Rufous-winged Sunbird Cinnyris rufipennis


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a small range, being known from only nine forest areas, varying considerably in size (3-250 km2), within the Udzungwa Mountains. Suitable habitat both within and outside protected areas is declining in extent and quality as a result of forest clearance and degradation (Collar and Stuart 1985). The species is therefore listed as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The population is estimated at c.6,850 total individuals (Dinesen et al. 2001), placed here in the 2,500-9,999 band. The number of mature individuals therefore is roughly estimated to be 4,520, also placed here in the 2,500-9,999 band.

Trend justification
Between 2000-2019, 8.2% of forest was lost within the species's range (Global Forest Watch 2020). As the species has a high forest dependency, the population is inferred to be in decline owing to the clearance and degradation of forests both within and outside protected areas (Dinesen et al. 2001; L. Dinesen in litt. 2007).

Distribution and population

Cinnyris rufipennis is restricted to the Udzungwa Mountains, in the Iringa, Mufindi and Kilombero Districts of Tanzania. It occurs in Mwanihana and Iwonde forests in Udzungwa Mountains National Park (T. Butynski in litt. 1999), in forests at Iyondo, Ukami, Ndundulu and Nymbanitu in the Kilombero Nature Reserve, and in Katemele, Kiranzi-Kitungulu and Udzungwa Scarp Forest Reserves (D. Moyer and E. A. Mulungu in litt. 1999; Jensen et al. 2016). The species's population in the Udzungwas is estimated at c.6,850 total individuals (Dinesen et al. 2001).


Prime habitat seems to be tall, undisturbed montane forest where it breeds in forest openings, mainly between 1,300 and 1,700 m altitude (Jensen et al. 2016). Breeding has been recorded during the rainy season from November to February (Jensen et al. 2016). During this time of the year it has been observed aggressively defending likely breeding territories against other sunbirds (Jensen et al. 2016). Presumed lekking behaviour has been observed with up to three males repeatedly assembling in a clearing in an open part of the forest with leafless branches and twigs at low height, hopping from branch to branch and singing aggressively at each other at close range; with a single female observing but not participating (Jensen et al. 2016). It feeds on nectar, especially from tropical mistletoes (Loranthaceae), and small insects, 2-8 m above the ground, but is seen occasionally in the canopy up to 30 m high (Dinesen et al. 1993). It undergoes marked seasonal movements in response to local food-resource peaks (D. Moyer and E. A. Mulungu in litt. 1999). During the cold (non-breeding) season (June-August), the majority of birds move to lower elevations (below 1,500 m) and vocal activity and territoriality are greatly reduced (D. Moyer and E. A. Mulungu in litt. 1999).


The three main threats to evergreen forests both within and outside forest reserves are commercial logging, clearing for cultivation and bushfires started to maintain cleared, uncultivated land as open grassland (L. Dinesen in litt. 2007), whilst other activities that are likely to contribute to habitat degradation include charcoal production, exploitation for non-timber forest products and hunting (Dinesen et al. 2001). Forest reserves and forests in the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, are under pressure from these activities, and fragmentation is ongoing (Dinesen et al. 2001; L. Dinesen in litt. 2007). The species may be threatened by clearance of unexplored forest patches just east of the south-east corner of Kilombero Nature Reserve, which are thought to be suitable for the species and are close to localities that the species is known to occupy (D. Moyer in litt. 2007). Logging in Iyondo Forest is a potential threat (D. Moyer in litt. 2007; F. Jensen in litt. 2016).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
All its known locations are protected within the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, Kilombero Nature Reserve and various forest reserves in Iringa and Mufindi Districts, although, as stated, these areas remain under threat from logging, fires and encroachment (L. Dinesen in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct a baseline survey to establish its population size and density. Initiate a monitoring programme. Effectively conserve forest habitat through participatory management activities (L. Dinesen in litt. 2007). Extend the national park (L. Dinesen in litt. 2007).


12 cm. Medium-sized sunbird. Male has iridescent royal-blue upperparts, metallic bronze throat, and blue-and-red breast-band. Female drab mouse-brown above, paler below with slight streaking on breast. Both sexes have rufous wing panels. Similar spp. All other sunbirds lack rufous wing panels. Voice Soft twisk twisk contact notes. Song undescribed. Hints In forests in the Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania, especially near Mwanihana.


Text account compilers
Clark, J.

Butynski, T.M., Dinesen, L., Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Jensen, F., Jones, T., Moyer, D., Mulungu, E.A., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Westrip, J.R.S. & Worsoe Hovmoller, R.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Cinnyris rufipennis. Downloaded from on 19/01/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 19/01/2022.