Backyard Birds

Taita Thrush (Turdus helleri)

The Taita Thrushes (Turdus helleri), also known as Taita Olive Thrush or Heller’s Ground Thrush, is a critically endangered bird from the family of thrushes (Turdidae), endemic to the Taita Hills in Kenya.


The Taita Thrushes was previously classified as a subspecies of the Olive Thrush (Turdus olivaceus), but it has been regarded as a distinct species since 1985. It reaches a length between 20 to 22 centimeters. The head, breast, and upper parts are colored darkly. The underparts are white and the flanks have a rufous hue. The eyes and the bill exhibit a pale orange coloration. It was named after zoologist Edmund Heller (1875 -1939) a workmate of the American ornithologist Edgar Alexander Mearns (1856 – 1916) who described this species scientifically in 1913.


The Taita Thrush is restricted to four severely fragmented forest parcels in the Taita Hills in Kenya. These are Mbololo with circa 200 ha, Ngangao with circa 92 ha, Chawia with circa 50 ha, and Yale with 2 ha.


It is restricted to montane moist forests. Though its natural habitat where it occurs was severely logged in the past it avoided forests with secondary growth, shrub vegetation, and cultivated areas. Despite extensive research only a very few migrations were determined between the fragmented populations.


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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