Plain-backed Sunbird Anthreptes reichenowi


Justification of Red List category
This species is classed as Near Threatened because it is thought to have a moderately small population, which is suspected to be in decline owing to deforestation throughout its range. This species may warrant uplisting to a higher threat category if surveys indicate that its population is smaller.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is described as not uncommon (Cheke et al. 2001).

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction.

Distribution and population

Anthreptes reichenowi has a disjunct distribution, with one subpopulation in the coastal lowlands of Kenya and north-eastern Tanzania, and another in Mozambique and Zimbabwe (Lewis and Pomeroy 1989). In Kenya, it is uncommon in lowland forest below 500 m, from the lower Tana River south to Tanga and inland to the Shimba Hills, reaching highest densities in Arabuko-Sokoke forest (Zimmerman et al. 1996). In Tanzania, it occurs up to 1,000 m in the East Usambaras (Zimmerman et al. 1996) and south to Kiono Forest Reserve (where common) and Pande Forest Reserve (where rare) (N. Baker in litt. 1999). In southern Mozambique, it is uncommon (total population fewer than 500 birds) and declining (Clancey 1996, V. Parker in litt. 1999). In south-eastern Zimbabwe, there are only a few records, which should, however, be treated with caution, as the species is often confused with Variable Sunbird Nectarinia venusta, having very similar markings during some stages of its eclipse plumage (V. Parker in litt. 1999). Although it is widely distributed, it remains little-known and nowhere common. It is certainly declining in some areas.


The species generally occupies lowland forest, thick bush, gallery forest, forest edges and gardens (Cheke and Mann 2001). It is usually found near the coast, but occasionally in inland riverine forest running through savanna (Cheke and Mann 2001). It occurs in dense coastal forest and ironwood Androstachys forests in Mozambique (Clancey 1996, V. Parker in litt. 1999). In the coastal forest in Kilwa, Tanzania, it may prefer large forest patches, but smaller patches elsewhere may hold sparser populations (Maclean et al. 2012). Records in south-eastern Zimbabwe, are from Acacia bush, riverine thicket and riparian forest (Irwin 1981). It feeds mainly on invertebrates, taking lepidopteran larvae, termites and spiders, and possibly feeds on nectar (Cheke and Mann 2001). Egg-laying occurs in March-May and July-November in East Africa, June and October-November in Mozambique, November in Tanzania and September-November in Zimbabwe. The nest, in which 2-3 eggs are laid, is an oval pouch made of grass, twigs, bark and leaves, bound with spiders' webs (Cheke and Mann 2001).


In southern Mozambique, it is in decline owing to deforestation (Clancey 1996, V. Parker in litt. 1999), and it may be at risk from the clearance of lowland forest throughout its range.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is recorded from a few protected areas, including Pande Forest Reserve, Kiono Forest Reserve (N. Baker in litt. 1999) and Gona-re-Zhou National Park (Zimbabwe) (Cheke and Mann 2001), at least.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out surveys to assess the species's total population size. Monitor population trends through regular surveys. Monitor rates of deforestation across its range. Increase the area of suitable habitat that has protected status.


Text account compilers
Evans, M., O'Brien, A., Robertson, P., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Westrip, J.

Baker, N. & Parker, V.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Anthreptes reichenowi. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/plain-backed-sunbird-anthreptes-reichenowi on 28/02/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org on 28/02/2024.