White-headed Robin-chat Cossypha heinrichi


Justification of Red List Category
To date, this elusive species is known from very few locations, mostly isolated forest fragments where its habitat is severely threatened, and its range and numbers are therefore suspected to be declining. Although future surveys may prove it to be more widespread, it currently qualifies as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The population size is preliminarily estimated to fall into the band 10,000-19,999 individuals. This equates to 6,667-13,333 mature individuals, rounded here to 6,000-15,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The species's population is suspected to be declining in line with forest clearance and degradation in the areas in which it occurs, although the rate of decline has not been estimated.

Distribution and population

Cossypha heinrichi is known from only three areas: two in northern Angola (one c.30 km north-east of Calandula (formerly Duque de Braganza), and from 500 km to the north at Bombo-Lumene Forest Reserve, and nearby Nkiene and Nguma (near Kinshasa) in the western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (Keith et al. 1992, M. Mills in litt. 2016). The Nguma locality was discovered in May 1998, when four specimens were collected (Mayr and Peters 1999). Birds have been seen at four other sites within a 15 km radius of Bombo-Lumene and there is an unconfirmed sight record 550 km still further north, near Mbandaka (Keith et al. 1992). The species remains very poorly known and the scarcity of records indicates it is rare, though future surveys may prove it to be more widely distributed (Mayr and Peters 1999).


In northern Angola, the species has been found in dense undergrowth of gallery forests along rivers and brooks at 1,250 m, occasionally entering surrounding savanna areas. In the western DRC, it is known from a few isolated, thick (not gallery) forest patches in the savanna. It is insectivorous, feeding especially on driver ants. In Angola, there are possibly two breeding seasons, in February and October, although it may be more likely that there is only one season from September through to February (M. Mills in litt. 2016). In the DRC, the breeding season is September-November, coincident with the start of the rainy season.


In the DRC, forest patches from which it is known are extremely small and deforestation (for charcoal) is widespread at Bombo-Lumene due to the proximity of Kinshasa (Demey and Louette 2001). A large part of the Bombo-Lumene Reserve is currently used for agricultural and pastoral activities (Demey and Louette 2001). In Angola, its habitat may be threatened by clearance for agriculture and uncontrolled fires from slash-and-burn cultivation (Dean 2001).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Bombo-Lumene was established as a Game Reserve in 1968, and in 1976 a Fauna and Forest Reserve was established within its borders. However, the site is poorly staffed and equipped (Demey and Louette 2001).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to determine its population size, distribution and the degree to which it is threatened (when the security situation permits). Monitor rates of forest clearance and degradation in the areas in which it occurs. Establish suitable sites as nature reserves.


22-23 cm. Large robin of forest with long, red, graduated tail which is frequently held fanned. All-white head is diagnostic. Brownish back and wings with red underparts. Similar spp. No other African robin has an all-white head. Voice Repetitive, high-pitched, liquid, see-sawing song: variable (Mills 2007). High-pitched whistle (Mills 2007). Hints Keeps to understorey, occurring on forest floor and in undergrowth up to 4 m high.


Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Westrip, J.

Mills, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Cossypha heinrichi. Downloaded from on 14/10/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 14/10/2019.