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Africa Geographic Travel

There is no known photograph of a live Shelley’s crimsonwing other than a few caught during biodiversity netting surveys. Cryptospiza shelleyi is a species of forest finch occurring in the highland forests of the Albertine Rift in East Africa. It is classified as ‘endangered’ by due to habitat loss and is likely to have a small, severely fragmented and declining population.

The world’s second known photograph of a Shelley’s crimsonwing. © Colin Jackson
Shelley’s crimsonwing. © Colin Jackson

We spoke to researcher Colin Jackson who photographed a Shelley’s crimsonwing during a biodiversity netting expedition in the Mt Tsiaberimu area, in the DRC, in 1997. The only other photo of this species, also of a netted bird, was taken in 2008, also photographed in the Mt Tsiaberimu area in the Virunga National Park, DRC.

Jackson said, “Very interesting to hear of the story behind the other image of the crimsonwing – that it also came from Tsiaberimu…. We caught ours in the heart of the forest not far from where we first camped in nets going through the edge of bamboo and bordering an open area that included some swampy vegetation. The expedition was one of National Museums of Kenya staff, funded by the Berggorilla and Regenwald Direkthilfte and the Atlanta Zoo. A key objective of the expedition was to survey the surviving gorillas and Titus Imboma (whose hand is holding the bird in the image) and myself were taken along to do bird surveys.”

About Shelley’s crimsonwing

Distribution: A narrow strip of highland forest sandwiched between Burundi, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and western Uganda.

Habitat: Inhabits closed moist understory in montane forest, low secondary growth at the forest edge, clearings with Sericostachys, mixed bamboo thickets; sometimes in more open areas near streams and forest clearings.

Habits: Occurs singly or in pairs. Forages on the ground for seeds, known to associate with dusky crimsonwings Cryptospiza jacksoni. Shy, elusive, seldom seen, when flushed, flies rapidly for a short distance, dives for cover and does not reappear.

Ever since 2008 this was the only known photograph of a Shelley’s crimsonwing in the world. ©
Shelley’s crimsonwing ©

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The Rare Finch Conservation Group ( RFCG ) was founded in August 2005 by a group of South African and Australian finch enthusiasts , who all volunteer their services, and wish to play a meaningful role in ensuring the ongoing survival in the wild of the world’s threatened finches. The founding members are all experienced in the field of finch husbandry and wish to utilise these skills to the benefit of wild finches.

Africa Geographic Travel
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