côte d'Ivoire (Goin Débé and Cavally Forest Reserves) covering an area of at least 18,000 km2, where it is locally common and the population has been estimated to lie in the region of 20,000-50,000 birds (Gatter and Gardner 1993). However, this estimate is considered optimistic (H. Rainey in litt. 2007) and extrapolated data for the total population must be treated with caution as the species appears to be very rare and localised in the western part of its range (J. Lindsell in litt. 2007). In 1999, two possible sightings from the Krahn-Bassa National Forest region in south-east Liberia may extend the known range of its eastern population westward and southward (Robinson and Suter 1999).
It is found in lowland primary forest, lightly logged high forest and very old secondary forest between 4-20 m (H. Rainey in litt. 2007), where it forages for insects (Gatter and Gardner 1993). The breeding season is seasonally adapted, with indications of a minor breeding season in the short, intermediate dry season in July/August and a major breeding season in October/November (Gatter and Gardner 1993).
Remaining large tracts of forest in Liberia are under intense and increasing pressure from commercial logging and a consequent increase in settlement and small-holder agriculture (Anon. 2000). Illegal logging in western Côte d'Ivoire, particularly around northern Taï in Cavally and Goin-Debe Forest Reserves is believed to have become severe after the outbreak of civil conflict in 2002 (H. Rainey in litt. 2007). Elsewhere in the Upper Guinea region, forest survives in fragmented patches, which are under intense pressure for logging and agriculture (Anon. 2000). Stability has returned to some areas, but the current state of these forests and any current logging activities is unknown (H. Rainey in litt. 2007).
Conservation Actions Underway
In Sierra Leone, Gola Rainforest National Park is currently well protected, but the known area occupied by the species is extremely small and the entire range is likely to be much less than the total forest area (J. Lindsell in litt. 2007, 2012). There are attempts to improve the protection of Gola National Forest in Liberia (soon to become Gola Forest National Park) and its neighbouring community forest, where the species has been recorded (S. Jones pers. comm. to N. Tubbs 2015), and ensure connectivity with Gola Rainforest National Park in Sierra Leone (J. Lindsell in litt. 2012). Taï National Park in south-west Côte d'Ivoire is one of the largest and best-preserved areas of Upper Guinea forest, but the species's status there is uncertain.
Conservation Actions Proposed
Search rainforest west of Taï National Park to determine whether the species occurs there (Gartshore et al. 1995). Conduct further surveys in Gola North and Gola South, where it may occur in primary forest (E. Klop in litt. 2007, N. Tubbs in litt. 2016). Conduct surveys of the overall population to estimate density. Carry out ecological studies, particularly to learn more of its breeding ecology (H. S. Thompson in litt. 1999) and reasons for its restricted distribution even where it occurs. In Guinea, conduct further surveys of Ziama Forest Reserve to verify rumours of presence, and also further surveys in Diecke to assess its extent of distribution (H. Rainey in litt. 2007). Survey any remaining forest patches, particularly in Guinea Nimba to assess its presence (H. Rainey in litt. 2007). Upgrade Gola National Forest in Liberia to National Park status, and get community forests, which serve as critical corridors, legally designated (N. Tubbs in litt. 2016).
18-20 cm. Large, black forest weaver with bright golden-yellow crescent on breast and similar coloured vent. Female almost totally black with a shadow of yellow breast crescent. Similar spp. No other malimbe within its range has yellow on breast and vent. Voice Song phrases or calls by males include a series of chattering sounds followed by a wheezing phrase lasting about three seconds cheg chig cheg cheg chega zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, similar to Village Weaver Ploceus cucullatus (Gatter and Gardner 1993). Females' song is similar cheg cheg chig chag chaaag cheg chiiig (Gatter and Gardner 1993). Hints Occurs in mixed-bird parties.
Text account compilers
Starkey, M., Symes, A., Ekstrom, J., Taylor, J., Westrip, J., Shutes, S.
Tubbs, N., Rainey, H., Thompson, H.S., Lindsell, J., Klop, E., Jones, S.
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Malimbus ballmanni. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/11/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/11/2020.