Newton's Fiscal Lanius newtoni


Justification of Red List Category
This species qualifies as Critically Endangered because it is believed to have a very small population with all individuals found in one very small area of primary forest which, although it is not threatened, remains unprotected and might be vulnerable to alteration in the future. It is unclear whether introduced predators are impacting its population.

Population justification
A number of recent sightings have expanded its known range, hence the population may be greater than previously thought (A. Gascoigne in litt. 2010). A survey of 291 quadrats of 1 km2 on São Tomé in July-September 2014 recorded 91 individuals (Ward-Francis et al. 2015), and surveys between 2013 and 2015 identified 111 individuals (de Lima et al. 2017). It is therefore possible that its population numbers more than 50 mature individuals, and so is tentatively placed in the range of  50-249 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population is considered to be declining as a result of ongoing habitat degradation, and possibly also the impacts of introduced predators.

Distribution and population

Lanius newtoni is endemic to the island of São Tomé, São Tomé and Príncipe. Previously known only from records in 1888 and 1928, it was rediscovered in 1990, with the observation of a single bird near the source of the rio Xufexufe, in the south-west of the island (Atkinson et al. 1991). Since 1994, there have been regular records from the Xufexufe catchment (Christy and Clarke 1998), a record of two birds from Valverde in the valley of the rio Ió Grande in the centre of the island (S. d'Assis Lima in litt. 1998), five birds from an area of primary forest near the Ió Grande in the south-east (Schollaert and Willem 2001), and a single bird south of Formoso Pequeno in the Bombaím area. Since 2007, surveys have recorded birds at Ribeira Peixe and Ana Chaves (Olmos and Turshak 2007, F. Olmos in litt. 2007, 2008, Associação de Biólogos Saotomenses in litt. 2010, H. Maia et al. in litt. 2010). In 2008, the species was recorded at Estação Sousa (Leventis and Olmos 2009, Maia and Alberto 2009). A number of recent sightings have expanded its known range, hence the population may be greater than previously thought (A. Gascoigne in litt. 2010), although a recent survey suggested that in fact it may be more restricted (de Lima et al. 2017). Anecdotal reports suggest that it has declined in some areas as human disturbance increased (F. Olmos in litt. 2007, 2008), but these claims need substantiating.


All records are from primary lowland and mid-altitude forest between 400 and 1,300 m (de Lima et al. 2017), with one record at c.1,400 m at Estação Sousa in 2008 (Leventis and Olmos 2009, Maia and Alberto 2009). The species occurs in sites with little or no undergrowth, but with bare ground and rocks (Atkinson et al. 1991, Christy and Clarke 1998). Many records are from ridgetops (Scollaert and Willem 2001) and along watercourses, so the species may have a linear or patchy distribution (Olmos and Turshak 2007, 2010). Its apparent association with watercourses may indicate a preference for open areas in forest, such as gullies and riversides (Olmos and Turshak 2010). The breeding season is unknown but may be early in the year, prior to the dry season (F. Olmos in litt. 2007, 2008).


Historically, large areas of lowland and mid-altitude forest were cleared for cocoa and coffee plantations. Today, land privatisation is leading to an increase in the number of small farms and the clearance of trees. This does not currently affect primary forest, but may be a threat in the future. Suitable habitat, including that in protected areas, is affected by disturbance through hunting and palm-wine harvesting activities (Olmos and Turshak 2010). Birds may have declined in the Bombaim area as disturbance has increased owing to people harvesting for palm-wine (F. Olmos in litt. 2007, 2008). Agricultural encroachment in the more accessible areas of Obô Natural Park, such as Bom Sucesso, was evident in 2008, and hunting and palm-wine harvesting were widespread, with shelters constructed inside the park (Olmos and Turshak 2010).
The development of coffee plantations and the restoration and extension of abandoned palm-oil plantations (to cover more than 2,000 ha; ready for harvest in 2013) in the vicinity of the core zone of Obô Natural Park and encroaching into its buffer zone (J. Tavares in litt. 2010) resulted in the loss of suitable habitat. This palm-oil project, however, potentially has both positive and negative influences on levels of disturbance, as it reportedly incorporates the protection of some primary and mature secondary forest (Olmos and Turshak 2010, J. Tavares in litt. 2010). More recent plans aim to plant 5,000 ha with oil palm in an area that included rich secondary forest in the boundaries of Obô Natural Park (Barros 2013). New road networks linking oil palm concessions may increase habitat fragmentation and disturbance (Ward-Francis et al. 2015). Road developments along the east and west coasts are increasing access to previously remote areas (A. Gascoigne in litt. 2000). Illegal logging in the south of the island has been identified as a further threat (Ward-Francis et al. 2015). A proposal to construct a hydroelectric dam within Obô Natural Park posed a serious threat; this project has now ceased, however future power projects remain a threat (Ward-Francis et al. 2015).
Introduced Black Rat Rattus rattus, Mona Monkey Cercopithecus mona, civets Civettictis civetta and stoats Mustela erminea are potential predators of Newton's Fiscal (Atkinson et al. 1991, F. Olmos in litt. 2007, 2008). Feral pigs are present and may likely contribute to habitat degradation (F. Olmos in litt. 2007, 2008).

