email a friend
printable version
Djibouti Francolin Pternistis ochropectus
BirdLife Species Champion Birdfair
BirdLife Species Guardian Houssein Rayaleh (Djibouti Nature)
For information about BirdLife Species Champions and Species Guardians visit the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

This species is classified as Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small range, which is severely fragmented and continues to decline in both extent and quality, and within which the population is suspected to be undergoing continuing decline.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
Pternistis ochropectus (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously placed in the genus Francolinus.

Francolinus ochropectus Dorst & Jouanin, 1952

35 cm. Rotund, short-tailed, terrestrial gamebird. Overall greyish-brown. White streaking and striping on underparts, finer white streaking on upperparts. Greyish top of head. Nape tinged rufous. Black bill with some yellow on the lower mandible, greenish-yellow legs. Voice Rattling erk erk erk-kkkkkkk, with latter part descending, ending a chuckled gurgle.

Distribution and population
Pternistis ochropectus is endemic to Djibouti, where it is known from only two sites: Forêt du Day in the Goda Massif (c. 14-15 km2 [McGowan et al. 1995]) and the nearby Mabla Mountains. Available habitat at Forêt du Day was halved between 1977 and 1983 (McGowan 1994), with a corresponding decline in the population from 5,600 to 1,500 birds between 1978 and 1985 (McGowan et al. 1995). The population at Forêt du Day was estimated at c. 500-1,000 in 1998 (G. R. and H. J. Welch in litt. 1999). Figures released in 2006 indicate that 95% of plateau juniper (the preferred habitat) was either dead or dying (Bealey and Rayaleh 2006). Nevertheless, immature birds continue to be seen and the ability of dead juniper woodland and woodland largely devoid of juniper to support the species remains poorly understood. Survey work by the World Pheasant Association in collaboration with Djibouti Nature led to a population estimate for the Forêt du Day population of 612-723 adults (Bealey and Rayaleh 2006). This was followed by a detailed survey in 2007 from which the same population was estimated at 450 individuals (95% CI: 285-705 individuals) (Fisher et al. 2009). A 2009 survey estimated the size of the Mabla population at 108 individuals (Welch et al. 2009a, 2009b).

Population justification
Following a detailed survey of the Forêt du Day in 2007 the population there was estimated at 450 individuals, with 95% confidence intervals giving a range of 285-705 individuals, including juveniles. Potential limitations of that study might mean that the population lies in the lower half of the range estimate, i.e. 285-450 individuals. A 2009 survey estimated the size of the Mabla population at 108 individuals. Taking these survey results into account, the entire population is estimated at fewer than 500 mature individuals (likely 200-500). This roughly equates to 300-750 individuals in total.

Trend justification
A 2009 survey estimated the Mabla population at 108 individuals, a decline from 200 in 1985. However, given that no details of derivation of the 1985 figure was provided (Welch et al. 2009a) it is not possible to say whether this reflects a true decline in the Mabla population. A large proportion of the habitat at Forêt du Day is dead or dying. The precise rate of population decline for this species is difficult to estimate, but is likely to be at least 30-49% over the last three generations.

It is found in juniper and other woodland (with records between 700 and 1,500 m) but forest at Forêt du Day now only occurs above c. 950 m (Magin 2001). It has been found in secondary woodland and occurs in degraded woodland (Fuller et al. 2000), including dead juniper habitat. It is shy, elusive and occurs in small parties in dense vegetation (Madge and McGowan 2002), hence it is not recorded in dead or dying juniper habitats which are more open (Bealey and Rayaleh 2006). The presence of a population in the Mabla Mountains where juniper is effectively absent may indicate that habitat structure rather than species composition of woodland may a key ecological factor (Welch et al. 2009a). A detailed survey in the Forêt du Day suggested that the presence of closed-canopy forest may be more important to the species than juniper health (Fisher et al. 2009). It feeds on seeds, berries and termites, and also figs from the forest edge (Fuller et al. 2000). The breeding season is from December to February (McGowan 1994). It is probably monogamous, laying a clutch of 5-7 eggs; the only known nest was a shallow grass-lined depression on an inaccessible mountain ledge (Madge and McGowan 2002).

