Sokoke Pipit Anthus sokokensis


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Endangered because it has a very small range, within which the total area of its forest habitat is declining owing to clearance for cultivation and intensive charcoal production. Furthermore, the remaining habitat is becoming more fragmented, and the quality of habitat at most sites is declining owing to logging and pole-cutting.

Population justification
In Kenya, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest has been estimated to support c.13,000 individuals, but this number has now decreased and possibly only c. 5,500 individuals are present in Brachystegia woodland (Otieno et al. 2014). There are no estimates for Tanzanian populations, but the sites where the bird occurs are small, and most are very heavily degraded (N. Burgess in litt. 2007). The total population is therefore placed in the range band for 2,500-9,999 individuals. This equates to 1,667-3,333 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,600-3,400 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to the clearance and degradation of the species's forest habitat, mainly through charcoal burning, agricultural encroachment, logging and pole cutting. The likely rate of decline has not been estimated.

Distribution and population

Anthus sokokensis has been recorded from several sites along the East African coast in Kenya (Bennun and Njoroge 1999, Waiyaki and Bennun 1999, Mlingwa et al. 2000) and Tanzania (Mlingwa 1996), but is extremely rare (and may even be extinct) at some of these. In Kenya, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest has been estimated to support c.13,000 individuals (Musila et al. 2001), but there could now be only c.5,500 individuals in the Brachystegia woodland there (Otieno et al. 2014).


In Arabuko-Sokoke, it occurs in Brachystegia forest, unevenly and at low densities in disturbed (logged-over) habitat (0.9 birds/ha), but evenly and at high densities in dense, undisturbed forest (2.8 birds/ha) (Mlingwa 1996, Musila et al. 2000). The species in general is highly sensitive to disturbance (Musila et al. 2001). All records from the Pugu Hills are from the edge of thickets (Mlingwa 1996), but at Zaraninge it was found on open forest floor in mature forest (Burgess et al. 1991). It lives mainly on the forest floor, preferring areas with bare ground, high litter-cover, and high densities of ants and termite mounds (Musila et al. 2000), feeding among sparse grass on insects, including termites and beetles (Keith et al. 1992).


One site, Dakatcha Woodland, is being damaged by cutting of Brachylaena trees (in great demand for fuelwood and carving timber) and by extensive clearing of the hilltops for the cultivation of pineapples (Bennun and Njoroge 1999). It is particularly threatened because it has no formal conservation status (Bennun and Njoroge 1999). Arabuko-Sokoke is suffering continued forest damage from both illegal logging and licensed wood removal. There is also some political pressure for degazettement of the Kararacha-Mpendakula section of the forest, which contains prime habitat for the species (Waiyaki and Bennun 1999). Its habitat faces similar threats at other sites: breakdown of traditional systems of conservation, encroachment, selective logging, pole-cutting and elephant damage (Waiyaki and Bennun 1999). There is no forest remaining at Vikindu Forest Reserve owing to intensive charcoal burning and cutting, with only low thicket left (N. Burgess in litt. 2012). There is very little forest remaining in the Pugu-Kazimzumbwe forest due to intensive charcoal burning and cutting for building materials (N. Burgess in litt. 2007), with Ruvu South Forest Reserve now similarly affected (N. Burgess in litt. 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Arabuko-Sokoke is the focus of a project to promote long-term conservation of the forest through sustainable management and community participation in forest conservation (Fanshawe 1997). The bulk of Kiono/Zaraninge forest is included within the Sadaani National Park in Tanzania, and is now well protected (N. Burgess in litt. 2007). Another site, Kaya Gandini, is among the coastal kaya (sacred) forests targeted by the Coast Forest Conservation Unit (National Museums of Kenya/WWF). This project encourages local communities to re-establish effective national control over forest resources. Pugu Hills and Ruvu South are also subject to ongoing conservation projects through local NGOs, although forest loss continues (N. Burgess in litt. 2012). There has been pressure for habitat alteration in the Dakatcha Woodland, but Kenya's National Environment Management Authority and Kenya Forest Service have withstood this pressure (Mwongela 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Census and monitor the population sizes at different sites (Waiyaki and Bennun 1999). Study its response to forest alteration (Brachylaena removal, etc.). Continue to press for Dakatcha Woodland to be gazetted as a Forest Reserve or area of equivalent protected status (Waiyaki and Bennun 1999). Survey Ruvu South Forest Reserve (Tanzania) for the presence of the species (Waiyaki and Bennun 1999).


12 cm. Small pipit of East African coastal forest and woodland mosaic habitats. Drab brown, heavily streaked upperparts. Creamy-white underparts, heavily overlaid with bold, black streaking, especially on breast. Pale flesh, almost white legs. Similar spp. No other pipit in its habitat. Voice Very obvious sweer or tsseeer call note.


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

Burgess, N., Baker, N., Otieno, N.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Anthus sokokensis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 05/08/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 05/08/2020.