Archived 2018 topic: Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus) – revise global status?

Green Peafowl has three recognised subspecies with the current range thought to be as follows:

P. m. spicifer occurs from NE India (SE Assam) and SE Bangladesh E to NW Myanmar (possibly extinct).

P. m. imperator is patchily distributed in S China (S Yunnan) and NW Myanmar S to Isthmus of Kra, and E through Thailand to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

P. m. muticus – locally in Java; extinct in Peninsular Malaysia, and probably also in Thailand.

It is currently listed as Endangered under Criterion A2c+3c+4cd as it is suspected to be undergoing very rapid ongoing population declines (exceeding 50% in three generations/18 years). Whilst significant declines have undoubtedly occurred, the presence of several significant populations in protected areas that appear to be stable or increasing suggests that the overall rate of decline may be lower than previously suspected.

The most recent available information from each of the range states is summarised here, followed by assessment against the Red List Criteria.


In Myanmar, surveys in 2003-2005 suggested it was widespread and common in the Chindwin basin (Tordoff et al. 2007; J. C. Eames in litt. 2012), subsequently designated as the Hukawng Tiger Reserve. Elsewhere in the lowlands of Kachin state it may have undergone significant declines during the 20th century.

In China it was formerly reported from Zhejang, Hubei, Sichuan, Guangxi and Guandong provinces, but has declined significantly, being lost from all of these since the early 20th century (McGowan and Kirwan 2018). It is now known almost exclusively from Yunnan province, where it is mainly limited to the tropical forest area on the banks of the middle and lower reaches of the Lanchan, Nu and Red Rivers (Han et al. 2009). The population in Yunnan was estimated at 800-1,100 individuals in the early 1990s by Xianji et al. (1997).

In Vietnam, the species was formerly widespread virtually throughout, being locally numerous even as recently as the late 1970s/early 1980s, but numbers have been much reduced by habitat loss, and declines were evident in some areas since the late 1950s (McGowan et al. 1998). The main population is now thought to lie in the southcentral region, with the Yok Don and Cat Tien National Parks thought to contain the most important populations. A significant decline in Yok Don National Park was observed over the 15 years between 1998-2013, however the recorded density in Cat Tien National Park increased over that period, suggesting that the trend there was possibly stable or increasing (Sukumal et al. 2015).

In Thailand the population appears to be stable or even increasing in some areas. In Jun District, Phayao Province in Northern Thailand a mosaic of farmland and forest habitat in and around a wildlife sanctuary (Wiang Lor) supports a significant and expanding Green Peafowl population (P. D. Round in litt. 2017). The population here is thought to be several hundred birds and possibly as many as 1,000 or more. Local cultural beliefs, alongside a community-based Green Peafowl conservation project being run out of Phayao University, may have aided recovery here (P. D. Round in litt. 2017). At Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, western Thailand, encounter rates compared between 1992 and 2013-2015 showed an increase in numbers in most of the peripheral areas of the sanctuary whilst numbers in the core area remained stable, with increased patrols to control hunting thought to have enabled recovery (Sukumal et al. 2017).

In Laos it occurs in Xe Pian National Protected Area and several other proposed or actual conservation units; the country was considered to still harbour an important population by Thewlis et al. (1998), although numbers have obviously declined dramatically since the early 20th century, as elsewhere (McGowan and Kirwan 2018).

Cambodia had been speculated to hold one of the largest remaining populations of the species, however it is likely suffering due to wholesale transformation of the landscape (P. D. Round in litt. 2017). In the north, at Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary the population was estimated at 574 birds (95% CI = 349-1,203) by Loveridge et al. (2017). The site is thought to be a national stronghold for the species, with the highest densities in riverine habitat and further from human settlements. In the east of the country, the population in Seima Protection Forest, Mondulkiri region in 2014 was estimated to be 541 (95% CI = 252-1,160) (Nuttall et al. 2016). It presumably breeds in suitable habitat throughout the Mondulkiri region (Gray et al. 2014), and it was the bird species most frequently recorded by camera traps set in forest in Phnom Prich WS and Mondulkiri PF (Phan et al. 2010).

The population size on Java (Indonesia) is unknown but has been considered to number no more than 1,000 individuals (McGowan and Kirwan 2018). Recent counts have included 40 at Baluran NP in 2017, 30 at Alas Purwo NP in 2015 and 10 at Gunung Gede NP in 2017 (eBird). The current trend is uncertain although declines were noted as early as the first quarter of the 20th century. It is protected by Indonesian law, but some illegal trapping may continue as its train feathers are used in traditional Javanese dance (McGowan and Kirwan 2018).

