Justification of Red List Category
While there are still relatively few records of this species, it clearly has a very small and fragmented area of occupancy, within which it is rare. It appears largely restricted to lowland and foothill forest which is disappearing fast, and it is probably sensitive to alteration of its forest habitat. It is therefore considered Endangered.
The population is estimated to number 1,000-2,499 individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 667-1,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 600-1,700 mature individuals.
The species is suspected to be declining at a moderate rate, owing to small-scale logging and clearance for agriculture.
Hyliota usambara is a little known and probably overlooked species of north-east Tanzania (Cambridge-Tanzania Rainforest Project 1994, Urban et al. 1997, Evans 1997b, Seddon et al. 1999b) recorded mainly from the foothills of the East Usambara Mountains, where it appears to be uncommon, and from a single sighting at Dindira in the West Usambaras (Urban et al. 1997, S. Stuart in litt. 2003) at 1,000 m. There is one other reference to a specimen taken between 1904 and 1907 along the Ruvu river, although this is now thought to refer to H. flavigaster (Sclater and Moreau 1933, Urban et al. 1997, L. Hansen in litt. 2006) but at present insufficient information is available to determine the exact localities or altitudes referred to. Given that there is only c.370 km2 of forest remaining in its stronghold of the East Usambaras, and that the species apparently occurs very patchily within forest, preferring the lowlands, both its Area of Occupancy and total population are probably very small.
The species inhabits forest canopy, forest edge and coffee plantations at mid-altitudes (Urban et al. 1997). It is flycatcher-like in habits, flycatching and gleaning inconspicuously in the crowns of the tallest trees, often in trees bare of leaves, keeping to small branches and twigs and feeding on insects (Evans 1997b). It is found alone, in pairs or in mixed-species flocks (Cambridge-Tanzania Rainforest Project 1994). Its breeding ecology is unknown (Urban et al. 1997). Although recorded in plantations, it is probably dependent on mature forest for successful breeding. Given that it appears to be associated with the canopy of mature trees, it may well be highly sensitive to habitat alteration (Seddon et al. 1999b).
The main threats to forest in the East Usambaras are pit-sawing (outside reserves), and cultivation and pole-cutting (within reserves) (Evans 1997b, Kessy 1998). All are likely to increase in the near future (Seddon et al. 1999a). Lowland and foothill forest faces much greater and more immediate threats than the comparatively safe submontane and montane forest of the Usambaras.
Conservation Actions Underway
Two current projects in the East Usambaras are working to increase the amount of forest, including all lowland remnants, in protected areas. However, the high population density and demand for land and timber in the area makes this difficult (Kessy 1998).
14 cm. Medium-sized, flycatcher-like warbler of forest and woodland. Glossy blue-black upperparts. Prominent white flash on wings. Orange throat and breast, fading to yellow on belly and vent. Voice Rarely calls (Evans 1997b): series of thin, squeaky notes. Hints Most recently seen in forest at Amani in East Usambara Mountains (Tanzania).
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Mahood, S., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A. & Westrip, J.
Cordeiro, N., Hansen, L. & Stuart, S.
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Hyliota usambara. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/08/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/08/2019.