Grey-crowned Prinia Prinia cinereocapilla


Justification of Red List category
This species is suspected to be rapidly declining as a result of the degradation and conversion of wooded grassland and scrubland throughout its range. It therefore qualifies as Vulnerable.

Population justification
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.

Trend justification
Rapid habitat degradation is continuing across the species's range, and this species's precise habitat requirements suggest that it is likely to be declining at a similarly rapid rate.

Distribution and population

This species has been recorded in the terai of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam, India (BirdLife International 2001), and was recently also found at Sukhna, along the Haryana-Punjab state border (Singh 2006) and at Pangot, Nanital and Maldevta, Rajpur and Sahastradhara near Dehradun in Uttarakhand (Sondhi 2011, A. P. Singh in litt. 2012, S. Sondhi in litt. 2016). In Nepal, it formerly occurred from Kanchanpur district in the west to Ilam district in the east, but it has declined and its distributional range has reduced: it is now almost confined to just three protected areas: Chitwan National Park, and in adjoining areas of Parsa Wildlife Reserve and a small area of Bardia National Park and buffer zone (Inskipp et al. 2016). Baral (2001) found it fairly common in Chitwan National Park and in adjoining areas of Parsa Wildlife Reserve. There is a single record of a pair from Lendanda Makwanpur District (J. Thakuri in litt. 2016). The Nepalese population is currently estimated at between 1,500 and 2,000 individuals (Inskipp et al. 2016). It is also known locally from Bhutan, where it is considered rare.


It primarily inhabits grassland with scrubby undergrowth, scattered trees and shrubs, particularly grasslands dominated by Themeda species, which typically occur close to Sal forests (Baral 2002). It also occurs in open forest and secondary growth, being more arboreal than other species of its genus. It is presumably resident from the lowlands up to c.2,000 m (S. Sondhi in litt. 2016), apparently breeding around June, although no confirmed nest has been reported. All the records in the Dehradun area have been from October to January. There are no records of this species from this area in the summer and monsoon months; hence it might be ascending in the Himalayas to breed (S. Sondhi in litt. 2016). Outside the breeding season the species has been found in loose flocks of 5-6 birds within Lantana bushes and scrub vegetation (S. Sondhi in litt. 2016).


The key threat is the loss of shrubby grasslands and open forests in the Terai and outer Himalayan foothills through conversion to agriculture, collection of fuelwood, overgrazing of livestock, and burning and harvesting of grass for thatch and for construction (S. Sondhi in litt. 2016). As it seems to occur naturally at low densities throughout much of its range the deleterious effects of habitat fragmentation may be more pronounced.

Outside the protected area network in Nepal the species is seriously threatened by disturbance and degradation of remaining patches of suitable grassland (H. Baral and C. Inskipp in litt. 2016). Within protected areas the effects on the species of repeated and late burning, and grass cutting are not known (Inskipp et al. 2016). Unlike other grassland habitats it is relatively difficult to restore Themeda grassland (Inskipp et al. 2016).

In Chitwan National Park it is threatened by the invasive alien Mikania micrantha which can smother grasslands and has had serious impacts in the park (Baral 2002). In the Dehradun valley, Uttarakhand, urbanisation and degradation of habitats threatens the species (A. P. Singh in litt. 2016). Overgrazing and untimely burning of grassland are the main threats in Bardia National Park, with road construction threatening populations outside the protected area (J. Thakuri in litt. 2016).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The species has been assessed as Critically Endangered under A2ce in Nepal (Inskipp et al. 2016). There are recent records from Corbett Tiger Reserve and Dehradun area, both in Uttarakhand, India, Chitwan and Parsa Wildlife Reserves, Nepal and Manas National Park, Bhutan.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor populations in suitable habitat throughout the species's range to establish population trends. Survey areas of suitable habitat in intervening areas between known sites in order to clarify the distribution and population size. Extend, upgrade and link existing protected areas to conserve remaining tracts of suitable habitat. Control livestock-grazing, degradation of forest and encroachment in protected areas. Conduct widespread conservation awareness initiatives focusing on sustainable management of grassland and forest in and around protected areas. Assess its altitudinal movements in the breeding and non-breeding season (S. Sondhi in litt. 2016).


11 cm. Small prinia with dark blueish-grey crown and narrow rufous-buff supercilium. Rufescent upperparts and buffish underparts. Similar spp. Breeding Rufescent Prinia P. rufescens has less sharply defined crown, narrower supercilium, less strongly rufous upperparts and whiter underparts. Non-breeding Ashy Prinia P. socialis is larger and longer-tailed and lacks supercilium behind eye. Voice Song is forced cheeeeeeeesum-zip-zip-zip. Also, rapidly-repeated zip notes.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Gilroy, J., Taylor, J., Allinson, T, Ashpole, J

Thakuri, J., Singh, A., Inskipp, C., Baral, H., Sondhi, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Prinia cinereocapilla. Downloaded from on 29/09/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 29/09/2023.