Bird of the Year 2013

White winged Flufftail 1 Warwick Tarboton

Bird of the Year is one of BirdLife South Africa’s annual initiatives for creating awareness about birds and bird habitat conservation. The aim of the initiative is to choose a bird species and focus various activities and events on that species during the year. It is an important initiative to improve public awareness about the species and the need to protect the species (and related species) and their habitats.

Birds are important environmental indicators, the proverbial “canaries in the coal mine”. By focusing on birds, and the sites and the habitats on which they depend, BirdLife South Africa aims to improve the quality of life for birds, for other wildlife and ultimately for people.

Bird of the Year 2013

White winged Flufftail 2 Warwick TarbotonWhite-winged Flufftail (Sarothrura ayresi)

This elusive and poorly known species has a fragmented distribution, a small population and specific habitat requirements. The White-winged Flufftail is only known to occur in high altitude wetlands in South Africa and Ethiopia. It is severely threatened by habitat destruction and degradation, including wetland drainage, agriculture, water abstraction, overgrazing by livestock and cutting of marsh vegetation. It is listed as Critically Endangered in The Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (Barnes 2000).

Despite a number of studies by conservationists in South Africa and Ethiopia, little is known about the White-winged Flufftail’s biology. It is important, for example, to understand this flufftail’s habitat requirements and obtain data on population size, distribution, movements, genetics, etc. There is also a pressing need to protect the wetlands which are used by this species.

Wetlands are one of the most threatened habitats in South Africa and water is one of South Africa's scarcest resources. At present many water resources are polluted by industrial effluents, domestic and commercial sewage, acid mine drainage, agricultural runoff and litter.

Images kindly donated by Warwick Tarboton

Bird of the Year resources

Lesson 1 - What is a wetland?

Lesson 2 - What makes a wetland special?

Lesson 3 - Animals found in wetlands


Bird of the Year 2013 poster

Previous birds of the year

2012 - African Fish Eagle
2011 - Barn Swallow
2010 - Lesser Flamingo
2009 - Cape Robin-chat
2008 - Spotted Eagle-Owl
2007 - African Penguin

For more information about the Bird of the Year initiative, please email