Rare Finch Conservation Group – Shelley’s Crimsonwing Finch – Uganda fieldwork – CITES 1 birds

Background of the Shelley’s Crimsonwing finch species

– Crimsonwings in the wild are only found on the African continent.

– They belong to the Family Estrildidae and the Genus Cryptospiza.

– They are generally olive-green or red waxbills, who nestle in the undergrowth in and around forested areas.

– They mainly occur in pairs or small groups and feed in low cover and on the ground.

– There are 4 species of Crimsonwings:  Dusky Crimsonwing (Cryptospiza jacksonii), Red-faced Crimsonwing (Cryptospiza reichenovii), Abyssinian Crimsonwing (Cryptospiza salvadorii) and the elusive Shelley’s Crimsonwing (Cryptospiza shelleyi). The Dusky and Shelley’s Crimsonwings are endemic to the Albertine Rift with Shelley’s Crimsonwing being listed as Vulnerable by IUCN (2004).


A pair of Dusky Crimsonwings (Cryptospiza jacksoni), which are related to the Shelley's Crimsonwings (Cryptospiza shelleyi)


The RFCG’s Mission To Find Shelleys in Uganda

Despite the fact that Bwindi’s Impenetrable National Parks (BINP) avifauna is one of the best studied in Uganda (Davenport et al, 1996), not much information has been accumulated about the crimsonwings. The Rare Finch Conservation Group’s (RFCG) field research aims to establish baseline data on the status, habitat preferences and distribution of crimsonwings, specifically the Shelley’s crimsonwing, both at BINP and other high altitude game parks in central Africa.

Why the RFCG cares about Shelley

Little is known about the four species of crimsonwings. As a result, the type of habitats they exploit is not known. They occur in low densities and are patchily distributed in BINP and other high altitude central African regions and national parks. For example, the population of Shelley’s Crimsonwing is believed to be declining due to habitat fragmentation. Unfortunately, very little is known about its status. Currently, there is only one known photograph of the species in the world.


Worldwide to date, this is the only photo that has been found of the Shelley's Crimsonwing Finch


The Current Status of RFCG’s Fieldwork in Uganda

It is believed that the Shelley’s Crimsonwing is found in the low density areas of three parks in Uganda – the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP), the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, and the Rwenzori Mountains National Park (RMNP). The bird is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ by IUCN (2004). BirdLife International (2004) has recommended that studies should investigate the status, assess the threats and distribution of this species so that a conservation action plan can be designed for its conservation.


The devastating effects of uncontrolled deforestation in BINP


The conservation of crimsonwings as a group can only be achieved if their ecology is known. The Rare Finch Conservation Group has now completed two field research studies and is currently raising funds to finance a third field study (Phase Three) which, funds permitting, will be conducted in all three of  the abovenamed national parks in Uganda.


Phase Two of Finding Shelley's in Uganda


To contribute in any way to this worthy cause, please contact RFCG secretary, Eelco Meyjes:

2 Responses to “FIND SHELLEY”


  1. Rare Shelley’s Crimsonwing was spotted in Ruhija! – Bwindi Researchers - November 18, 2010

    […] Finch Conservation Group (RFCG) of South Africa has led a one year search for the Shelley’s ( around Bwindi and Mgahinga from May 2009 . ITFC supported the field research and hosted Benson […]

  2. Who is Benson, the Shelley’s Crimsonwing spotter? – Bwindi Researchers - November 22, 2010

    […] Bamutura, who is waiting in his home village for the RFCG project on Shelley’s Crimsonwing to […]

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