Flagship Species

Terrestrial Bird Conservation Programme

A flagship/sentinel species can be used to promote the conservation of a group of species or a specific habitat. Such species can successfully leverage more support for biodiversity conservation.

See examples of some of our flagship species projects below. Hover your mouse over the image to reveal which ecosystem that species represents.



The Secretarybird is a charismatic raptor.

  • The species is seen as “useful or beneficial” as its main prey items include snakes and rodents and the species is therefore not considered a threat to livestock.
  • The threats to Secretarybirds, such as habitat loss, powerline and fence collisions, are also faced by other birds of prey, e.g. owl species and large terrestrial birds such as bustards, korhaans and cranes.
  • Secretarybirds make extensive use of private land to forage and breed, as do other birds of prey and bustards/korhaans.
  • Secretarybirds occur in a number of biomes which are also used by other birds of prey and other species (such as bustards and even the Southern Ground-Hornbill).
  • Similarly, given our past focus on the loss and degradation of suitable habitat for Secretarybirds in the Grassland Biome, the Secretarybird can be used as a flagship for the conservation of other grassland specialists, such as Rudd’s and Botha’s Lark, Yellow-breasted Pipit and Southern Bald Ibis.

Southern Banded Snake Eagle

Coastal Forests

The Critically Endangered Southern Banded Snake Eagle is a flagship species for the coastal forest biome found along the eastern coast line of tropical Africa.

  • The Southern Banded Snake Eagle is habitat specialist which is only found within pristine forest patches.
  • Its diet consists of 80% reptiles and amphibians which need clean water and intact ecosystem services to occur.
  • Fragmentation of the coastal dune and sand forests along the northern KWaZulu-Natal coastline has reduced the amount of available habitat for this species and others that rely on this unique ecosystem.
  • BirdLife South Africa is conducting surveys to understand the current remaining population and available habitat remaining for this species and working to conserve the remaining patches of coastal forest with local conservation authority Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife and Forestry South Africa.

White-winged Flufftail


The White-winged Flufftail is a Critically Endangered flagship species for the wetland ecosystem. It is found in high altitude, palustrine wetlands in Ethiopia and South Africa and is currently thought to migrate the 4000 km between these two sites.

  • Wetlands are the most threatened habitat in South Africa with degradation caused through mining, agriculture and removal of peat.
  • We are working to protect important sites and habitats for the White-winged Flufftail, especially the threatened grasslands and wetlands at Steenkampsberg (Lakenvlei Protected Area), Memel (Sneeuwberg Protected Area) and Ingula (Wilge Stewardship Initiative).
  • The White-winged Flufftail is a representative species for other threatened wetland birds including the Critically Endangered Wattled Crane, African Grass Owl, Greater Painted Snipe, African Marsh Harrier and Orange-breasted Waxbill.
  • The annual Flufftail Festival teaches communities about the importance of conserving water, wetlands and waterbirds.

Black Stork


The Black Stork uses rivers and seasonal pans to forage for Calidris catfish and other fish species. Its presence is an indication of a healthy riverine ecosystem.

  • In 2015 BirdLife South Africa launched a project looking into the current status of the Black Stork South Africa. Concerns have recently been raised about the status of the Black Stork in South Africa as a whole after a comparison between the Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1: 1987-1991) and SABAP2 (2007 to present) data showed a significant decrease in the reporting rate for the species, possibly indicating a decline in numbers.
  • Black Storks are dependent on clean rivers/streams for foraging and can serve as a sentinel species for water quality.
  • It is pescivorous and feeds mainly on fish and occasionally amphibians and water-based invertebrates.
  • BirdLife South Africa is looking into the potential impacts of low water quality and agro-chemical pollutants impacts on Black Stork breeding and survival.