Both Mountain Gorillas and Shelley’s crimsonwings enjoy bamboo thickets

27 Jan

Bamboo thicket in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Uganda

It is interesting to note that some of the reference books on the Shelley’s crimsonwing tell us that this very elusive finch supposedly can be found in bamboo thickets . Birdlife International in their publication : Threatened Birds of the world state the following : ECOLOGY. It inhabits the understory of closed-canopy moist forest….and glades dominated by large herbs, bamboo thickets and the upper forest/moorland ecotone .TARGETS: Investigate declines or fluctuations in population, to assess threats. Survey extent of habitat .In the authorative reference book on the Birds of Africa vol VII It states : GENERAL HABITS ..Inhabits closed moist understory in montane forest..,mixed bamboo thickets, sometimes in more open areas near streams … BREEDING HABITS : Unknown.

Mountain Gorilla and baby in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Uganda . Photo courtesy Cheryl Mares

The International Gorilla Conservation Programme recently published some facinating stats on the threatened Mountain Gorilla which, according to the latest population census ( posted on our blog 10  January 2011 ) tells us that the species has made a remarkable recovery from three decades ago with an estimated 250 individuals to the latest figure of 786.

Mountain Gorilla eating plants in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest . Uganda . Visual courtesy Cheryl Mares

In the publication Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impentrable National Park  by David Bygott and Jaennette Hanby it shares the following on the Mountain Gorillas ECOLOGY : Gorillas are vegetarians. In the Virungas , they eat at least 58 different food plants ,mostly leaves, stems and bark . Bwindi forest has many more plant species than the Virungas . Its gorillas have been less studied ,but are known to eat at least 60 different plants and probably many more including fruit….The plants that gorillas eat bamboo shoots, giant thistles and lobelias etc…

Young Mountain Gorilla eating plant root in Bwindi Impentrable Forest . Visual courtesy Cheryl Mares

The Mountain Gorilla is primarily vegetarian, with bamboo shoots being the favoured diet …Uganda. The Bradt Travel Guide

Whilst it is still very early days for us an interesting question to ask is, is the success of the one species perhaps having a detrimental impact on the other ? Is the Shelley’s crimsonwing a key stone species ? And if so what is the medium to long term conservation programme that needs to be considered for the survival of both species ?  The Rare Finch Conservation Group has now completed two field studies in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and one in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.  It has do date sadly never netted or even seen the Shelley’s crimsonwing .

The Rare Finch Conservation Group taking down the mist nets in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

It  has also been well documented that to date there is still only one known photograph of the bird in the world . The RFCG is currently raising money to fund phase three in both of the above named parks, plus it would also like to extend its field research work into another high altitude game park the Rwenzori Mountain Park in Uganda which does not have any Mountain Goriallas.

If you would like to find out more about this pioneering conservation project then please contact the RFCG secretary at

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