Archived 2020 topic: Malay Crested Fireback (Lophura rufa): revise global status?

BirdLife species factsheet for Malay Crested Fireback

Malay Crested Fireback (Lophura rufa) occurs in the Thai-Malay Peninsular and on Sumatra. It is a lowland forest specialist, rarely occurring up to 1,000 m. The species has been recorded in logged forest (Madge and McGowan 2002; del Hoyo et al. 2020), but generally appears to either be absent or in extremely low densities in logged and secondary habitat (D. L. Yong in litt. 2014).

Malay Crested Fireback is threatened by habitat loss. Forest destruction in the Sundaic lowlands of Indonesia and Malaysia has been extensive because of a variety of factors, including the escalation of logging and land conversion, with deliberate targeting of all remaining stands of valuable timber, and forest fires. Population declines caused by habitat loss are compounded by trapping for the cage-bird trade, as the species is facing a high pressure from hunting (Symes et al. 2018).

Malay Crested Fireback is currently listed as Near Threatened, approaching the threshold for listing as threatened under Criterion A2cd+3cd+4cd (BirdLife International 2020). However, new information regarding the population trend suggests that the species may warrant a change in Red List status. Therefore, it will be re-assessed against all criteria:

Criterion A – Malay Crested Fireback is undergoing a rapid decline caused by habitat loss and hunting. A study investigating the combined impact of these threats found that habitat within the range has been lost at a rate of 24.1% over 15 years (Symes et al. 2018; see also Tracewski et al. 2016). The species is also facing high hunting pressure, which accounts for additional declines of 48.9% over the same period, so that the population would overall be declining at a rate of up to 72.9% over 15 years (Symes et al. 2018). Following a thorough reassessment, one generation length is now thought to be 4.6 years for this species (see Bird et al. 2020)*. Hence, the relevant timeframe for an assessment against Criterion A is 13.8 years. A population decline of 72.9% over 15 years equates to a decline of up to 69.9% over 13.8 years. We can assume that declines are continuing at the same rate into the future. The species thus meets the threshold for listing as Endangered under Criterion A2cd+3cd+4cd.

Criterion B – The Extent of Occurrence (EOO) for this species is 1,320,000 km2. This is too large to warrant a listing as threatened under Criterion B1, and therefore the species may be considered Least Concern under this criterion. The Area of Occupancy (AOO) has not been quantified according to IUCN guidelines (see IUCN Standards and Petitions Committee 2019), and thus the species cannot be assessed against Criterion B2.

Criterion C – We have no information on the population size and structure; therefore, we cannot fully assess the species against Criterion C.

Criterion D – The population size has not been quantified, and hence the species cannot be assessed against Criterion D1. The distribution range is too large to justify a listing as threatened under Criterion D2.

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, it is suggested that Malay Crested Fireback (Lophura rufa) be listed as Endangered under Criterion A2cd+3cd+4cd. We welcome any comments on the proposed listing and specifically request up-to-date information on the population size and structure.

Please note that this topic is not designed to be a general discussion about the ecology of the species, rather a discussion of its Red List status. Therefore, please make sure your comments are relevant to the discussion outlined in the topic. By submitting a comment, you confirm that you agree to the Comment Policy.

*Bird generation lengths are estimated using the methodology of Bird et al. (2020), as applied to parameter values updated for use in each IUCN Red List for birds reassessment cycle. Values used for the current assessment are available on request. We encourage people to contact us with additional or improved values for the following parameters; adult survival (true survival accounting for dispersal derived from an apparently stable population); mean age at first breeding; and maximum longevity (i.e. the biological maximum, hence values from captive individuals are acceptable).

An information booklet on the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here and the Red List Criteria Summary Sheet can be downloaded here. Detailed guidance on IUCN Red List terms and definitions and the application of the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here.


Bird, J. P.; Martin, R.; Akçakaya, H. R.; Gilroy, J.; Burfield, I. J.; Garnett, S.; Symes, A.; Taylor, J.; Šekercioğlu, Ç.; Butchart, S. H. M. 2020. Generation lengths of the world’s birds and their implications for extinction risk. Conservation Biology online first view.

BirdLife International. 2020. Species factsheet: Lophura rufa. (Accessed 18 May 2020).

del Hoyo, J.; McGowan, P. J. K.; Kirwan, G. M.; Collar, N.; Christie, D. A. 2020. Crested Fireback (Lophura ignita), version 1.0. In: Billerman, S. M.; Keeney, B. K.; Rodewald, P. G.; Schulenberg, T. S. (eds.). Birds of the World. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. (Accessed 18 May 2020).

IUCN Standards and Petitions Committee. 2019. Guidelines for using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Version 14.