Conservation actions

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
Primary forest on the island is protected as a zona ecologica and in the 295 km2 Obô Natural Park, although there is no law enforcement within these areas. The lack of data about the species's ecological requirements makes it difficult to assess the benefits of these areas. The Obô Natural Park was established in 1992, but was not protected by law until 2006. Although a zoning and management plan was being developed in 2008, when the first directors were appointed, the park was still lacking sufficient personnel (Olmos and Turshak 2010). A law providing for the gazetting of protected areas and the protection of threatened species has been ratified (F. Olmos in litt. 2007, 2008).
In 2008, a training programme with NGOs Associação de Biólogos Saotomenses (ABS) and Monte Pico was initiated to involve locals in the study and conservation of São Tomean species, and this has since been achieved (Associação de Biólogos Saotomenses in litt. 2010); and as part of the BirdLife International Preventing Extinctions Programme, the Species Guardian has begun training local community members in the implementation of site-based conservation and has been conducting an awareness-raising campaign (BirdLife International 2008).
During an international workshop held in February 2008 to promote ecotourism in São Tomé and Príncipe, birdwatching was listed as an activity that should be encouraged. Ribeira Peixe was identified as a suitable site for a pilot project (Olmos and Turshak 2010). In July 2009, the Species Guardian promoted a short course for the training of local people as bird guides at Ribeira Peixe. Efforts are on-going to promote the conservation of the area (Olmos and Turshak 2010). 
The Government are developing an open access database to collate all biodiversity data for the island. which will be used to inform land-use decisions (Ward-Francis et al. 2015). A workshop was held in January 2015, which included participants from the Government, to discuss progress towards an International Species Action Plan for the species (Ward-Francis et al. 2015).
Research is underway identifying the distribution and habitat requirements for this and other São Tomean species (de Lima et al. 2017).

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Continue to research its population size, distribution, ecological requirements and key threats, including possible predation by introduced mammals, in order to produce conservation recommendations. Ensure legal protection of all remaining lowland primary forest. Incorporate species conservation measures within the Obô Natural Park management plan and develop capacity for park management (Ward-Francis et al. 2015). Ensure that the park's legal protection is more strongly enforced. Ensure that any proposed hydroelectric dam developments are not within Obô Natural Park (Ward-Francis et al. 2015). List the species as protected under national law. Actively manage and protect the recently gazetted protected areas. Continue to promote the conservation of the Ribeira Peixe area. Closely monitor the impacts of projects to develop and restore plantations.


20-21 cm. Long-tailed forest shrike. Black above with white scapular flash, which may be tinged yellow. Pale yellow chin, breast, belly, flanks, vent and undertail-coverts. Graduated tail with all black central tail feathers and increasing amount of white on outer web from inner to outer tail feathers. Young birds show a vermiculated buff and black plumage (Leventis and Olmos 2009). Voice Clear whistled tiuh tiuh often repeated and metallic tsink tsink audible over a long distance.


Text account compilers
Westrip, J., Wright, L, Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Bird, J., Peet, N., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Ashpole, J, Symes, A., Taylor, J.

d'Assis Lima, S., Olmos, F., Gascoigne, A., Tavares, J., Maia, H.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Lanius newtoni. Downloaded from on 17/01/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 17/01/2021.