Uluguru Bush-shrike Malaconotus alius


Justification of Red List Category
This species is only known from the Uluguru Nature Reserve. It has an extremely small range, within which its habitat is declining in area and quality, but a re-assessment of its extent of occurrence using a Minimum Convex Polygon means it no longer meets the threshold for listing as Critically Endangered. However, its range is sufficiently small that it does warrant listing as Endangered.

Population justification
A survey in 1999-2000 estimated the population at 1,200 pairs or 2,400 mature individuals, and repeat surveys in 2006, 2007 and 2015 found that it had not changed significantly (J. John in litt. 2016). This total roughly equates to 3,600 individuals in total.

Trend justification
Although available habitat is probably declining in extent and quality, repeat surveys have not revealed population declines (J. John in litt. 2007). Habitat has been lost from outside the northern end of the Uluguru Nature Reserve, but restoration in the 100 ha Bunduki gap is being conducted, hence the population may remain stable into the future. 

Distribution and population

Malaconotus alius occurs only in the Uluguru Mountains, Tanzania. Its core habitat is within the Uluguru Nature Reserve (previously split into the Uluguru North Catchment Forest Reserve, Uluguru South Catchment Forest Reserve and Bunduki Forest Reserves) and an adjacent unprotected forest area, however this may now have lost most of its habitat. In 1999-2000, a census estimated a population of 1,200 pairs (Burgess et al. 2001); repeat surveys in 2006, 2007 and 2015 found that the population had not changed in numbers significantly (J. John in litt. 2016). Some territories recorded for the first time in 2006/2007 and 2010 in the North-eastern part of the South Ulugurus have been located again in recent surveys in 2012 and 2015, indicating that they are resident, however further surveys in the rest of the Uluguru South have failed to locate any more territories (Nsajigwa and John, 2013 unpublished data). Tracewski et al. (2016) estimated the maximum Area of Occupancy (calculated as the remaining tree area within the species’s range) to be c.43 km2.


It inhabits the canopy of moist submontane and montane forest, seeming to prefer areas where precipitation is highest and the forest least disturbed, but has also been found in degraded forest at the edge of forest reserves or where mature and tall trees still remain. Its core habitat is probably the submontane and lowest montane zone (1,100-1,950 m) (Svendsen and Hansen 1995, Burgess et al. 2001, J. John in litt. 2011, C. Magin in litt. 2016). It probably forages alone and in pairs, possibly joining mixed-species flocks (J. John in litt. 2007), feeding on large arthropods (Svendsen and Hansen 1995). Nothing is known of its breeding ecology (Baker and Baker 2001).


In the Ulugurus, much of the terrain on the main mountain is on steep slopes (Baker and Baker 2001), which was believed to be slowing deforestation. However, forest area declined from 300 km2 in 1955 to 230 km2 in 2001 (Burgess et al. 2002), caused by clearance of forest outside the Uluguru North and Uluguru South Catchment Forest Reserves for farms by an expanding human population on the lower slopes. Most of this clearance occurred between 600 and 1,600 m, largely in submontane forest (Burgess et al. 2002), the preferred habitat of M. alius. The remaining forest is mainly within the Uluguru Nature Reserve, which is managed for the catchment of rivers that provide water for the 3.5 million people of Dar-es-Salaam. Despite the importance of the reserve, slow but continuous loss and degradation of habitat remains a threat (N. Burgess in litt. 2012). This consists mainly of cutting for firewood and some timber, leading to loss of tree cover and consequent increases of thicket tangles and invasive brambles (N. Burgess in litt. 2012). Threats identified by local forest patrols include fires that spread from nearby farmland, tree-cutting for poles and construction material, but also timber extraction by local people reportedly employed covertly by larger operations, firewood collection and collection of medicinal plants (J. John in litt. 2010, 2011).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The population stronghold of this species is in the Uluguru Nature Reserve. Boundaries have been marked and planted around most of this reserve (N. Burgess in litt. 2012). Conservation action in the Ulugurus focuses on assisting local initiatives and increasing the involvement of local communities in forest management (Buckley and Matilya 1998). The Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania, using funding provided by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, confirmed the species's presence in a section of the reserve previously known as the Uluguru South Catchment Forest Reserve and is involved in follow-up work (J. John in litt. 2007). As part of BirdLife's Preventing Extinctions programme, the Species Guardian Jasson John is leading the implementation of the following actions (BirdLife International 2008): surveys in the area previously known as the Uluguru South Catchment Forest Reserve have been carried out and will provide a more precise understanding of the species's total population size; monitoring of preferred habitat continues in the area formerly designated as Uluguru North Catchment Forest Reserve; community sensitisation seminars and workshops have been conducted in order to raise awareness and address illegal activities taking place in the region. Habitat restoration, involving the development of a nursery and planting of indigenous trees, has been carried out in collaboration with the Forest and Bee-keeping Division (FBD), part of the Tanzania Forest Service, and its coverage of local communities was due to be expanded (J. John in litt. 2010). Forest patrols are carried out by village environmental committees to assess, monitor and control the illegal harvesting of forest products and other potential threats (J. John in litt. 2010) These patrols are due to be intensified with the aid of additional equipment, whilst the apparent involvement of some community members with criminals has necessitated surprise patrols, the results of which will be assessed (J. John in litt. 2010).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Publish existing population estimates from 2000, 2006 and 2015 (supported by the African Bird Club) and thereafter monitor population status. Increase efforts to reduce firewood collection and timber harvesting within the reserve (N. Burgess in litt. 2006). Plant new forest below 1,500 m (this would also be beneficial for watershed management). Estimate the number of individuals within the area previously known as the Uluguru South Catchment Forest Reserve.


22-24 cm. Large, chunky shrike of forest canopy. Uniform olive upperparts. Canary-yellow underparts. Black cap. Bill black, robust and hooked. Female duller than male. Similar spp. All other large shrikes of forest lack black cap. Voice Haunting call of 3-5 whistles, with slight rise in scale on last notes.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Symes, A. & Westrip, J.

Burgess, N., Cordeiro, N., John, J., Romdal, T., Wolstencroft, J. & Magin, C.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Malaconotus alius. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/06/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/06/2022.