At Forêt du Day, juniper woodland is in poor condition with virtually all trees now dead or dying. The reasons for this are unclear, but the high level of grazing by cattle, camels and goats is certainly a problem in much of the woodland, possibly exacerbated by acid rain, climate change and fungal disease (Magin 2001). Most local people (57%) interviewed in the Forêt du Day attribute high juniper mortality to drought (Fisher et al. 2009). A survey in 2007 showed that in areas of high tree cover or poor juniper condition, the presence of F. ochropectus was negatively correlated with grazing intensity, especially that of cattle (Fisher et al. 2009). Within 18 months of the restoration of an exclosure juniper seedlings which were non-existent elsewhere were found to be frequent under living juniper trees, suggesting grazing has indeed been the main cause of the decline of the forest (Ford 2008). Other concerns include collection of firewood on lower slopes (Magin 2001), hunting, egg harvesting (McGowan et al. 2014) and human disturbance (G. R. and H. J. Welch in litt. 1999). At Mabla, there are signs of significant human disturbance in the remaining stands of woodland, which have been heavily exploited for firewood and grazing (Magin 2001). Having a montane distribution that is close to the maximum altitude within its range, this species is potentially susceptible to climate change (BirdLife International unpublished data).

Conservation Actions Underway
Part of Forêt du Day was apparently declared a national park in 1939, but the designation is no longer valid (Magin 2001) - work is now underway to advance the implementation of full protected area status for Forêt du Day and Mabla (Rayaleh 2008). Research to clarify the species's range and population numbers is ongoing, including preliminary planning for surveys in other ranges between the two known locations. Meetings have been held with local communities to discuss the establishment of Site Support Groups (SSGs) for Forêt du Day and Mabla (Rayaleh 2008), and by early 2010 a small SSG had been formed for Forêt du Day and was already active (H. Rayaleh in litt. 2010). Brochures on the Djibouti Francolin and its habitat have been produced and distributed widely including within schools, tourist centres and government departments; meetings have been held with education authorities to discuss the integration of environmental teaching within primary schools, and a pilot environmental education programme has been trialled at five local schools (Rayaleh 2008). Seminars have been held at Djibouti University to discuss the species's status and establishment of a Djibouti Francolin Working Group, and more conferences were planned for 2010 (H. Rayaleh in litt. 2010). Plans for a community-based juniper forest restoration project are underway, and in May 2008 an area near Day village was set aside for a tree nursery (Rayaleh 2008, Hirschfeld 2008). By early 2009, funding had been secured for the maintenance and expansion of exclosures as well as development of the juniper nursery at Day village (Fisher et al. 2009), and by early 2010 installation of necessary structures at the nursery had started (H. Rayaleh in litt. 2010). An international workshop took place in February 2010 to prepare and agree a Species Action Plan for P. ochropectus (H. Rayaleh in litt. 2010, P. K. Ndang'ang'a in litt. 2010).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Immediate implementation of protected status of the "Forêts de Day et de Mabla" as recently decreed by government. Conduct ecological studies to determine habitat limits and reproductive ecology, especially whether there is seasonal dependence upon juniper forest. These will be aided by the use of radio-tagging which requires development of suitable catching techniques. Community-based juniper forest restoration through planting and assisted regeneration, and the maintenance of local plant nurseries. Limit grazing in areas of juniper regeneration and high abundance of P. ochropectus (Fisher et al. 2009). Expand awareness-raising programmes to ensure local people are aware of the value of the species and its habitat to improve participation in other conservation actions. Involve local stakeholders by convening a Protected Area Management Group in the Goda and Mabla areas. Create a working group within Djibouti to promote conservation of the species and its habitat. Develop a long-term integrated management project for the Goda massif, involving socio-economic and agro-pastoral surveys and a conservation education programme (currently being trialled in five local schools by Djibouti Nature).  Establish captive breeding populations to aid future reintroduction.

