Archived 2014 discussion: Black Parrot (Coracopsis nigra) is being split: request for information on C. sibilans, and list C. barklyi as Vulnerable?

The initial deadline for comments on this topic is 7 May 2014, and the final deadline for comments is 14 May 2014.

This is part of a consultation on the Red List implications of extensive changes to BirdLife’s taxonomy for non-passerines

Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International will soon publish the HBW-BirdLife Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, building off the Handbook of the Birds of the World series, and BirdLife’s annually updated taxonomic checklist.

The new Checklist will be based on the application of criteria for recognising species limits described by Tobias et al. (2010). Full details of the specific scores and the basis of these for each new taxonomic revision will be provided in the Checklist.

Following publication, an open and transparent mechanism will be established to allow people to comment on the taxonomic revisions or suggest new ones, and provide new information of relevance in order to inform regular updates. We are also actively seeking input via a discussion topic here regarding some potential taxonomic revisions that currently lack sufficient information.

The new Checklist will form the taxonomic basis of BirdLife’s assessments of the status of the world’s birds for the IUCN Red List. The taxonomic changes that will appear in volume 1 of the checklist (for non-passerines) will begin to be incorporated into the 2014 Red List update, with the remainder, and those for passerines (which will appear in volume 2 of the checklist), to be incorporated into subsequent Red List updates.

Preliminary Red List assessments have been carried out for the newly split or lumped taxa. We are now requesting comments and feedback on these preliminary assessments.

Black Parrot Coracopsis nigra is being split into C. nigra, C. barklyi and C. sibilans, following the application of criteria set out by Tobias et al. (2010), as well as consultation of genetic evidence and associated comments (Kundu et al. 2012, Joseph et al. 2012, N. Bunbury in litt. 2014).

Prior to the taxonomic change, C. nigra (BirdLife species factsheet) was listed as being of Least Concern, on the basis that it was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN Red List criteria.

C. barklyi is resident on Praslin, with occasional records on Curieuse (c.1 km north of Praslin), Seychelles (Reuleaux et al. 2013).

Point count surveys conducted on Praslin in 2010 and 2011 found a density of 0.14-0.24 individuals/ha, resulting in a total population estimate of 520-900 individuals (95% confidence intervals) obtained through distance sampling methodology (Reuleaux et al. 2013). No individuals were detected on Curieuse during point counts over four days and during supplementary fieldwork, thus it is assumed that there is no resident population there (Reuleaux et al. 2013).

Prior to the surveys by Reuleaux et al. (2013), the most recent population estimate on Praslin was of 645 individuals (95% confidence intervals: 404-1,034 individuals), using distance sampling at 39 random points (Walford 2008). However, this study was deemed to have several methodological and analytical constraints, which meant that assumptions of the distance sampling method were not met (Walford 2008, Reuleaux et al. 2013), resulting in an estimate range that was considered too broad to serve as a basis for conservation planning (Reuleaux et al. 2013).

After reviewing recent survey results, Rocamora and Laboudallan (2013) estimate a total breeding population of fewer than 200 pairs, suggesting that there could be fewer than 400 mature individuals.

A review of previous survey results indicates that barklyi has recovered from a low point of c.30-50 individuals in the late 1960s, increasing until the at least the turn of the century, with uncertainty over the trend since then (Reuleaux et al. 2013, Rocamora and Laboudallan 2013). This and the most recent population estimates have led to the recommendation that barklyi qualifies as Vulnerable under criteria D1 and D2, on the basis that it is estimated to have a population of fewer than 1,000 mature individuals which is probably increasing, and that the species is estimated to have a tiny range rendering it susceptible to the impacts of stochastic events and human activities (such that it could qualify as Critically Endangered or Extinct within one or two generations) (Reuleaux et al. 2013, Rocamora and Laboudallan 2013).

The most serious current threats to the species include diseases such as Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease, competition from introduced bird species for food and nest-sites, and habitat destruction caused by fires, with potential threats including persecution, pesticides, netting of bat species and inbreeding (reviewed by Rocamora and Laboudallan 2013).

It is suggested here that the species be listed as Vulnerable under criterion D1 at least, with further information requested on the plausibility and severity of threats from stochastic events and human activities.

C. sibilans is resident on Grand Comoro and Anjouan in the Comoros, where it is described as rare in the small, degraded and declining area of habitat on Anjouan, and present over a limited part of Mt Karthala on Grande Comoro, where it is threatened by forest destruction (Ekstrom 2013). Louette et al. (2004, 2008) describe the species as relatively common throughout the forest on Mt Karthala, and occurring in low numbers on Anjouan. The populations on Grande Comoro and Anjouan have apparently not been quantified, thus information is requested on the likely population sizes on those islands, as well as likely trends.