Formerly a rare resident in both India and Bangladesh, it is now possibly extinct in these countries. It is extinct in peninsular Malaysia.


Assessment against Red List Criteria

Criterion A – The current listing is based on an overall population decline suspected to be between 50-79% in three generations (18 years). Whilst significant historical declines have undoubtedly occurred, and may indeed continue in parts of the range, the presence of several significant populations in protected areas that appear to be stable or increasing suggests that the overall rate of decline may in fact be lower than previously suspected.

If the global population was suspected to be decreasing at a lower rate of 30-49% in three generations (18 years) it would warrant listing as Vulnerable under Criterion A. Declines approaching 30% in three generations would mean the species was eligible for listing as Near Threatened under the same criterion.

Criterion B – The species has an extent of occurrence (EOO) of 4,590,000 km2 so it does not meet the threshold for listing as Vulnerable under criterion B1. The global area of occupancy (AOO) has not been calculated, but given the EOO, the AOO likely exceeds the threshold for Vulnerable under this criterion (2,000km2). Therefore, the species likely does not warrant listing as globally threatened under this criterion.

Criterion C – The global population is currently thought to lie within the range 10,000-19,999 mature individuals, although there is a high degree of uncertainty about the total population size. Unless there is reason to revise this estimate downwards, the species would not qualify for listing in any of the threatened categories under this criterion.

Criterion D – The population size and range are too large to warrant listing this species as Vulnerable under this criterion.

Criterion E – To the best of our knowledge, no quantitative analysis of extinction risk has been conducted for this species. Therefore, it cannot be assessed against this criterion.

Therefore, in the absence of any further information Green Peafowl may warrant listing as Vulnerable or possibly Near Threatened under criterion A2cd+3cd+4cd. Comments on the likely overall rate of population decline over an 18 year period are particularly sought.

Please note that this topic is not designed to be a general discussion about the ecology of the species, rather a discussion of the species’ Red List status. Therefore, please make sure your comments are relevant to the information that is sought, or about the species’ Red List status.



Gray, T.N.E., Pollard, E.H.B., Evans, T.D., Goes, F., Grindley, M., Omaliss, K., Nielsen, P.H., Sambovannak, O., Channa, P. & Sophoan, S. 2014. Birds of Mondulkiri, Cambodia: distribution, status and conservation. Forktail 30: 66–78.

Han, L., Liu, Y. and Han, B. 2009. The status and distribution of green peafowl Pavo muticus in Yunnan Province, China. International Journal of Galliformes Conservation, 1, 29–31.

Loveridge, R., Kidney, D., Ty, S., Eang, S., Eames, J. C. and Borchers, D. 2017. First systematic survey of green peafowl Pavo muticus in northeastern Cambodia reveals a population stronghold and preference for disappearing riverine habitat. Cambodian Journal of Natural History (2) 157–167.

McGowan, P.J.K., Duckworth, J.W., Xianji, W., van Balen, B., Xiaojun, Y., Khan, M.K.M., Yatim, S.H., Thanga, L., Setiawan, I. & Kaul, R. 1998. A review of the status of the Green Peafowl Pavo muticus and recommendations for future action. Bird Conserv. Int. 8(4): 331–348.

McGowan, P.J.K. & Kirwan, G.M. 2018. Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 14 February 2018).

Nuttall, M., Menghor, N., Ung, V. and O’Kelly, H. 2016. Abundance estimates for the endangered Green Peafowl Pavo muticus in Cambodia: identification of a globally important site for conservation. Bird Conservation International 27(1): 127-139.

Phan C., Prum S. & Gray, T. N. E. 2010. Recent camera-trap records of globally threatened species from the Eastern Plains Landscape, Cambodia. Cambodian J. Nat. Hist. 2010: 89-93.

Sukumal, N., Dowell, S. D. and Savini, T. 2017. Micro-habitat selection and population recovery of the Endangered Green Peafowl Pavo muticus in western Thailand: implications for conservation guidance. Bird Conservation International. 27:414–430

Sukumal, N., McGowan, P. J. K. and Savini, T. 2015. Change in status of green peafowl Pavo muticus (Family Phasianidae) in Southcentral Vietnam: A comparison over 15 years. Global Ecology and Conservation 3:11-19.

Thewlis, R. M., Timmins, R. J., Evans, T. D. & Duckworth, J. W. (1998). The conservation status of birds in Laos: a review of key species.  Bird Conservation International 8(Suppl.): 1–159.

