The avifauna of coastal forests in southeast Tanzania

The avifauna of the coastal forest patches between the Rufiji and Ruvuma Rivers, southeast Tanzania, have so far received little ornithological attention compared to, for instance, the montane forests of the Eastern Arc Mountains. This is surprising given the large number of studies of other animals and plants that have documented high species richness and, especially for trees, very high numbers of species with restricted distributions (Clarke et al. 2000). This paper summarises information on the distribution of forest birds in the 11 coastal forests in Tanzania south of the Rufiji River for which we have been able to trace data and from our own fieldwork in six forests in 2001. We also include information on old records of forest birds collected near Mikindani although the exact location is unknown. We briefly discuss the species richness of the forests, make a comparison with some other Tanzanian lowland forests and provide new information on distribution and habitat selection of some of the forest birds encountered during our fieldwork. Finally, we explore the hypothesis that the Lindi Plateau forests in the southern part of the study area were a refugium for lowland forest birds during Pleistocene glaciations and that the isolation led to differentiation and the formation of a local centre of endemism.