This discussion was first published as part of the 2016 Red List update. At the time a decision regarding its status was pended, but to enable potential reassessment of this species as part of the 2017 Red List update this post remained open and the date of posting was updated.
BirdLife species factsheet for Syrian Serin: http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/factsheet/22720053
Serinus syriacus breeds in mountains (900-1,900 m) in Lebanon, Syria, Israel (Mount Hermon) and Jordan (Evans 1994, Baumgart 1995, Khoury 1998, Ramadan-Jaradi and Ramadan-Jaradi 1999). It is currently classified as Vulnerable as it has a small, declining population.
In Jordan, the population was estimated to comprise 600-650 pairs (1200-1300 mature individuals) in 1996, reduced to a maximum of 500 pairs (1,000 mature individuals) in 1999, following a drought (Khoury 2000). The entire national population is restricted to an area of c15 km2 at Al Barra, above Wadi Dana. In Israel, the population was estimated at 100-360 birds by Evans (1994). There are no recent population estimates for Syria (“local” [Baumgart 1995]) or Lebanon (described as “very common” with an estimate of 3,500 pairs in total at Qammouha, Horj Ehden, Tannourine and Arz Al-Chouf protected areas [Ramadan-Jaradi and Ramadan-Jaradi 1999, 2002]).
In winter, birds disperse for wintering grounds that probably comprise desert and semi-arid country at lower altitudes throughout the Levant and into Egypt (Evans 1994, Baumgart 1995, Ramadan-Jaradi and Ramadan-Jaradi 1999). There had been reports that it may have wintering grounds in Iraq but these proved to be a mis-identification of European Serins Serinus serinus (Porter 2014).
Based on ringing data, the population in Israel is likely to have been stable between 2012-2016 (Y. Lehnardt in litt. 2016). However, the Jordanian breeding population has undergone a decline: the population was estimated at 500 pairs, with 480 in Al-Barrah in the 1999 breeding season (Khoury 2000). Previous population estimates in Jordan were in the range 1,200-1,300 mature individuals (Khoury 2000) and so this recent estimate represents a c.20% decline. However, more recent population estimates of 500-700 pairs (Qaneer et al. 2013) suggest this decline has arrested, but severe threats do remain, particularly from the destruction of their woodland habitat (see Qaneer et al. 2013). Additionally, the Syrian population is severely threatened by the conflict currently occurring in that country, along with previous development of habitat for chalets, flats and roads, and the apricot plantations that are important for the species in Lebanon are currently rapidly declining (Symes et al. 2015; D. Murdoch in litt. 2016), suggesting this species is likely to be undergoing or will undergo, in the near future, another decline.
The species was recently classified as Endangered under A2acd+3cd+3acd in the regional Red List of breeding birds of the Arabian Peninsula (Symes et al. 2015) on the basis that it is suspected to be undergoing population declines of >50% in three generations (11 years). However, this may in part be due to an error in the assessment whereby 1996 Jordan population estimate was thought to refer to pairs rather than mature individuals.
The species is currently listed as Vulnerable on the global Red List because of its small population which is estimated to be undergoing a continuing decline. However, given the possible presence of new threats this species may be experiencing greater declines than previously thought and so may warrant uplisting. We request any further information, particularly from Syria and Lebanon, regarding population size and trend estimates that could assist in deciding whether this species may qualify for uplisting to Endangered.
Baumgart, W. 1995. Die Vögel Syriens. Max Kasparek, Heidelberg.
Evans, M. I. 1994. Important Bird Areas in the Middle East. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
Khoury, F. 1998. Habitat selection by Syrian Serin Serinus syriacus in south-west Jordan. Sandgrouse 20: 87-93.
Khoury, F. 2000. The impact of drought conditions on the winter distribution and population of Syrian SerinSerinus syricaus in south-west Jordan. Sandgrouse 22: 64-66.
Porter, R. F. 2014. The mystery of the ‘Syrian’ serins wintering in northern Iraq is solved. Sandgrouse 36: 58-60.
Qaneer, T.; Hamidan, N.; Ellis, P.; El-Moghrabi, L.; Eid, E. 2013. Case Studies. In: The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (ed.), State of Jordan’s Birds Report, pp. 61-74. The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, Amman, Jordan
Ramadan-Jaradi, G.; Ramadan-Jaradi, M. 1999. An updated checklist of the birds of Lebanon. Sandgrouse 21: 132-170.
Ramadan-Jaradi, G.; Ramadan-Jaradi, M. 2002. Population Size of the Syrian Serin Serinus syriacus and Other Ornithological Records from Lebanon. Lebanese Science Journal 3(1): 27.
Symes, A., Taylor, J., Mallon, D., Porter, R., Simms, C. and Budd, K. (2015). The Conservation Status and Distribution of the Breeding Birds of the Arabian Peninsula. Cambridge, UK and Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, and Sharjah, UAE: Environment and Protected Areas Authority.