Tordoff, A. W., Appleton, T., Eames, J. C., Eberhardt, K., Htin Hla, Khin Ma Ma Thwin, Sao Myo Zaw, Saw Moses and Sein Myo Aung. 2007. Avifaunal surveys in the lowlands of Kachin State, Myanmar, 2003-2005. Nat. Hist. Bull. Siam. Soc 55(2): 235-306.

Xianji, W., Xiaajun, Y., Lan, Y. & Wenying, S. 1997. Current range and status of Green Peafowl in south-east and north-west Yunnan, China. Bull. Oriental Bird Club 26: 13–14.


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13 Responses to Archived 2018 topic: Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus) – revise global status?

  1. Freddy says:

    The peafowl is protected effectively only in Thailand. Its Chinese population is much smaller now (<500 individuals) and is still faced with very high threats from poaching and hydro-power constructions.
    The total population may fall between 5000-8000. I think the taxon can be listed as "Vulnerable" under criteria A and C. If its Burmese population is secure indeed (Burma is not very industrialized at present), then NT may be eligible.

  2. Simon Mahood says:

    My opinion: Vulnerable “feels” about right. Endangered overstates the threat and Near Threatened does the opposite. I have no quantitative data, but at least for this species that is available and discussed above.

  3. Anwaruddin Choudhury says:

    The ssp spicifer is not extinct but critical.

  4. Thomas Gray says:

    For down-listing to Endangered I believe more evidence is needed for stable/growing populations within Protected Areas which are supporting significant populations is needed. Whilst recent surveys have found the species more widespread in the Cardamom Rainforest Landscape (SW Cambodia) than previously believed given the extensive snaring and trade of the species across Cambodia (and I think naive to believe not similar levels of threat in Myanmar) a 50% decline in population over 18 years (both past and present) seems very likely.

    Evidence of significantly sized populations in Java and Thailand combined with evidence they are largely stable would, to my mind, be needed for Vulnerable status.

  5. Ricardo Cavalieri says:

    A recent survey for the Green Peafowl in China —

    The Galliforms Group told their findings that the peafowl is doing well in protected areas of Thailand and has remnant religiously-protected populations in Myanmar.

  6. Ricardo Cavalieri says:

    Plus there are a few offsprings of GP and feral Indian Peafowl, mainly occurring in the suburb of Chiang Mai, according to the Dragonbird Group on Facebook.

  7. Despite the relatively large range of the species the only countries where the species is doing well as the largest proportion of its population is found in protected areas (one of which, Huai Kha Khaeng, very well protected due to the high tiger density) is Thailand and perhaps Java. For the rest the mainland southeast Asian populations are still under high threats with relatively low effective protection, indicated by their relatively low recorded densities. In Cambodia several quantitative estimates are available for the past five years all showing a relatively low density indicating that the persistence of possible high level of threats (hunting and habitat degradation) are still found in the different protected areas (Chandara 2017; Loveridge et al 2017; Nuttall et al 2017). In China a recent survey has shown the loss of the species over 60% of their known range and the decline in number over the remaining 40% mostly due to hunting, poisoning and habitat conversion (Kong et al 2018). Not much is available from Laos where twenty years ago the species was considered to have undergone a severe decline and was only known from scattered localities throughout the country (Evans & Timmins.1996). Currently there are no information that this situation has reversed and the species is now considered to be only found in Phou Khao Khouay NPA where it is under severe threat mostly due to hunting (Vongkhamheng 2015). No quantitative data are yet available for Myanmar were the species is thought to do quite well (Tordoff et al 2007). However, recent extensive surveys in the central part of the country (Bago Yoma, South Shan State and South Sagaing Division) have only highlighted small scattered populations often inhabiting remaining small degraded and unprotected forest patches and using extensively the nearby agricultural landscape (Shwe et al unpublished data). The risk for the species here could be directly related to the modernization of agricultural practices. In the end, recent surveys in Vietnam have highlighted mixing results on the species status. While the species appear to have recovered in Cat Tien NP over the past 20 years (where however it is limited to two small pockets) it has shown a drastic decline in Yok Don NP, once considered the species stronghold in the country (Brickle 2002), with an overall due to over grazing, hunting and extended fire (Sukumal et al 2015). At the moment nothing is indicating that this tendency has reversed.
    Despite being optimistic any approach considering the species current status should be cautious.