Madge, S.C.; McGowan, P. 2002. Pheasants, Partridges and Grouse, including Buttonquails, Sandgrouse and Allies. Christopher Helm, London, UK.

Symes, W. S.; Edwards, D. P.; Miettinen, J.; Rheindt, F. E.; Carrasco, L. R. 2018. Combined impacts of deforestation and wildlife trade on tropical biodiversity are severely underestimated. Nature Communications 9: 4052.

Tracewski, Ł.; Butchart, S. H. M.; Di Marco, M.; Ficetola, G. F.; Rondinini, C.; Symes, A.; Wheatley, H.; Beresford, A. E.; Buchanan, G. M. 2016. Toward quantification of the impact of 21st-century deforestation on the extinction risk of terrestrial vertebrates. Conservation Biology 30: 1070-1079.

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7 Responses to Archived 2020 topic: Malay Crested Fireback (Lophura rufa): revise global status?

  1. Ingkayut Sa-ar says:

    Agree with “Endanger”.

    There are only two locations in Thailand which still have been confirmed records of the pheasant by evidence from photos on Camera trap; at Kui Buri National park about ten years ago and Kromloung Chumphon wildlife Sanctuary in 2019

    In addition, there was a tail-feather of female was collected in a forest fragment near Bala Sector, Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary in 2016 also.

    The pheasant still has been hunted for pet-trade nowadays including habitat loss, these are two main threats of this species in Thailand.

  2. James Eaton says:

    Difficult to argue against the uplisting and certainly habitat loss and hunting pressure are significant pressures on this species, and Bornean. However, if both ‘crested firebacks’ are potentially going to be uplisted to Endangered, surely Bornean and Malayan Crestless Firebacks need an even more urgent review, given they occur in a far more threatened habitat – strictly lowland forest, favouring peatswamp, and currently only Vulnerable, they would have to quality as an even greater threat category (as would Black Partridge, which seems to miss out each year in discussions).


  3. Simon Mahood says:

    Just to add to what James has commented, as a crude measure of abundance compare the incidence of reports of Malay Crested and Crestless Firebacks on ebird. The latter is one or two orders of magnitude the rarer bird, and it occupies a more threatened habitat type. At sites where both species occur (e.g. Taman Negara), Crestless is much more localised. One to reassess in 2021.

  4. Yong Ding Li says:

    Based on camera trap data from large mammals studies (unpublished), (Malayan) Crested Fireback seems reasonably regular in hilly forest in the central core of Peninsular Malaysia, even though there are few sites where it is encountered regularly (e.g. Taman Negara, Krau). There are a few (camera trap) records from the Khlong Saeng WS’s mainland in Peninsular Thailand (again, based on mammal camera-trapping studies). The species, whilst persisting in hilly forest, may be more vulnerable to habitat loss in the future in the Peninsular, due to increasing logging pressures on forests in the hills. Its hard to assess its rarity against the Crestless Fireback (which, by observer detection rates in field surveys, appears rare, but obviously dependent on low-lying forest in the plains and riparian areas). An uplist to at least ‘Vulnerable’ seems justified.

  5. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to this discussion. We greatly appreciate the time and effort invested by so many people in commenting. The window for consultation is now closed. We will analyse and interpret the new information and post a preliminary decision on this species’s Red List status on this page in early July.

    Thank you once again,
    BirdLife Red List Team

  6. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Preliminary proposal
    Based on available information and the discussions above, the species is believed to be undergoing a rapid population reduction but that it is unlikely to be at the rate initially proposed in the topic. The impact of hunting suspected for the species by Symes et al. (2018) does not appear to be supported by the observation that this species persists in degraded forest and plantations and it is not one of the 13 Galliform species that have become extinct outside of protected areas within the Sundaic region (Boakes et al. 2018). This supports the suggestion in the comments that the rate of decline is rapid, but not at the suspected very rapid rate as initially proposed.
    Thus, our preliminary proposal for the 2020 Red List would be to list the Malay Crested Fireback as Vulnerable under Criterion A2cd+3cd+4acd.

    Additional resources used:
    *Boakes, E. H., Fuller, R. A., and McGowan, P. J. K. (2018). The extirpation of species outside protected areas. Conservation Letters 12 (1); 1-7.

    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 2020 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2020/January 2021 (information on the IUCN Red List update process can be found here), following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  7. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    The final categorisation for this species has not changed. Malay Crested Fireback is recommended to be listed as Vulnerable under Criterion A2cd+3cd+4cd.

    Many thanks for everyone who contributed to the 2020 GTB Forum process. The final 2020 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2020/January 2021, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

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