Red-backed Thrush Geokichla erythronota


Justification of Red List category
This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is believed to have suffered a moderately rapid decline owing to habitat loss and trapping, which is likely to continue into the future. Further information on the population size and distribution of, and extent of threats to, this species may show it to be more threatened.

Population justification
Population estimate = 20 individuals/km2 x 17,000 km2 (20% of EOO) = 340,000 individuals (density range from up to lower quartile of two Asian congeners in BirdLife Bird Population Density Spreadsheet). Perhaps best currently placed in population band of 100,000-499,999 individuals, but population may prove to be much lower given its extremely patchy distribution.

Trend justification
Forest destruction within its altitudinal range has been extensive in recent decades. Since it does not appear tolerant to habitat degradation through much of its range, its populations must have suffered a commensurate decline, assumed here to approach the thresholds for listing as Vulnerable declines are perhaps best placed in the band 20-30% over ten years.

Distribution and population

Zoothera erythronota is restricted to Sulawesi and neighbouring Buton (race erythronota) and Kabaena (race kabaena), Indonesia (Robinson-Dean et al. 2002, Collar 2004). It is uncommon but easily overlooked on Buton, locally common on Kabaena (Robinson-Dean et al. 2002), and generally uncommon on Sulawesi (although population estimates are often dramatically increased once mist-netting is undertaken). Although there is not enough information to accurately assess its population size, since it appears to be somewhat patchily distributed throughout its range - often absent from apparently suitable habitat - it may prove to be quite low.


It inhabits lowland forest below 1,000 m. It seems to strongly prefer primary forest on Sulawesi and Buton, but on Kabaena, it is found in a wide range of closed canopy habitats, including shady plantations, secondary forest and bamboo stands as well as native forest (Clement and Hathway 2000, Robinson-Dean et al. 2002). It is usually recorded alone or in pairs on the ground (Clement and Hathway 2000). A nest was found in April in the fork of a low tree-stump (Clement and Hathway 2000).


Forest destruction within its elevation range has been extensive in recent decades. Since it does not appear tolerant to habitat degradation through much of its range, its populations must have suffered a commensurate decline. Fires in the long dry season are a threat to remaining forest (Robinson-Dean et al. 2002). Zoothera species are heavily traded elsewhere in Indonesia, because of their abilities as songsters, so it is likely that this threat is also impacting this species (Collar 2004, N. Brickle in litt. 2005).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
A number of protected areas occur within the range of this species on Sulawesi.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct further surveys to assess the specific habitat requirements and overall population size of this species. Assess the extent to which bird trade is a threat. Effectively protect forest within its range.


19-21 cm. A medium-sized thrush. Russet crown to rump, black wings with two broad white wing-bars, white patches on face, black from chin to breast, and black bars on rest of whitish underparts. Race kabaena similar, but black on crown and mantle. Taxon on Buton may be intermediate, but nominate race also shows variation with, e.g., individuals recorded with black crown. Similar spp. None in range. Voice A thin, high-pitched, upslurred call note which, on Kabaena, is sandwiched by a higher preceding and lower following note. The alarm call consists of a series of chacks. Song reported to be a typically thrush-like liquid series of notes.


Text account compilers
Pilgrim, J., Bird, J., Mahood, S., Khwaja, N.

Brickle, N.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Geokichla erythronota. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/red-backed-thrush-geokichla-erythronota on 03/03/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org on 03/03/2024.