Archived 2016 topics: Java Sparrow (Padda oryzivora): uplist from Vulnerable to Endangered?

Java Sparrow (BirdLife species factsheet) is currently listed as Vulnerable on the basis that intense trapping activity is inferred to have caused rapid declines in the population that are suspected to exceed 30% over the previous, current and future ten year periods.

Previously an abundant feature of the Javan and Balinese countryside, various threats appear to have contributed to the collapse of populations throughout the native range of the species. Changes to agricultural practice and near-indiscriminate pesticide usage from the 1990s onwards are likely to have played a role, however the bird has also been heavily trapped and traded for centuries and remaining wild populations are in constant danger of overexploitation (BirdLife International 2001).

In recent years the number of locations with populations appears to have declined further. On Java there are two breeding colonies in Yogyakarta, a colony at a residential complex in central Java, continuing recent reports from Baluran National Park and a location on Madura Island where the chicks are harvested (Eaton et al. 2015). The continued persistence and status of several other colonies established at government complexes and some other hotels is uncertain, though Eaton et al. (2015) mention that two have been lost through renovation. On Bali birds are still present in Bali Barat National Park, and there are several locations in urban areas with small groups, many of which may have escaped from captivity (BirdLife International 2001). Fewer than 100 individuals are considered to remain at any of these locations and there seems a very low likelihood of exchange of individuals between these regions. Indeed it does appear that the rapid declines cited in Threatened Birds of Asia (Birdlife International 2001) have continued to the present day.

Considering this small number of locations and the apparently low numbers of individuals present at each of the locations, has there been any recent attempt to quantify the overall population occurring in the wild within the historic native range of the species? Is an assessment of the total number of mature individuals now being below 2,500 reasonable? If so, the species would now qualify as Endangered under criterion C2a(i). Note that under the IUCN Red List guidelines only populations within the native range of a species should be used for an assessment of the status of a species.

Comments highly desired!



BirdLife International 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International.

Eaton, J.A., Shepherd, C.R., Rheindt, F.E., Harris, J.B.C., van Balen, S. (B.), Wilcove, D.S. and Collar, N.J. 2015. Trade-driven extinctions and near-extinctions of avian taxa in Sundaic Indonesia. Forktail 31: 1-12.


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3 Responses to Archived 2016 topics: Java Sparrow (Padda oryzivora): uplist from Vulnerable to Endangered?

  1. Serene Chng says:

    This species is regularly traded in large volumes internationally (observed for sale in Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia etc, with additional data from the UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade database) but these are largely from aviculture as many of them display leucistic features or even signs of hybridisation with other Passeridae species. This genetic dilution is certainly a concern to the wild populations (others may be able to elaborate further on this).

  2. Rob Martin (BirdLife International) says:

    The persistence of populations in Bali Barat National Park, Ubud and several additional locations on Bali plus additional sites on Java to those noted above (eBird 2016: available at suggests, in the absence of further data on population size, that the population is still likely to exceed 2,500 mature individuals. Consequently it is not believed that the species currently meets the threshold for listing as Endangered under Criterion C2a(i).
    As noted above, the decline in the population is thought to be continuing and the threat of genetic dilution mentioned in the comments above is of concern.

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2016 Red List would be to retain Java Sparrow as Vulnerable under Criterion A2bde+3bde+4bde.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 28 October, 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 2016 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  3. Bas van Balen says:

    There are still places where the Java Sparrow turns up. It is definitely not as common as it was 30-40 years ago, but there is still hope that with some protection (as in Madura, though I don’t know what the present situation is, or near Cirebon, where Stuart Marsden saw a few) local populations can recover. The huge captive population gives hope for local re-introductions.

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