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White-winged Flufftail

Sarothrura ayresi


The White-winged Flufftail is a very rare and tiny African bird which breeds north of the equator in Ethiopia and then migrates south to Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

This species is part of the Flufftails genus Sarothrura, which diverged from all other species of birds 25.1 million years ago during the Neogene period. Mysteriously, the only known breeding records are from highland marshes of Ethiopia. Unfortunately, this species is under threat due to grazing of livestock and grass cutting on the breeding grounds as well as drainage of marshes for cultivation and forestry. Much of the wetland habitat for this species has already been converted into agriculture, settlement and grazing land.

There is a site support group at the only known remaining breeding ground in Berga, Ethiopia, but remains unknown if the species is still breeding elsewhere. Grazing on a small part of the Berga wetland is restricted during the breeding season. Some South African sites have some legal protection and at least four sites are protected by the landowners. A captive breeding programme was proposed in South Africa, as this may be help protect this species until its natural breeding grounds receive better protection. There are also ongoing projects to raise awareness for this species including local communities and schools creating billboard posters.

  • Order: Gruiformes
  • Family: Rallidae
  • Population: 700
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 14-16cm
  • Weight: 31.8g

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5.2 (?)
ED Score: 10.29 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


This species is known from Ethiopia with three known sites in the central highlands. It is also known from Zimbabwe and in South Africa, as they are found in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

Habitat and Ecology

This species breed in high-altitude seasonal marshes with dense, rapidly growing vegetation dominated by sedges, grasslands and forbs. This species forages in mud at the edges of reed beds, shallow water and floating mats of aquatic vegetation. It feeds on seeds and vegetation, as well as insects, spiders, earthworms, small frogs and small fish.

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This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Additional threats Crops Wood plantations Livestock Mining Gathering Logging Work Fire Dams Agriculture

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
Available at:

Download the Survival Blueprint for this species below. Each survival blueprint is compiled by an EDGE Fellow working on the species with input from collaborators and stakeholders. The Survival Blueprint provides a status review (information on the distribution, protection status, habitat & ecology, threat and stakeholder analysis) and more information on the action programme listed here.

Vision (30-50 years)

The White-winged Flufftail’s long-term conservation in Ethiopia is ensured

Goal (5-10 years)

Recovery of the population of the White-winged Flufftail through community support and through increased availability of suitable breeding habitat in Ethiopia


Reduction of overgrazing, trampling by cattle and human disturbance of White-winged Flufftail habitat at Berga, Ethiopia Critical
Protect nest sites at Berga, Ethiopia, during the breeding season from July to October Critical
Halt degradation and promote rehabilitation of the White-winged Flufftail’s habitat at Berga, Ethiopia High
Increase the involvement of local and national government in the conservation of White-winged Flufftail High
Assess the population trend of the White-winged Flufftail at the species habitat at Berga, Ethiopia High
Promotion of an educational/awareness program on the plight of the White-winged Flufftail at a local and national level in Ethiopia High
Introduction and promotion of diversified livelihoods for the community heavily dependent on the species habitat at the Berga wetland High
Assess the species habitat at Bilacha and Weserbi, Ethiopia, for the presence of the White-winged Flufftail High
Increase suitable habitat for the White-winged Flufftail at the Bilacha and Weserbi sites in Ethiopia by influencing rehabilitation of some degraded habitats High

Bruktawit Abdo

  • Project name: Providing an evidence base for the conservation of the White-winged Flufftail
  • Project site: Berga, Ethiopia
  • Active: 2017 - 2019
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