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White-winged Flufftail

Sarothrura ayresi

The White-winged Flufftail, Sarothrura ayresi, is a diminutive and elusive bird, bearing the name of the South African ornithologist Thomas Ayres. Both sexes are adorned with rather inconspicuous plumage and a dark crown, yet reveal a striking contrast with their white secondary feathers when taking to the air.

Identification Tips

Upon sighting, one may note the bird's modest plumage, but in flight, the white secondary feathers become a distinctive marker. This characteristic is shared only with its Coturnicops genus relatives, setting it apart from other flufftails.

Habitat

This species favors the high-altitude seasonal marshlands, where tall sedge provides a sanctuary for their ground nests. These wetlands, often with peat soil, are critical for their survival.

Distribution

The White-winged Flufftail's range is somewhat fragmented, with sightings north of the equator in Ethiopia and southward in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. The continuity of these populations, whether they are separate or a singular interbreeding group, is a subject of ongoing research and debate.

Behaviour

These birds are not permanent residents of their known habitats, sometimes departing after a brief stay when conditions become unfavorable. They are most vocal at dawn and dusk, with non-breeding birds occasionally engaging in duets.

Breeding

The breeding season is surmised to span from June to September, coinciding with the rainy season. Nesting occurs in well-concealed ground locations, with clutches typically comprising four to five eggs.

Similar Species

The White-winged Flufftail can be confused with other flufftail species, but its white secondary feathers in flight are a distinguishing feature.

Conservation Status

The White-winged Flufftail is critically endangered, with habitat loss being the primary threat. The species is imperiled by activities such as cattle grazing, sedge harvesting, and swamp drainage. In Ethiopia, the burgeoning human population intensifies the strain on their habitat through farming, overgrazing, and sedge collection for both livestock feed and traditional coffee brewing. Conservation efforts are underway, but the bird's future remains precarious.

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