Family Thrushes (Turdidae)

Critically Endangered

Taita Thrush (Turdus helleri)


French: Merle des Taita German: Taitadrossel Spanish: Zorzal de los Taita

Planesticus helleri


, 1913,

Mount Mbololo, east of Mount Kilimanjaro, south-eastern Kenya


Commonly treated as a race of T. olivaceus (with T. abyssinicus), but strikingly distinct on account of its black hood (3); extensive white belly (2); deeper grey breastband (1); brighter orange-rufous flanks (ns[1]); virtually all-black tail (ns[1]); reportedly slower song (allow 1). Treatment as full species supported by genetic study#R. Monotypic.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.

Taita Hills, in SE Kenya.

Descriptive notes

20–22 cm; 53–89 g. Head and throat black, upperparts blackish-grey; breast dark grey, centre of belly white, with sides dark rufous; bill, narrow eyering and legs... read more


Song reportedly similar to that of T. olivaceus, with latter’s quiet hissing notes... read more


Montane cloudforest, at 1615–1740 m; prefers well-shaded areas with dense understorey, rich... read more

Food and feeding

Variety of invertebrates, taken from forest floor; also, when in season, fruits, especially those of Canthium oligocarpum,... read more


Jan–Jul; breeding condition also in Nov. Socially monogamous. Nest a woven cup of twigs and skeletal leaves (from litter), external... read more


Highly sedentary, even within forest patches.

Status and conservation

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED. Restricted-range species: present in Tanzania-Malawi Mountains EBA. Global total of c. 1350 individuals within occupied range of less than 3·5... read more

Recommended citation

Collar, N. & Sharpe, C.J. (2019). Taita Thrush (Turdus helleri). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 20 May 2019).