Bealey, C.; Rayaleh, H. A. 2006. Understanding the status of the Djibouti Francolin. Annual Review of the World Pheasant Association 2005/2006: 20.

Collar, N. J.; Butchart, S. H. M. 2013. Conservation breeding and avian diversity: chances and challenges. International Zoo Yearbook.

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.

Fisher, Z. S. Y.; Cartwright, S.; Bealey, C.; Rayaleh, H. A.; McGowan, P.; Milner-Gulland, E. J. 2009. The Djibouti Francolin and juniper forest in Djibouti: the need for both ecosystem and species-specific conservation. Oryx 43(4): 542-551.

Ford, H. 2008. Flora of Djibouti. Available at: #

Fuller, R.A., Carroll, J.P. and McGowan, P.J.K. 2000. Partridges, Quails, Francolins, Snowcocks, Guineafowl, and Turkeys. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 2000 -2004. IUCN and World Pheasant Association, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Hirschfeld, E. 2008. Rare Birds Yearbook 2009: the world's 190 most threatened birds. MagDig Media Ltd., Shrewsbury, UK.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Keane, A.M.; Carroll, J. P.; Fuller, R. A.; McGowan, P.J. K. in press. Partridges, quails, francolins, snowcocks, guineafowl and turkeys: status survey and conservation action plan 2005-2009. IUCN and WPA, Gland, Switzerland.

Madge, S.; McGowan, P. 2002. Pheasants, partridges and grouse: including buttonquails, sandgrouse and allies. Christopher Helm, London.

Magin, G. 2001. Djibouti. In: Fishpool, L.D.C.; Evans, M.I. (ed.), Important Bird Areas in Africa and associated islands: Priority sites for conservation, pp. 233-239. Pisces Publications and BirdLife International (BirdLife Conservation Series No.11), Newbury and Cambridge, UK.

McGowan, P. J. K. 1994. Phasianidae (Pheasants and Partridges). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (ed.), Handbook of the birds of the world, pp. 434-552. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

McGowan, P. J. K.; Dowell, S. D.; Carroll, J. P.; Aebischer, N. J. 1995. Partridges, quails, francolins, snowcocks and guineafowl: status survey and conservation action plan 1995-1999. International Union for Nature Conservation and Natural Resources, Cambridge, U.K.

McGowan, P.J.K., Sharpe, C.J. and Boesman, P. 2014. Djibouti Francolin (Pternistis ochropectus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. and de Juana, E. (eds), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Rayaleh, H. A. 2008. Djibouti Francolin Francolinus ochropectus in Djibouti as part of BirdLife International Preventing Extinctions Initiatives: Interim Progress Report.

Welch, G.; Welch, H.; Rayaleh, H. 2009. Extending our knowledge of the Djibouti Francolin. Annual Review of the World Pheasant Association 2008/2009: 30.

Welch, G.; Welch, H.; Rayaleh, H. A. 2009. Djibouti Francolin Survey March 2009. Available at: #

Further web sources of information
Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This species has been identified as an AZE trigger due to its IUCN Red List status and limited range.

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Species Guardian Action Update

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Keane, A., Shutes, S., Stattersfield, A., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Martin, R & Ashpole, J

Bealey, C., McGowan, P., Ndang'ang'a, P., Rayaleh, H., Welch, G. & Welch, H.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Pternistis ochropectus. Downloaded from on 28/11/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/11/2015.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Critically Endangered
Family Phasianidae (Pheasants, Partridges, Turkeys, Grouse)
Species name author Dorst & Jouanin, 1952
Population size 200-500 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 58 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species