Long-tailed Ground-roller Uratelornis chimaera


Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Vulnerable because there is an ongoing moderately rapid decline in the quality and extent of its habitat across its small range.

Population justification
A total population estimate of 21,124 (with a 95% confidence interval of 9,487-32,687) mature individuals was calculated from a tentative estimate of the species's density at 5.7 (95% CI: 2.6-8.8) mature adults per km2 from transect surveys in 1999 and an estimate of 3,706 km2 of remaining habitat (Seddon and Tobias 2007). The 95% confidence intervals are taken as the upper and lower range estimates for the population.

Trend justification
The population is inferred to be declining in line with continuing habitat loss (Seddon and Tobias 2007; Global Forest Watch 2021). Over the past three generations, this species experienced a loss of 32% forest cover from its range (Global Forest Watch 2021). This species is also threatened by predation from invasive predators and trappers. Hence the overall past rate of decline is suspected to fall in the band of 25-35%. Between 2017-2020 this species's range lost 6.6% forest cover (Global Forest Watch 2021). Projected forwards over 3 generations, this equates to a loss of 23%. Assuming that forest loss continues at a similar rate, and the species remains threatened by invasive predators and trappers, the future rate of decline is suspected to fall in the band 21-31%.

Distribution and population

Uratelornis chimaera is restricted to a narrow coastal strip at Mikea Forest, originally 30-60 km wide and 200 km long, in south-western Madagascar between the Fiherenana and Mangoky rivers (Tobias and Seddon 2013). In its habitat it is uncommon, occurring at population densities of about 0.008-0.1 individuals per ha (N. Seddon and J. Tobias in litt. 1999, 2000). Although such habitat is threatened in the north-central, eastern and southern parts of this species's range, there is a fairly large intact block north of Manombo (Seddon et al. 2000). In 2000, the total population was estimated to be 10,000-20,000 individuals (N. Seddon and J. Tobias in litt. 1999, 2000). A total population estimate of 21,124 (95% CI: 9,487-32,687) mature individuals was calculated from a tentative estimate of the species's density at 5.7 (95% CI: 2.6-8.8) mature adults per km2 from transect surveys in 1999 and an estimate of 3,706 km2 of remaining habitat (Seddon and Tobias 2007).


This terrestrial species inhabits semi-arid deciduous forest (Seddon and Tobias 2007) on a sandy substrate and of a low stature (4-6 m), and sparse coastal scrub, from sea-level to 80 m. The species shows a preference for slightly and even heavily degraded habitats (Seddon and Tobias 2007). It is tolerant of disturbance by livestock, having been observed in extremely degraded forest close to villages (N. Seddon and J. Tobias in litt. 1999, 2000). Although it is largely terrestrial, this species roosts in trees and shrubs, and vocalises from low perches (Seddon and Tobias 2007). It feeds on invertebrates, predominantly or entirely insects (Tobias and Seddon 2013). It appears to be socially monogamous and defends small territories around nest-holes during the breeding season. The nest-holes lead to long burrows which are dug at an angle into the flat sand. It occurs in family groups containing one to four juveniles immediately after fledging, but is otherwise solitary in the dry season and lives in pairs after the first rains in October-November (Seddon and Tobias 2007). Breeding is from October to January, and it peaks in November (Seddon 2001; Tobias and Seddon 2013), with clutches consisting of 2-4 eggs (Tobias and Seddon 2013).


Overall, primary-forest cover has declined by 15.6% between 1962 and 1999, although in the central part of this species's range, it has declined by c.28% (Seddon et al. 2000; N. Seddon and J. Tobias in litt. 1999, 2000). Such clearance is mainly for slash-and-burn cultivation of maize and for charcoal production (both are increasing; Seddon 2001), and more locally for construction material and commercial timber (ZICOMA 1999). Although the species prefers degraded habitat, it does not occupy completely deforested land (Seddon and Tobias 2007, undated). Predation by dogs and trapping occurs, and introduced rats Rattus may pose a threat, at least locally (Langrand 1990). Climate change may also pose a threat, because it may impact upon human populations where this species is found (Segan et al. 2015), potentially resulting in increased water use and preparation for natural disaster relief, causing habitat loss and degradation. 

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The spiny forest of south-west Madagascar has been identified as the biogeographical region in greatest need of additional reserves nationally (Du Puy and Moat 1996). The northern part of this region, including Mikea Forest, to which the species is restricted, was until recently entirely unprotected (Morris and Hawkins 1998; Seddon 2001; Tobias and Seddon 2013), and is suffering the most rapid degradation (Seddon et al. 2000), but there is some protection for Mikea Forest now. Potential conservation measures have recently been recommended for the area, designed in consultation with local communities (Seddon et al. 2000).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct regular surveys to monitor population trends. Monitor rates of habitat clearance. Establish a coordinated network of community-based conservation areas, including a large protected area (Seddon et al. 2000). Improve agricultural efficiency and control charcoal production.


47 cm. A long-tailed, charismatic ground-dwelling bird. Greyish upperparts (including crown, mantle and rump), heavily streaked with dark brown in complex pattern. Very long tail, pale brown barred darker, with pale blue outer webs and tips to outer feathers. Darker wings, with pale blue wing-coverts and a white patch at the base of the primaries. Whitish breast, with narrow dark brown breast-band joined to moustachial stripes that are brown in the centre. Long dark legs, short and rather stout bill. Similar spp. Separated from terrestrial couas Coua by blue-edged tail, pale greyish overall appearance and blackish collar. Hints Forages for terrestrial invertebrates in dense, spiny, subdesert vegetation, often lifting and lowering tail.


Text account compilers
Clark, J.

Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Hawkins, F., Langrand, O., Seddon, N., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Tobias, J. & Westrip, J.R.S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Uratelornis chimaera. Downloaded from on 28/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/03/2023.