The Extent of Occurrence (EOO) of C. sibilans is estimated at c.770 km2 [edited from 1,500 km2 on 13 May 2014] thus criterion B1 may be applicable. If the species’s habitat is judged to be very or severely fragmented (approaching or more than 50% of remaining habitat existing in patches too small to support viable populations) or the species is judged to occur at 10 or fewer locations, or approaching as few as 10 locations, and there is an on-going decline in the overall area, extent or quality of suitable habitat, the species may qualify as Near Threatened, or under a higher threat category.

It should be noted that under the IUCN Red List criteria, locations are defined according to the most serious plausible threat to a species and the area over which all individuals could be rapidly impacted by a single threatening event. For example, a species most threatened by localised habitat loss will be considered to occur at numerous locations, but a species endemic to an island or archipelago that is most threatened by weather events such as cyclones will be considered to occur at one or very few locations.

C. nigra (as defined following the taxonomic change, and incorporating race libs) is widespread in Madagascar, where it generally occupies a variety of forest, woodland and savanna habitats, including modified areas (Juniper and Parr 1998, Ekstrom 2013). It is described as generally common and, despite sometimes intense persecution because of its pest status and for food and pets, the species does not appear to be threatened and occurs in many protected areas (Juniper and Parr 1998, Ekstrom 2013). Its population appears to be stable, although deforestation could be driving a negative trend (Ekstrom 2013). It is suggested that this species be listed as being of Least Concern, on the basis that it is not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN Red List criteria.

Comments are invited on these suggested Red List categories and further information is requested.


Ekstrom, J. M. M. (2013) Lesser Vasa Parrot Coracopsis nigra. Pp 531-534 in Safford, R. J. and Hawkins, A. F. A. (Eds.) The Birds of Africa. Volume VIII: The Malagasy Region. London, UK: Christopher Helm.

Joseph, L., Toon, A., Schirtzinger, E. E., Wright, T. F. and Schodde, R. (2012) A revised nomenclature and classification for family-group taxa of parrots (Psittaciformes). Zootaxa 3205: 26–40.

Juniper, T. and Parr, M. (1998) Parrots: a guide to the parrots of the world. Robertsbridge, UK: Pica Press.

Kundu, S., Jones, C. G., Prys-Jones, R. P. and Groombridge, J. J. (2012) The evolution of the Indian Ocean parrots (Psittaciformes): Extinction, adaptive radiation and eustacy. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 62: 296–305.

Louette, M., Abdérémane, H., Yahaya, I. and Meirte, D. (2008) Atlas des oiseaux nicheurs de la Grand Comore, de Mohéli et d’Anjouan. Studies in Afrotropical Zoology 294. MRAC:Tervuren, Belgium.

Louette, M., Meirte, D. and Jocqué, R. (eds) (2004) La faune terrestre de l’archipel des Comores. Studies in Afrotropical Zoology 293. MRAC: Tervuren, Belgium.

Reuleaux, A., Bunbury, N., Villard, P. and Waltert, M. (2013) Status, distribution and recommendations for monitoring of the Seychelles black parrot Coracopsis (nigra) barklyi. Oryx 47(4): 561–568.

Rocamora, G. and Laboudallan, V. (2013) Seychelles Black Parrot Coracopsis barklyi. Pp 529-531 in Safford, R. J. and Hawkins, A. F. A. (Eds.) The Birds of Africa. Volume VIII: The Malagasy Region. London, UK: Christopher Helm.

Tobias, J. A., Seddon, N., Spottiswoode, C. N., Pilgrim, J. D., Fishpool, L. D. C. and Collar, N. J. (2010) Quantitative criteria for species delimitation. Ibis 152: 724–746.

Walford, E. P. (2008) An insight into the ecology of an isolated Psittacid: the Seychelles Black Parrot (Coracopsis nigra barklyi). MSc dissertation. Norwich, UK: University of East Anglia.

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5 Responses to Archived 2014 discussion: Black Parrot (Coracopsis nigra) is being split: request for information on C. sibilans, and list C. barklyi as Vulnerable?

