Yemen Thrush Turdus menachensis


Justification of Red List Category
Recent population estimates have placed the population size as >10,000 mature individuals. However, the population is still considered to be relatively small and in decline owing to the loss and degradation of its montane woodland habitat. Therefore, it is now listed as Near Threatened.

Population justification
Data from the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Arabia (Jennings 2010) provides a population estimate of c.10,000 pairs. Therefore, the population size is placed here in the range 10,000-19,999 mature individuals.

Trend justification
There are no new data on population trends; however, the species is suspected to be declining slowly, owing to habitat loss and degradation. Studies in Asir, Saudi Arabia, show that the population has undergone a decline however this could be owing to temporary factors such as a recent drought in the region (M. Jennings in litt. 2016). The evidence for a declining population trend overall in not clear and further studies are required (M. Jennings in litt. 2016).

Distribution and population

This species is endemic to the south-western Arabian peninsula, occurring in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, north to 21°N (Bowden 1987). It is strictly montane (Porter et al. 1996) and has a very local distribution, being generally scarce (Bowden 1987) where it occurs (although occasionally numerous in some areas [Stagg 1984, Jennings et al. 1988, Newton and Newton 1996]). In Saudi Arabia the species is often common and widespread (M. Jennings in litt. 2016) and even occurs in fragmented woodland areas close to human habitation (J. Babbington and P. Roberts in litt. 2016), whilst in Yemen it is rather rare and local (M. Jennings in litt. 2016). However, the population has been estimated at c.10,000 pairs (Jennings 2010), implying that there is a population of c.20,000 adults (M. Jennings in litt. 2012).


It is confined to areas with a dense cover of native trees and shrubs - thus occurring in woodlands, thickets, copses, orchards and large gardens, although foraging in more open habitats if dense wooded cover is nearby (Stagg 1984, Bowden 1987, Jennings et al. 1988, Newton and Newton 1996, Porter et al. 1996). In gardens and parks it uses exotic and introduced species for food, nesting and cover (M. Jennings in litt. 2016). At the lowest altitudes, it is restricted to such vegetation along watercourses. At most localities it appears to be sedentary, but there may be altitudinal or latitudinal movements in the north of its range (Stagg 1984). The diet includes fruit (e.g. Rosa, Juniperus, Ficus) and terrestrial invertebrates (Phillips 1982, Bowden 1987). Breeding occurs from March to June, the nest being 1-2 m above ground in a bush or tree-fork, usually in dense cover (Bowden 1987).


Lopping and cutting of trees and shrubs, for fuel, fodder and building material, are proceeding at unsustainable levels in many parts of Yemen (Bowden 1987, Scholte et al. 1991), and are likely therefore to be causing a net loss of dense wooded cover. The conflict in Yemen is also leading to food shortage, and so birds may be being killed for food, although this species may not be highly targeted given its ecology and secretive nature (R. Porter in litt. 2017). Abandonment of wooded agricultural terraces at lower altitudes in the species's range is leading to massive loss of topsoil and further reduction of wooded cover (Scholte et al. 1991). Loss of well-wooded land to building, infrastructural and agricultural developments may also be a threat in Saudi Arabia. Dam construction may also pose a threat to the species's habitat (J. Babbington and P. Roberts in litt. 2016). Altogether, these threats imply that the species's population is likely to be decreasing. A lack of tree regeneration, owing to high levels of grazing and browsing by livestock, has been observed at several sites and may be a problem.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
There are many traditional rangeland reserves (mahjur) in south-west Arabia, where trees and ground plant cover are protected by private or communal ownership-rights from excessive exploitation, in order to provide fodder in times of drought (Scholte et al. 1991). However, the management of these areas has been widely neglected or abandoned since the advent of more convenient supplies of supplemental feed (Scholte et al. 1991). The species occurs in at least two protected areas in Saudi Arabia: Raydah Reserve and Asir National Park (Jennings et al. 1988, Newton and Newton 1996).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Encourage non-intensive agroforestry practices. Conduct field surveys to estimate its population size and to quantify the population trend (M. Jennings in litt. 2016). Study the effects of different forestry practices on species density and breeding success. Increase the number of protected areas for this species (J. Babbington and P. Roberts in litt. 2016).


23 cm. Medium-sized, rather plain, brown thrush. Throat is streaked blackish. Some spotting on breast of some individuals. In flight shows orange underwing-coverts. May show dirty orange wash on flanks when perched. Stout bill is orange-yellow and legs vary from flesh-coloured to yellow (Bowden 1987). Voice Fluty song is series of high-pitched phrases, mostly heard at dawn. Most typical call is explosive chuck-chuck. Hints Can be very skulking and remain motionless for long periods (Porter et al. 1996). Best located by call.


Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Taylor, J., Martins, R., Mahood, S., Ashpole, J, Westrip, J., Symes, A.

Babbington, J., Roberts, P., Al-Sagheir, O., Porter, R., Jennings, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Turdus menachensis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/09/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/09/2020.