Yemen Warbler Sylvia buryi


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 9,000 pairs. This equates to 18,000 mature individuals, placed in the band 10,000-19,999 mature individuals.

Trend justification
No data are available to calculate population trends; however, the species is suspected to be declining at a slow rate, in line with habitat degradation within its range.

Distribution and population

This species is a very local resident in montane south-west Arabia from 1,500-2,900 m (Brooks 1987, Jennings et al. 1988). It occurs from 19°30'N in the southern Asir mountains in Saudi Arabia, south to 13°55'N at Jiblah in Yemen (Brooks 1987). The species can be locally common (Brooks 1987), and population densities (Jennings et al. 1988, Newton and Newton 1996) probably fall within the range of 1-100 mature individuals per km2 at the sites where it occurs. In the juniper forests of the southern Asir the number of pairs is estimated to be at least 2,000 and approximately 500 pairs are estimated for each atlas square equating to an overall population estimate of 9,000 pairs (Jennings 2010).


In Yemen it is closely associated with woodland dominated by the tree Acacia origena (Brooks 1987), which generally occurs as copses, hedgerows and scattered trees in highland landscapes of terraced cultivation, while in Saudi Arabia it also occurs within well-developed Juniperus woodland (Stagg 1984, Jennings et al. 1988,  Newton and Newton 1996). The species probably requires plenty of undergrowth (M. Jennings in litt. 2016). The species occurs in pairs for much of the year and is strongly territorial (Shirihai et al. 2000). It nests in a bush or tree, with breeding recorded from March to July (Jennings 1995).


Lopping and cutting of trees and shrubs - for fuel, fodder and building material - are proceeding at unsustainable levels in many parts of Yemen (Brooks 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). Loss of well-wooded farmland to infrastructural development and agricultural intensification may also be a threat in Saudi Arabia (Newton and Newton 1996). Together, these threats imply that the species's population is likely to be decreasing, since woodland regeneration is poor over much of its range (Scholte et al. 1991). Indeed there is some evidence for population declines in Saudi Arabia, especially on the plateau of the highlands, an area which has undergone much touristic and housing development over the past 30 years (M. Jennings in litt. 2016). However the species was still considered locally common on hillside scrub during a study in 2010 (M. Jennings in litt. 2016).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
There are many traditional rangeland reserves (mahjur) in south-west Arabia, where the vegetation (including trees) is 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 livestock feed (Scholte et al. 1991). The species occurs in at least two protected areas in Saudi Arabia: Raydah Reserve (Newton and Newton 1996) and Asir National Park (Jennings et al. 1988).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Encourage non-intensive agroforestry practices. Collect more data on its range and distribution, in order to better explain its highly localised occurrence. Conduct a closer study of its strong association with the tree Acacia origena.


15 cm. Rather large warbler with short wings and long tail. Both sexes have sooty-grey upperparts, darkest around eye, and clearly demarcated from white throat. Apricot patch between legs (Porter and Aspinall 2010). Whitish iris gives a staring look. Similar spp Arabian Warbler Sylvia leucomelaena is more pure grey, with whitish vent and dark eye (Brooks 1987). Sylvia warblers do not creep about when probing into bark for insects. Voice Song is slow, quite loud, thrush-like warble, often sustained (Baker 1997). Hints Very active and nearly always in pairs, searching methodically for insects in the centre of thick acacias, frequently hanging upside down. Occasionally forages on ground. Flight is weak and low, with upward swoop when landing on branch.


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

Porter, R., Jennings, M., Al-Sagheir, O.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Sylvia buryi. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/03/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/03/2019.