Pulitzer's Longbill Macrosphenus pulitzeri


Justification of Red List Category
This poorly known species is thought to have a very small population, which is inferred to be in decline owing to habitat loss and degradation; it is therefore listed as Endangered.

Population justification
This species's population is thought to almost certainly exceed 1,000 mature individuals (Mills 2010), but is nevertheless thought to be very small, so it is placed in the band for 1,000-2,499 mature individuals, equivalent to c.1,500-3,800 individuals in total. Its distribution is described as continuous along the Angolan Scarp (Mills 2010), so it is presumed to form one subpopulation; however, improved knowledge may change this.

Trend justification
It is said that this species's habitat is being cleared very rapidly (M. Mills in litt. 2013, F. Olmos in litt. 2013); however, it occupies modified habitats and until widespread quantitative data are available the population is suspected to be in decline at a moderate rate, owing to the continued clearance and burning of its habitats for subsistence agriculture.

Distribution and population

Macrosphenus pulitzeri is known from the escarpment of western Angola. It is very common in disturbed areas and its range is almost certainly continuous between Kumbira Forest and Chongoroi (M. Mills in litt. 2007, Mills 2010), probably occurring in a number of relict forest patches and thickets on the escarpment. Records from 2003 came from a large forest block which survives near the village of Kumbira and in secondary bush near the town of Seles (C. Cohen, M. Mills and C. Spottiswoode in litt. 2003). It has been found to be common in both the Bango and Gungo areas (M. Mills in litt. 2007, Mills 2010), and is probably more numerous than previously feared (Mills 2010). Its population is thought to almost certainly exceed 1,000 mature individuals (Mills 2010).


It is found in dry evergreen forest, secondary growth, dry thickets and abandoned coffee plantations at 800-1,030 m (M. Mills in litt. 2007, Mills 2010), although recent surveys in 2012 only found this species in old-growth forest and not in secondary forest next to roads and farmland (Cáceres 2013). The species appears to be dependent on dense liana and vine tangles and thickets (M. Mills in litt. 2013, F. Olmos in litt. 2013). It feeds low down, almost to ground-level, on insects.


From the 1930s until the 1970s, an estimated 95% of forest on the escarpment was under coffee production (which leaves the canopy mostly intact) (Dean 2000). This has now been largely abandoned and subsistence agriculture is a threat (Dean 2000). At one locality in particular, Chongoroi, frequent fires from uncontrolled slash-and-burn agriculture threaten the species (Dean 2000). At Kumbira Forest, one of the most extensive areas of suitable habitat, there were at least seven pairs during surveys conducted during 2005; however, in a longer and more thorough study of the same area in 2010 no pairs were found (M. Mills in litt. 2013). This is thought to be a result of the clearance of dense undergrowth and vine tangles for subsistence agriculture, which is an increasingly prevalent driver of habitat conversion in the species's range (M. Mills in litt. 2013, F. Olmos in litt. 2013). Post-civil war development is becoming more rapid, including agricultural intensification and infrastructure development (M. Mills in litt. 2013), and it is said that the species's habitat is now being cleared very rapidly (M. Mills in litt. 2013, F. Olmos in litt. 2013).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
A protected area of c.20 km2 at Chongoroi was recommended in the early 1970s, but has not yet been established (Dean 2000).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct further surveys to better determine its status. Designate a protected area at Chongoroi.


13 cm. Small, short-tailed, thin-billed, warbler. General body coloration is dull olive-brown, paler on belly and greyish on face. Voice Series of high-pitched, sparrow-like notes, repeated slowly, uttered explosively and more softly, with some variation: e.g. tee-tchyoi and tee, ti-twuh. Hints Very elusive and difficult to observe as it favours dense foliage.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Ekstrom, J., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Westrip, J.

Cohen, C., Mills, M., Spottiswoode, C. & Dean, W.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Macrosphenus pulitzeri. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/07/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/07/2020.