Pallas’s Fish-eagle (BirdLife International factsheet) is currently listed as Vulnerable on the basis that it has a small, declining population as a result of the widespread loss, degradation and disturbance of wetlands and breeding sites throughout its range. Concern has been raised that the population may be smaller than previously thought, following a considerable range contraction and better understanding of its dispersal behaviour and occupied breeding range.
An investigation into the status of the species in Mongolia revealed that the previous assumption that the country is a breeding stronghold for the species was erroneous, and the species was absent from 13 of 21 historically known sites (Gilbert et al. 2014). In fact, the study has found very little evidence for the species breeding north of the Himalayas, and it appears that the full extent of the breeding range is actually restricted to northern India, Bangladesh and Myanmar with uncertainty around the extent of previous breeding in central China, though virtually all Chinese records also fall outside of the time of year the species has been confirmed breeding, and while there are many records of adults and juveniles together, there is a notable lack of records of nests or collected eggs from north of the Himalayas.
As noted in Gilbert et al. 2014, this has negative implications for the estimated overall population size and the present estimate of 2,500-9,999 mature individuals made in the year 2000 is too high. The actual number of mature individuals is likely to be fewer than 2,500 mature individuals, and may be considerably lower than this given the high visibility and accessibility of much of what is now known to be the breeding range. Here the global population is placed in the band of 1,000–2,499 mature individuals, and considered to comprise a single migratory population, rather than multiple isolated subpopulations. There is no evidence to suggest that the decline in the population is slowing or has ceased, and so it is proposed that Pallas’s Fish-eagle is uplisted to Endangered under Criterion C2a(ii). However, an improved population estimate is needed. A co-ordinated count during December/January at sites with historical records in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan would account for the great majority of the potential breeding population and should be a priority action for the species.
We would greatly welcome any comments or further information.
Gilbert, M., Tingay, R., Losolmaa, J,. Sureda, N., Gilbert, C., Batmunkh, D. and Gombobaatar, S. Distribution and status of the Pallas’s Fish Eagle Haliaseetus leucoryphus in Mongolia: a cause for conservation concern? Bird Conservation International 24: 379-388.