Winifred's Warbler Scepomycter winifredae


Justification of Red List Category
This species is suspected to have a small population, which experiencing a continued decline due to ongoing habitat loss and degradation. It is therefore listed as Near Threatened.

Population justification
The population size was preliminarily estimated to fall into the band 10,000-19,999 individuals, however this is likely to be too high and may instead be 500-1,500 individuals (L. Hansen in litt. 2016). This roughly equates to 330-1,000 mature individuals.

The species has two subspecies (Pearson and Kirwan 2020), and based on its distribution, it is assumed to form multiple subpopulations. With a suspected population size of 330-1000 mature individuals, it is assumed that there are <1,000 mature individuals in the largest subpopulation.

Trend justification
The population is inferred to be declining owing to ongoing forest loss. Between 2009-2019, forest habitat within this species's range decline by 6.5% (Global Forest Watch 2020). This species can tolerate some disturbance (J. Fjeldså in litt. 2007). Based on the threat of habitat loss, these declines are suspected to continue at the same rate into the future.

Distribution and population

Scepomycter winifredae is found in three mountain forests in eastern Tanzania. In the Uluguru and Ukaguru Mountains, it is widespread within a very narrow altitudinal belt (Evans and Anderson 1993, Svendsen and Hansen 1995), although the density of territories is variable (Svendsen and Hansen 1995). In Ukwiva Forest Reserve (100 km2) in the Rubeho Mountains, between the Udzungwas and Ukagurus, the species was found to be fairly common (Fjeldså et al. 1997), but probably localised and patchy in occurrence (J. Fjeldså in litt. 2007), as the species persists only in pockets of habitat (L. Hansen in litt. 2020). It was previously thought to be extant in the Mwanihana Forest in the Udzungwas Mountains, where it was known from a single record. However, it has not been recorded since the late 1980s, despite much searching (J. Fjeldså in litt. 2007, 2012, L. Hansen in litt. 2007), and L. Hansen (in litt. 2020) confirmed that the original observers of this record have reconsidered it, and now believe it to be a mistake (F. P. Jensen pers. comm. to L. Hansen 2018).


It occurs in the understorey of montane forest, and prefers disturbed areas where there is very dense undergrowth or lush herbaceous vegetation, e.g. natural clearings, near streams, areas disturbed by landslides, elephants and buffalo (Fjeldså et al. 1997), and even heavily disturbed, low forest (Fjeldså et al. 1997). It is often trapped in mist-nets at 1-1.5 m above the ground (L. Hansen in litt. 2007). It feeds on a wide variety of invertebrates. The breeding season is from October to March, but the nest and clutch-size are not known to science.


Extremely inaccessible terrain within the Uluguru Nature Reserve has protected the main montane forest block in the Ulugurus, but forest here only covers c.120 km2 and the lower slopes are being steadily cleared for farming (J. Fjeldså in litt. 2007, N. Burgess in litt. 2007, 2012). Most parts of the Rubeho mountains have high human populations and Brachystegia woodland on the slopes is maintained by frequent burning  (Bowie et al. 2009); the highlands may have been more extensively cleared in the past (J. Fjeldså in litt. 2007, Bowie et al. 2009). Forest reserves in the Ukagurus are protected by their inaccessibility. While the species depends entirely on forest for its survival, it may tolerate considerable human disturbance in the forest interior as long as dense herbaceous vegetation is allowed to regenerate (J. Fjeldså in litt. 2007), since clearings are its natural habitat (Svendsen and Hansen 1995). Increasing populations are putting pressure on the surrounding forests throughout this species's range from expanding agriculture and development (L. Hansen in litt. 2020). 

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The Uluguru forests are included in the Uluguru Nature Reserve (N. Burgess in litt. 2012). There are two water PES projects doing some agricultural work and also a reforestation project by WCST in the Bunduki gap (N. Burgess in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct a survey to estimate its population size and range. Establish a scheme to monitor trends in its population and range. Monitor rates of forest clearance and degradation within the species's range. Increase the area of suitable habitat that has protected status. Continue to involve local people in forest management practices that will benefit the species whilst protecting local livelihoods.


13-15 cm. Medium-sized forest warbler, found in dense and tall herbaceous vegetation, especially in glades and disturbed forest. Uniform olive-brown, with marginally darker wings and tail. Rich rufous to henna-red face, throat and breast, and with fine buffy vermiculations on belly, vent and flanks. Female duller version of male. Voice Extraordinary piercing, whistled song usually delivered as duet. Hints Travels through undergrowth in pairs, constantly moving, up to 6 m above ground.


Text account compilers
Clark, J.

Benstead, P., Burgess, N., Ekstrom, J., Fjeldså, J., Hansen, L., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Svendsen, J.O., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Westrip, J.R.S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Scepomycter winifredae. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/01/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/01/2022.