Sierra Leone Prinia Schistolais leontica


Justification of Red List Category
This species appears to have a very localised distribution and a very small population, which is becoming increasingly fragmented and is likely to be declining owing to habitat loss. It is therefore been uplisted to Endangered.

Population justification
The species's habitat is now limited, and recent surveys suggest that the population size could be very small. A total of just 26 pairs/family groups has been estimated at Pic de Fon (Demey 2009), while surveys of East Nimba, Liberia in 2011 located only 5 pairs/small family groups, suggesting the subpopulation there may be significantly lower than 250 mature individuals (Dowsett-Lemaire and Phalan 2013, B. Phalan in litt. 2017). Therefore, the global population size is tentatively placed in the range 1,000-2,500 mature individuals, with <250 mature individuals per subpopulation; although further survey effort may mean that this requires revision.

Trend justification
The species's population is suspected to be declining in line with high levels of forest clearance across its range. The likely rate of decline, however, has not been estimated.

Distribution and population

Schistolais leontica occurs in Guinea (Mt Nimba [Urban et al. 1997], Pic de Fon [H. Rainey in litt. 2007], Dalaba and probably elsewhere in the Fouta Djalon massif [Barlow et al. 2006], Pic de Tibé and Mt Tétini [R. Demey in litt. 2009]), north-eastern Sierra Leone (including Loma Mountains and Tingi Hills [Okoni-Williams 2001]), Liberia (recently described as a common, but local resident restricted to Mt Nimba, also occurring in other ranges of northern Nimba County, e.g. Mts Kitoma and Bele, and probably Mt Wuteve [Gatter 1997]) and western Côte d'Ivoire (Man, Sipilou and possibly Mt Nimba [Urban et al. 1997]). Recent fieldwork has revealed it to be extremely local and uncommon (Urban et al. 1997). A pair in breeding condition near Dalaba (Guinea) in October 1999 constituted the first breeding record for the species (Barlow et al. 2006). A total of just 26 pairs/family groups has been estimated at Pic de Fon (Demey 2009), while surveys of East Nimba, Liberia in 2011 located only 5 pairs/small family groups, suggesting the subpopulation there may be significantly lower than 250 mature individuals (Dowsett-Lemaire and Phalan 2013, B. Phalan in litt. 2017).


It inhabits thickets bordering streams, mountain gallery forests (apparently being commonest in mountain ravines), forest which has been disturbed by treefalls and fire, and natural forest edge between 700-1,600 m (Gatter 1997). Surveys in Guinea found it invariably occurred in the transition zone between submontane forest and submontane grassland, and to a lesser degree in more or less open areas within submontane forest that had similar vegetation (R. Demey in litt. 2009). It occurs at the upper forest edge on Mt Nimba, where the forest has become fragmented as a result of mining activities. It feeds on insects (Urban et al. 1997). Territory size appears to be variable: although the species has been found in relatively small forest patches of c.1–1.5 ha), larger patches did not necessarily hold more than one pair (R. Demey in litt. 2009). The species usually occurs in pairs or small groups (presumably family parties) of three to four birds (R. Demey in litt. 2009). It normally keeps within dense vegetation, restlessly foraging low down and occasionally perching in the open (R. Demey in litt. 2009). The nest has never been found.


Mining for iron ore is the greatest and most urgent threat to this species, as two sites (Mont Nimba and Pic de Fon), which probably hold the largest area of remaining habitat, are under imminent threat from such mining (H. Rainey in litt. 2007, R. Demey in litt. 2009). Shifting cultivation, small scale logging and overgrazing by cattle in the forest patches appears to be a threat at Mt Tétini, and the latter threats are very likely also to occur in the Fouta Djalon, a region which supports a dense human population (R. Demey in litt. 2009).The Liberian side of Mount Nimba was destroyed by mining prior to the civil war and plans are being developed to rehabilitate the railway to Mt Nimba to enable extraction of iron ore from the Guinea side. This would also facilitate export of iron ore from the Pic de Fon mine (H. Rainey in litt. 2007). The largest remaining area of Upper Guinea forest (43%) is now found in Liberia, where it is under intense pressure, particularly since the end of the civil war in 1996, when there was a sharp increase in commercial logging activities (Anon. 2000). The largest remaining forest blocks in Liberia are being opened up by logging roads, and consequent human settlement and agriculture, and are becoming increasingly fragmented (Gatter 1997, Robinson and Suter 1999). Large-scale deforestation (in 1990 estimated to be c.6% annually) has already taken place in Côte d'Ivoire, particularly since the mid-1970s, and is now encroaching on protected areas (Chatelain et al. 1996). Similarly, agricultural encroachment and wood-cutting in the Loma Mountains Reserve, Sierra Leone, is currently moderate, but may intensify and there is no clear reserve boundary (Okoni-Williams 2001). Elsewhere in the Upper Guinea region, forest survives in fragmented patches which are under intense pressure for logging and agriculture (Anon. 2000).


Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The Loma and Tingi Mountains are both protected areas, but there is little enforcement of the regulations (Okoni-Williams 2001). The forests on Mt Nimba and Pic de Fon are technically protected in strict reserves in Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire, but there are plans for development of iron ore mines (H. Rainey in litt. 2007). Additional ornithological surveys of Pic De Fon funded by the mining company were scheduled to start in late November 2007 (R. Demey in litt. 2007). Forest on the Liberian side of Mt Nimba is unprotected.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys, and include unstudied sites near Mt Nimba and Pic de Fon, particularly Mt Bero and the Simandou range (H. Rainey in litt. 2007). Initiate a monitoring programme. Monitor rates of forest clearance and degradation across the species's range. Work with mining companies to mitigate the effects of their activities (H. Rainey in litt. 2007).


14-15 cm. Small, grey, long-tailed warbler. Overall grey with buffy underparts and grey throat. Pale, almost white eyes. Voice Duet consisting of tssipp tssipp and burr burr. Hints Found in singly, in pairs or in groups of up to nine birds.


Text account compilers
Shutes, S., Ekstrom, J., Symes, A., Westrip, J., Taylor, J., Starkey, M.

Phalan, B., Fishpool, L., Rainey, H., Allport, G., Demey, R., Wood, P.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Schistolais leontica. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 29/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 29/03/2023.