Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is thought to be declining moderately rapidly owing to the modification of its habitats. Further data on population trends may show that the species qualifies for a higher threat category.
Dodman (2006) estimated the population to number fewer than 10,000 individuals, and so it is placed here in the band 2,500-9,999 individuals. This equates to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to the ongoing destruction of its wetland habitat (McHugh et al. 2007; Bezibah and Mosissa 2017; Shewit et al. 2017; Dibaba et al. 2020). A direct rate of population decline has not been calculated, but based on the qualitative evidence of habitat loss, the rate of decline is precautionarily suspected to fall in the band of 20-29%.
Rougetius rougetii is widespread in the highlands of Ethiopia, and much less widespread in those of Eritrea, from 1,500 to 4,100 m (Urban et al. 1986; Taylor and van Perlo 1998). It appears to have maintained its distribution but to have suffered a reduction in numbers (Ash and Gullick 1989; EWNHS 1996). Thus, during field surveys of Important Bird Areas in Ethiopia (1995-1996), it was considered uncommon or present only in small numbers at seven sites, and not uncommon or fairly common at two sites (EWNHS 1996). This contrasts with earlier records which refer to the species as widespread and common to locally abundant (Urban et al. 1986). It is very rare in Eritrea, with the last 3 birds recorded in 2011 (R. Teklay in litt. 2016).
Behaviour This species is presumed to be sedentary in the absence of any evidence of migratory or dispersive movements (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It is generally monogamous and solitary, although some degree of cooperative breeding may take place (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It breeds from March to October (del Hoyo et al. 1996; Taylor and van Perlo 1998).
Habitat Breeding It breeds in marshy areas within high altitude montane grasslands and moorlands (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It is found in areas with lush grass, reeds, tussocks and bushes along streams, around ponds and in Alchemilla bogs (del Hoyo et al. 1996; Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Non-breeding During the non-breeding season it is also found on dry ground among heaths and Alchemilla and adapts well to human-modified habitats such as lawns, shrubberies and thickets in parks and gardens (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). In urban areas it is attracted to feed in areas where the grass has been recently mown, and often occurs in ditches and drainage channels in grass (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). It has also been recorded in relatively sparse cover along polluted streams (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). It has been recorded foraging in open meadows, on bare mud and in shallow water (Urban et al. 1986; del Hoyo et al. 1996).
Diet It has a wide diet, including seeds and aquatic insects (especially water beetles), as well as crustaceans, small snails and earthworms (Urban et al. 1986; del Hoyo et al. 1996; Taylor and van Perlo 1998)
Breeding site The nest is a pad of dead rushes on wet ground among high rushes, in rushes over water, or in grass tussocks (del Hoyo et al. 1996; Taylor and van Perlo 1998). A clutch usually consists of four or five eggs (del Hoyo et al. 1996).
Although it can survive in heavily grazed and highly disturbed wet pasture, intensive grazing and mowing for building material, throughout the densely populated highlands, may be the cause of its apparent population reduction (Ash and Gullick 1989) owing to loss of vegetation cover making habitats unsuitable for use by the species (del Hoyo et al. 1996). In addition, grasslands are being converted to cereal fields, and droughts are likely to have had a negative effect on the species (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Uncontrolled developmental projects in Eritrea may be the cause of its scarcity there by causing habitat destruction and modification (R. Teklay in litt. 2016).
Conservation Actions Underway
No actions are known for this species.
Text account compilers
O'Brien, A., Robertson, P., Symes, A., Tadele, H., Taylor, J., Teklay, R. & Westrip, J.R.S.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Rougetius rougetii. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 24/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 24/03/2023.