White-winged apalis -- 白翅娇莺 (Apalis chariessa)

Male white-winged apalis
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White-winged apalis fact file

White-winged apalis description

GenusApalis (1)

This pretty, forest-dwelling bird has bright plumage and an exceptionally long and graduated tail (2). There are two subspecies of the white-winged apalis, one of which has not been seen since 1961. Apalis chariessa chariessa males have glossy black upperparts, a conspicuous white panel on the folded wing (hence the name), and a black tail with white tips. A distinctive black band separates the white throat from the golden yellow breast. Females are duller than the males and have a dark grey head, olive-green upperparts, and a dark grey tail with whitish tips. The lower throat and breast-band is also dark grey (2). Subspecies Apalis chariessa macphersoni is slightly larger than A.c. chariessa and has a less well-defined orange breast (2). Both subspecies have brown irises, black bills and pinkish-brown legs (2). The male sings a lively, repeated tee-luu dee-lu, often in duet with a female(3).

Apalis à ailes blanches.
Length: 12 – 13 cm (2)

White-winged apalis biology

The white-winged apalis is an insectivore that is found in pairs, or sometimes in flocks with other bird species, searching for food in the forest canopy. It favours trees with thin, well-spread crowns, where it plucks its insect prey from leaves and twigs (2).

This species forms monogamous pairs that breed between October and January. Together the pair construct an oval bag-like nest made of beard lichen, lined with white and silky seed plumes, suspended from a bare branch many meters above the ground (2). The female lays and incubates a clutch of two to three eggs, and both the male and female feed beetle larvae to the newly hatched chicks (2).


White-winged apalis range

A.c. chariessa is known only from the lower River Tana, east Kenya, but has not been seen since 1961. A.c. macphersoni occurs in forests in central and south Tanzania, south Malawi, and adjacent north Mozambique (2) (3).


White-winged apalis habitat

The white-winged apalis inhabits lowland, riverine and mid-altitude forests, generally below 1,600 meters, but is also found in secondary forests and gardens (2).


White-winged apalis status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


White-winged apalis threats

It is possible that the subspecies A.c. chariessa is extinct, as it has not been observed since 1961 (2), and large areas of forest meandering along the banks of the lower River Tana have been cleared for cultivation, or for timber for poles and canoes (4). A.c. macphersoni is also under threat from the destruction of forests; particularly in south-eastern Malawai where remaining forest fragments continue to be cleared resulting in very little suitable habitat remaining(3). However, observations of the white-winged apalis in secondary forest and gardens give a little hope as this bird shows an ability to tolerate a degree of habitat disturbance (2).


White-winged apalis conservation

In many parts of the white-winged apalis’ range there are measures in place which aim to conserve the forests. For example, some of the lower River Tana forests lie within the Tana River Primate National Reserve (4); in the Uluguru Mountains, Tanzania, there are programmes aiming to increase the involvement of local communities in forest management, and the Udzungwa Mountains National Park is supported by a community forestry programme (3). Such efforts are important not only for the vulnerable white-winged apalis, but also for other threatened inhabitants of the forests. Conducting surveys to determine whether the subspecies A.c. chariessa still persists in the lower River Tana forests would seem to be an important next step as, if it still exists, conservation measures need to be swiftly implemented to bring this race back from the brink of extinction.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on the white-winged apalis see:




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Animal that feeds primarily on insects.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
Secondary forest
Forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.


  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2006) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol.11: Old World Flycatchers to Old World Warblers. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. BirdLife International (October, 2007)
  4. BirdLife International: IBA Factsheet (October, 2007)

Image credit

Male white-winged apalis  
Male white-winged apalis

© Roland Bischoff

Roland Bischoff


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