Justification of Red List Category
Although the majority of this species's population occurs within protected areas, it has a small range (being known from less than 10 locations) and is probably declining owing to alteration, clearance and fragmentation of its forest habitat at the extremities of its range. It is therefore considered Vulnerable.
The population in the Udzungwas is known from eight localities (Dinesen et al. 2001) and is guessed to exceed 10,000 individuals (L. Dinesen in litt. 2007), because the stronghold for this species in the high altitude part of the Udzungwa forest is likely to be largely unaltered (L. Dinesen in litt. 2016). However, the total population of Nyumbanitu and Ndundulu Forests and Udzungwa National Park has been estimated at possibly no more than 2,500 individuals (L. Hansen in litt. 2007). The range of 10,000-19,999 individuals therefore remains as a preliminary population estimate requiring further documentation. This equates to 6,667-13,333 mature individuals, rounded here to 6,000-15,000 mature individuals.
The species's population is suspected to be in decline owing to the clearance of forest in parts of its range, although the likely rate of decline remains unquantified.
Sheppardia lowei is known from only a small number of forested areas in the Ukaguru Mountains, Udzungwa Mountains and the Southern Highlands (Njombe District) of Tanzania. Within this range it is fairly common in places, with as many as 15 pairs/km2 in the Udzungwas (Keith et al. 1992), where there is possibly only 100-160 km2 of suitable forest. The population in the Udzungwas is known from eight localities (Dinesen et al. 2001) and is guessed to exceed 10,000 individuals (L. Dinesen in litt. 2007, 2016), although the total population of Nyumbanitu and Ndundulu Forests and Udzungwa National Park has been estimated at possibly no more than 2,500 individuals (L. Hansen in litt. 2007).
It is found in montane forest and thickets (Keith et al. 1992) and is tolerant of some habitat disturbance. It is generally more abundant at higher altitudes (Keith et al. 1992) (in the Udzungwas above 1800 m [Dinesen et al. 1993]). Largely ground-dwelling, it forages in leaf-litter and sometimes gleans from trunks, vines and branches (Keith et al. 1992). It is also a frequent visitor to cleared trails (L. Hansen in litt. 2007). It regularly attends army-ant swarms and feeds on tiny insects flushed by the ants (Keith et al. 1992). The breeding season seems to follow the beginning of the first heavy rains, often in early to mid-November in the Udzungwas, and juveniles are seen until early April at least (L. Hansen in litt. 2007).
It is not threatened in the Udzungwa Mountains, where the majority of the population is found, owing partly to its preference for higher altitude forests where logging is much less severe (L. Dinesen in litt. 2007). However, it may be threatened by forest destruction in the southern and western parts of the Udzungwas and the Southern Highlands, where forest patches are smaller and under greater pressure (Keith et al. 1992, D. C. Moyer in litt. 1999, L. Dinesen in litt. 2016). An ever increasing threat in the Njombe area is agricultural expansion, which has resulted in the near total clearance of forest patches between Njombe and Kipengere (D. Moyer in litt. 2007). Although there is pressure on village forest reserves around Mufundi, the species is considered secure here owing to adequate protection of other areas of habitat (D. Moyer in litt. 2007).
Conservation Actions Underway
Some of the species's range (in the Udzungwa Mountains) is protected in the Udzungwa Mountains National Park and in several forest reserves. Forest reserves in the Ukaguru Mountains are reasonably intact owing to the steep terrain.
13 cm. Small, drab robin of forest. Plain brown upperparts. Indistinct eyebrow-stripe just before and above eye. Warm olive-brown breast and flanks, with lighter coloured central underparts. Long, light flesh-coloured tarsus and feet diagnostic. Similar spp. Sharpe's Akalat S. sharpei has orange tones on underparts, shorter tarsus (making it look smaller), which are flesh orange, and clear white eyebrow-stripe. Voice Whistled wree wree. Alarm note tchak. Hints Elusive.
Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Westrip, J.
Baker, N., Dinesen, L., Hansen, L. & Moyer, D.
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Sheppardia lowei. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/02/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/02/2019.