Papyrus Gonolek Laniarius mufumbiri


Justification of Red List category
This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is estimated to be in moderately rapid population decline owing to the on-going conversion and degradation of its wetland habitats.

Population justification
A recent estimate put the total population at c.2 million adults (Maclean 2004, Maclean et al. 2013), roughly equivalent to 3 million individuals in total.

Trend justification
Maclean et al. (2013) estimate that, between 1984–1987 and 1999–2001 the areal extent of papyrus in its range declined by 6.7% from 1,643 to 1,532 km2. This species is estimated to have decreased by 20.6% (80% CI: 7.7-42.5%) over three generations, based on a comparison of data from 1984-1987 and 1999-2001. Rates of population decline were estimated by assuming that relationships between density, occurrence and habitat variables derived from 1999–2001 data, were the same in 1984–1987, and assumed a constant geometric annual rate of decline. The population is therefore estimated to be in moderately rapid decline based on estimated losses of papyrus swamp habitat and decreases in local population density (Maclean et al. 2013).

Distribution and population

Laniarius mufumbiri has a local distribution in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, eastern Rwanda, Burundi, north-western Tanzania and western Kenya. Within its range it is restricted to papyrus swamps (up to 1,600 m), where it is locally common in Kenya (Zimmerman et al. 1996) and abundant in eastern Rwanda (Vande weghe 1981). The species's population has been estimated at c.2,000,000 mature individuals (Maclean 2004, Maclean et al. 2013).


The species is confined to papyrus Cyperus papyrus swamps and beds, in meandering river valleys and along lake-shores (Fry et al. 2000). It feeds on ants, beetles, weevils, small flies, Hymenopterans, catepillars, snails and fruit (Fry et al. 2000).


This species's highly specialised habitat requirements make it susceptible to threats such as drainage, burning and the over-exploitation of wetlands. In Kigezi district, Uganda, and neighbouring regions in Rwanda and DRC, more than 75% of wetlands were drained between the early 1980s and 2001 (Maclean et al. 2013). Geographical variation in the conversion of wetlands points to agricultural development being the main cause. On-going and future habitat losses are likely, particularly in western Kenya. Yala Swamp, the largest remaining area of intact papyrus, is highly threatened by on-going agricultural developments, with further plans to construct dams and embark on aquaculture and industrial development projects, which could render the entire site unsuitable for papyrus (Maclean et al. 2013). Papyrus swamps are also reported to be declining rapidly in Rwanda, primarily through conversion to agriculture, especially sugar cane plantations, as well as subsistence farming (J. Anderson in litt. 2013, J. Hogg in litt. 2013, C. Nsabagasani in litt. 2013). Papyrus in Rugei Marsh has been completely cleared, followed by the disappearance of the species, and Akanyaru and Nyabarongo have also been heavily affected by crop production (C. Nsabagasani in litt. 2013). Similar trends and threats are noted in Burundi (L. Ntahuga in litt. 2013). In addition to outright conversion, many smaller swamps are subject to the harvesting of sand and vegetation, with papyrus culms used in construction, handcrafts and fuel, as well as periodic burning and use for fish ponds (Maclean et al. 2013, M. Odino in litt. 2013). It is noteworthy that, around Lake Victoria, many of these activities have been catalysed by the collapse of the region's fisheries (Maclean et al. 2013, M. Odino in litt, 2013). Another threat, particularly in urban areas, is dredging for brick-making clay, which is fuelled by rapid economic development (Maclean et al. 2013). Pollution of papyrus swamps, caused by fertiliser run-off from agricultural fields, leading to algal blooms, is a further threat to the species's habitat (J. Anderson in litt. 2013).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
No targeted conservation actions are known for this species, although its status has received attention recently through surveys and trend analysis (Maclean et al. 2013).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor population trends through regular surveys. Monitor trends in the area and quality of suitable habitat. Protect suitable habitat for the species. Investigate potential community initiatives, such as encouraging alternative livelihoods in order to alleviate pressure on wetlands.


Text account compilers
Evans, M., Fisher, S., O'Brien, A., Robertson, P., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Westrip, J.

Anderson, J., Baker, N., Hogg, J., Nsabagasani, C., Ntahuga, L. & Odino, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Laniarius mufumbiri. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/papyrus-gonolek-laniarius-mufumbiri on 28/02/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org on 28/02/2024.