Nilgiri Pipit Anthus nilghiriensis is currently listed as Near Threatened under criterion B1a+b(ii,iii) on the basis that although it has a moderately small range, there was insufficient information on potential threats and thus little evidence available to suspect a decline. The species, however, has been the subject of a recent PhD thesis, which has provided more detail on the threats that it faces.
The species’s main habitat of montane grassland, particularly with marshy valleys for nesting, is being lost through conversion to agriculture and plantations, such that grasslands in the Nilgiris are now regarded as highly fragmented (Vinod 2007). The species is also susceptible to grazing and fires during the breeding season. Furthermore, the species was shown to be more abundant in protected habitat compared to unprotected habitat, suggesting that it is impacted by disturbance (Vinod 2007). Surveys undertaken as part of the PhD project suggest that the species occurs at a density of c.0.1 birds/ha and that only 400 km2 of montane grasslands exist in its range, not all of which will be suitable for the species (Vinod 2007, U. J. Vinod in litt. 2010). Assuming that the vast majority of the birds recorded in the survey were breeding adults, and that all remaining montane grassland is occupied by the species, it can be calculated that there are c.4,000 mature individuals in the population. This population estimate could mean that the species is eligible for Vulnerable status under the C criterion; however, there is considerable uncertainty regarding the area of suitable habitat that remains, as well as the density of breeding adults.
It is proposed that this species be uplisted to Vulnerable under criterion B1a+b(i,ii,iii,v) on the basis that it has an Extent of Occurrence (EOO) estimated at 11,600 km2, in which its habitat is regarded as severely fragmented (over 50% of suitable habitat in patches too small to support viable populations) and ongoing declines are suspected in its EOO, Area of Occupancy, area, extent and/or quality of habitat and the number of mature individuals. Comments are invited on this proposed category change and a request is made for additional information on the species.
Vinod, U. J. (2007) Status and ecology of the Nilgiri Pipit in the Western Ghats. Ph.D. thesis. Bharathiar University, Coimbatore.