Please note: This discussion topic is one of a set about species that are endemic or nearly endemic to the European Union (EU), and whose status in the EU therefore effectively determines their global status. To ensure consistency between the 2020 global and EU Red List assessments of these species, this set of topics is being fast-tracked through BirdLife’s Globally Threatened Bird Forums to inform decisions on the EU (and global) status of relevant species, which must be finalised and communicated to the European Commission by mid-April 2020. Topics on other species will be posted on the Forums shortly, for discussion later in the spring, as per usual. The results of the 2020 global Red List update for birds will be published by IUCN and BirdLife in early December.
Rock Partridge Alectoris graeca is endemic to southern Europe, occurring only in the Alps, the Apennines, Sicily and the Balkans. Despite its relatively large population and range size, it is currently listed as globally Near Threatened, because when last assessed the available evidence suggested that it was likely to be undergoing a moderately rapid population reduction, approaching 30% over three generations, owing to habitat degradation and over-hunting in some areas.
Despite being restricted to a few countries in southern Europe, this species has a relatively large extent of occurrence (>1,400,000 km2; BirdLife International 2015), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criteria (B and D2). The population size is also relatively large (c. 83,000–147,000 mature individuals; BirdLife International 2015), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criteria (C and D1). Therefore, the only relevant criterion is A, which relates to reductions in population size. When last assessed, the population was thought likely to be declining relatively rapidly, at a rate approaching the threshold for listing as Vulnerable under Criterion A (>30% over three generations, i.e. c. 12 years, based on a generation length estimated by BirdLife at that time to be 3.9 years). The species was therefore classified as Near Threatened under A2, A3 and A4 (past, future and present declines).
That assessment was informed by a discussion on this Forum in 2012. Since that time, two rounds of 6-yearly reporting have taken place under Article 12 of the European Union (EU) Birds Directive, requiring all EU Member States to report to the European Commission (EC) their latest information on the sizes and trends of the populations and ranges of all naturally occurring wild bird species. In 2013, the data reported were unsurprisingly very similar to those mobilised for the 2012 Forum discussion and Red List assessment, and supported the species’s population status being assessed as Near Threatened at European level (BirdLife International 2015). At the same time, but at EU level, it was assessed as Vulnerable, as the reported data indicated a slightly more rapid rate of decline within the EU than outside – especially in Italy and Greece, which at that time were estimated to hold >85% of the total EU population, with declines exceeding 30% (BirdLife International 2015).
Since then, Croatia has joined the EU, reporting its first data to the EC in 2019. Croatia holds around one fifth of the current EU population of A. graeca, with around one third in each of Italy and Greece. Overall, these three Member States hold almost 90% of the total EU population, so its trend in these countries largely determines the overall EU trend, and thus its Red List status. Under an EC contract to evaluate the EU population status of each species, BirdLife has attempted to analyse the data reported in 2019. Unfortunately, all three core countries reported the species’s short-term population trend (c. 2007–2018) as ‘unknown’. Several other EU Member States did report short-term trends: France (4%) fluctuating; Bulgaria (4%) small decrease; Austria (3%) stable; Slovenia (1%) unknown; Germany (<1%) small increase. This mixed picture, combined with the ‘unknown’ trends of most of the population, precludes a meaningful calculation of the species’s current overall trend.
Italy and Greece did both report long-term declines (since the 1980s/1990s), but in order to apply Red List Criterion A (especially A2 and A4), we need to know current (recent) trends. In this species’s case, we need to know the trend over the last 10 years, following the recent publication of an improved estimate of its generation length at 2.8 years (Bird et al. 2020), which supersedes the value used previously.
As the EU holds around two-thirds of the global breeding population and range, the species’s EU status effectively determines its global status. Therefore, information is urgently sought about the population trend of this species since c. 2010 across its global range – especially in Italy, Greece and Croatia, but also elsewhere (e.g. Western Balkans). If there is no evidence or reason to suspect that the species is declining overall at a rate approaching 30% over 10 years, then it will not be possible to sustain its classification as Near Threatened in the 2020 Red List. If no data from monitoring surveys are available, then it may be possible to infer the trend using information about relevant threats, including how they have affected the species in the past and may do so in future, provided that that these are documented and can reasonably be supported (IUCN 2012).
Relevant comments and information on this fast-track topic are welcome by 8 April 2020, please.
Please note that this forum topic is not designed to be a general discussion about the ecology of the species, but rather a discussion of the species’s Red List status. Therefore, please ensure your comments are relevant to the species’s Red List status and the information requested. By submitting a comment, you confirm that you agree to the BirdLife Forums’ Comment Policy.
Bird, J.P., Martin, R., Akçakaya, H.R., Gilroy, J., Burfield, I.J., Garnett, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Şekercioğlu, Ç.H. & Butchart, S.H. (2020). Generation lengths of the world’s birds and their implications for extinction risk. Conservation Biology. https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13486
BirdLife International (2015) European Red List of Birds: Rock Partridge Alectoris graeca. http://datazone.birdlife.org/userfiles/file/Species/erlob/summarypdfs/22678684_alectoris_graeca.pdf
IUCN (2012) IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria: Version 3.1. Second edition. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: IUCN. iv + 32pp.