  1. Gérard ROCAMORA says:

    Comments on Coracopsis barklyi and Coracopsis sibilans split and IUCN categories

    The taxonomic split between the Madagascar, Comoro and Seychelles Coracopsis Parrots, and the recognition of the Seychelles Black Parrot Coracopsis barclyi by Birdlife follows a list of publications that had encouraged or already applied the treatment as full species (Sinclair & Langrand 2000; Rocamora & Skerrett 2001; Skerrett et al. 2001; Skerrett 2012; Rocamora & Laboudallon, 2009, 2013 in Safford & Hawkins BoA8; Reuleaux et al. 2013). This was initially justified on the sole basis of morphological and vocal differences, and biogeographical isolation, hoping that genetic analysis would later bring additional evidence, which eventually happened. This is great news for those of us that have advocated for such recognition.

    In the first Species Action Plan 2001-2006 for the Seychelles Black Parrot (Rocamora & Laboudallon, 2001, unpublished) produced internally at the Seychelles Ministry of Environment, we had proposed Vulnerable category as per IUCN criteria D2 & D1 (small population of < 1000 individuals, range limited to 2 islands and breeding only in one). The same appeared in the updated 2009-2013 Action Plan (Rocamora & Laboudallon 2009), and in BoA8 where we estimated this population at probably less than 200 pairs (Rocamora & Laboudallon 2013). Main threats have been identified as disease (PBFD) and competition from introduced Rose-ringed Parakeet established on Mahé or Indian myna, habitat destruction by fire, and nest destruction from rats. Regarding the species trends, annual counts at fixed points since 1985 have shown a clear increase in abundance until 1999, then a fluctuating and unclear trend due to irregular counts between 2005 and 2011, although abundance in 2012 and 2013 have been amongst the highest recorded. Analysis using statistical models is planned in 2014 after annual counts will have been conducted for 3 years without interruption, and conclusions regarding the species trend since 1982 will be published (Rocamora & Laboudallon, in prep.). We believe nothing has changed significantly from what we know on the species status & threats since BoA8, therefore we think that the species should be listed as Vulnerable.

    As a Globally Threatened Species classified as Vulnerable, the SBP should now receive more attention, and this leverage can be used to obtain more funds for its conservation. This includes the proposal to translocate the species from Praslin to Silhouette that the Island Conservation Society, which coordinated the national workshop and Species Action Plan 2009-2013 and some island assessments, is now proposing to conduct together with the Seychelles Islands Foundation and the Ministry of Environment and Energy. This will aim to create a second breeding population for the species in a new island. The SIF programme to eradicate the ring-necked Parakeet, and other tasks listed in the National Action Plan to be updated soon, also deserve continuation.

    The Comoros Black Parrot Coracopsis sibilans, present in two different large islands, has a much larger range and population, but deserves further studies with regards to its current conservation status, i.e. distribution, numbers, threats and trends. From my last visit to Grand Comores 4 years ago, the species seemed to be still relatively common there, although forests were continuing to be logged at several places up to 1200m around Mount Karthala, and fragmentation of natural habitats seems to me a threat, despite the presence of the species in agroforests and other man-degraded woodland in the lowlands. I do not know the situation on Anjouan. It is possible that the species may justify a Near-Threatened or even Vulnerable category due to ongoing decline of extent and quality of natural habitats.

    Gérard Rocamora.

  2. Michel Louette says:

    Gerard Rocamora has commented as follows:
    “The Comoros Black Parrot Coracopsis sibilans, already present in two different large islands, has a much larger range and population, but deserves further studies.”
    While it is true that Louette et al. (2008) give no figures for density, have a look at our map for Anjouan. C. sibilans was only recorded in five SRTM3 squares, and this in a very restricted altitudinal segment 600-1000 metres asl, during the period 1983-2006 (the other species, C. vasa, was found in 21 squares). C. sibilans is no doubt low in numbers on Anjouan. The situation was undoubtedly better on Grand Comoro in that period, as the bird was found in 41 squares (but more transects were done on the latter island) .

  3. Katie Green says:

    In agreement with Michel Louette, C. sibilans is low in number on Anjouan. During intensive point count surveying between 2010-2011 only 81 recordings were made in 13 locations (as a comparison C. vasa was recorded on 187 occasions). In Grande Comore, our surveying was less intense and focused only in the Karthala forests, but it was clear that C. sibilans was more numerous on this island. Data and maps of the distribution of our observation are available on request by email.

  4. Joe Taylor says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information and comments posted above, our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List would be to treat:

    C. nigra as Least Concern

    C. barklyi as Vulnerable under criterion D1

    C. sibilans as Near Threatened under criterion C2a(i)

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 19 May, after which these recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  5. Joe Taylor says:

    Recommended categorisations to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there have been no changes to our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List status of these species.

    The final categorisations will be published in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by BirdLife and IUCN.

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