    Reference cited
    Brickle. 2002. Biological Conservation 105: 189-197
    Chandara 2017. MSc thesis Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia
    Evans & Timmins.1996. Forktail 11: 11-32
    Hernowo 1999. Media Konservasi 6: 15-22
    Kong et al 2018. Avian Research 9: xx-xx
    Loveridge et al 2017. Cambodian Journal of Natural History 2017: 157-167
    Nuttall et al 2017. Bird Conservation International 27: 127-139
    Sukumal et al 2015. Global Ecology and Conservation 3: 11-19
    Tordoff et al 2007. Natural History Bulletin of the Siam. Society 55: 235-306
    Vongkhamheng 2015. Research Reports ISSN 2202-7432

  8. Thomas Gray says:

    Given Tommaso’s detailed range-wide summary combined with (my opinion) that it would be very naive to assume that green peafowl populations in Myanmar are on anything other than a strongly negative populations trajectory (see for example Eld’s deer trends in the country) I believe that retaining Endangered listing (based on criteria A) would be accurate.

    It is possible that in 5-10 years (once populations have completely disappeared from Laos and Indochinese peafowl only remain in a few PAs in Cambodia & Vietnam) the decline will have stabilised sufficiently for a Vulnerable listing.

  9. Simon Dowell says:

    I concur with Tommaso – the only evidence for stable or increasing populations of green peafowl currently are in one or two protected areas in Thailand (e.g. Huai Kha Khaeng – see Sukumal et al. 2017) and one site in Vietnam (Cat Tien NP – see Sukumal et al. 2015). In all other areas across its range it is either known or suspected to be declining (or we simply don’t have sufficient information for an assessment). The extent of the decline over the last 3 generations (18 years) is likely to vary across sites but overall I would urge caution in assuming that the decline has reduced to below 50% over this time period over a significant portion of its remaining range due to the rapid nature of habitat loss and degradation and the increase in poaching and hunting pressure. More solid evidence of a reduction in the decline across more of its known distribution would be needed, in my view, to warrant a reduction in red list status.

    Sukumal, N., McGowan, P.J.K. & Savini, T. (2015) Change in status of green peafowl Pavo muticus (Family Phasianidae) in Southcentral Vietnam: a comparison over 15 years. Global Ecology and Conservation, 3, 11-19.
    Sukumal, N., Dowell, S. & Savini, T. (2017) Micro-habitat selection and population recovery of the Endangered Green Peafowl Pavo muticus in western Thailand: a model for conservation guidance. Bird Conservation International, 27, 1-17.

  10. Anwaruddin Choudhury says:

    I agree with Simon Dowell. It should not be downlisted.

  11. Rob Martin (BirdLife International) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2018 Red List would be to close this topic and retain the species as Endangered under criteria A2cd + A3cd + A4cd for now, pending any further information regarding current trends.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline in mid-July, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from the initial proposal.

    The final 2018 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in November, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  12. J. W. Duckworth says:

    I think retaining EN under A may well be inappropriate. For A2 (past decline, assessment window 2000-2018) the population before 2000 is irrelevent. The massive range contraction and population loss in the century to 2000 is no longer relevant to assigning A2. By 2000 the number in Lao, Vietnam, India, Bangladesh and Malaysia were too small a proportion of the global population to have major influence on the overall global trend. The big centres of population were Myanmar and Cambodia, also Java, China and Thailand. In the intervening period the Thai population is stated to have increased which would mean that for EN under A2 to be apt the rest of the range would have to have declined by over 50%. That might have occurred (given still major conversion rates of suitable habitat in Cambodia and the embryonic effectiveness of PAs in Cambodia and Myanmar), but it needs some back-of-the-envelope figures for what might have been proportions of global population held in 2000 by each of these ‘heavy hitter’ countries to move the discussion forward (see my comments on Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo). There doesn’t seem to be any specific discussion above about A3 – future decline, for which the window would be 2018-2016. Green Peafowl would presumably be extremely sensitive to snaring; but most of the indsustrial snaring in Lao and Vietnam has been in evergreen forest inimical to this species. Do those more familiar with the open deciduous forests holing this specie have a feel for whether snaring would take off in those habitats? Is it plausible that ongoing habitat conversion in Myanmar and Cambodsia could be art such high levels as to offset the much lowr levels in the areas of Thailand, China and Java so that overall global habitat loss could approach 50%? I’m not the best positioned to comment on this but it needs to be thought through. Some of the above comments are base upon populations trends from well before 2000 and in countries numerically insignificant to determining the global trend; for A only the trend in 2000-2036 is relevant. It certainly seems wrong to me that Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo would be proposed to be only VU whereas Green Peafowl could be propose as EN, both under A. The may well have had comparable declines over the last 50-100 years, the peafowl possibly even the more extreme, but for the last 3 gens and the next 3 gens I can’t see that.

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