Sri Lanka Whistling-thrush Myophonus blighi


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Endangered because it has a very small, severely fragmented population and range, which are undergoing a continuing decline as a result of degradation and destruction of upland forest.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 1,000-2,499 individuals based on an assessment of recent records and surveys by BirdLife International (2001) who concluded that it is unlikely that it currently numbers more than a few thousand individuals. This estimate equates to 667-1,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 600-1,700 mature individuals.

Trend justification
Moderate population declines are suspected to be occurring as a result of on-going degradation and loss of habitat across the range.

Distribution and population

Myophonus blighi is endemic to Sri Lanka, where it is restricted to the central mountains. It has always been considered scarce and is thought to have a declining, increasingly fragmented population of no more than a few thousand individuals.


It is a secretive, ground-dwelling bird confined to dense mountain forests above c.900 m, usually close to streams, especially in ravines and gorges. Breeding is from January until May, and possibly again in September, on rock ledges next to waterfalls or rapids and also in the forks of trees.


The main threat is the extensive clearance and degradation of montane forests through conversion to agriculture, firewood collection, particularly around Nuwara Eliya, Maskeliya and Bogowantalawa, and gem mining, which represents a serious threat as activity tends to be concentrated in the species's favoured habitat (C. Kaluthota in litt. 2012). Conversion to timber plantations was a further historical driver, but has now been outlawed. Some protected forests continue to be degraded and are suffering further fragmentation. It has been affected by reductions in food supply because of replacement of natural forests, containing fruiting trees, with monoculture plantations. Run-off from vegetable farms is polluting streams within its range. Forest die-back in the montane region, perhaps as a result of air pollution, is a potential threat. Birdwatchers using tape play-back may adversely affect breeding success at Horton Plains National Park. Human intrusion and nest robbing may also affect breeding success (V. Samarawickrama in litt. 2007).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is legally protected in Sri Lanka. A moratorium was passed in 1990 to protect wet zone forests from logging. It occurs in several national parks and forest reserves, most notably Peak Wilderness Sanctuary, Hakgala Strict Nature Reserve and Dothalugala Man and Biosphere Reserve (V. Samarawickrama in litt. 2005). A survey of the biodiversity of 200 forest sites was carried out from 1991-1996.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct a comprehensive survey in order to clarify its status and produce management recommendations for this species in conservation forests and other protected areas. Research the effects of pesticide pollution on this and other species associated with upland streams. Encourage protection of important areas of forest holding this and other threatened species, including proposals to designate conservation forests, and ensure their effective management. Maintain the current ban on logging of wet zone forests. Promote programmes to create awareness of the value of biological resources amongst local communities. Provide an alternative source of heating or fuel to reduce pressure on firewood (C. Kaluthota in litt. 2012). Ensure the continuing protection of Dothalugala Man and Biosphere Reserve (V. Samarawickrama in litt. 2007).


20 cm Small, dark thrush. Male is brownish-black and spangled with blue, especially on forehead, supercilium, and inner wing-coverts. Female is brown, with blue shoulder-patch, and rufescent cast to lores, throat and breast. Juvenile like female but has more rusty-brown underparts, with ochre shaft-streaks on head, neck and breast. Voice Call a shrill whistle sree.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Derhé, M., Gilroy, J., Khwaja, N.

Samarawickrama, V., Kaluthota, C.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Myophonus blighi. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/07/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/07/2022.