Archived 2010-2011 topics: Sula Megapode (Megapodius bernsteinii): uplist to Vulnerable or Endangered?

Sula Megapode Megapodius bernsteinii is listed as Near Threatened under criteria A2c,d,e; A3c,d,e; A4c,d,e, on the basis that the population was suspected to be declining at a rate approaching 30% over 12 years (three generations).

Since the last review of this species’s status in 2008, its range map has been updated, giving an Extent of Occurrence (EOO) estimated at 4,300 km2. Given that the species is already suspected to be in decline, this may mean that the species is eligible for uplisting to Endangered under the B1 criteria, as it has an EOO of less than 5,000 km2. To be considered for listing as Endangered, the B1 criteria also stipulate that the population must be considered to be severely fragmented or restricted to five locations or less. Since the 1990s, there has been extensive logging on Taliabu, leading to further clearance for agriculture and habitat degradation along logging roads (Rheindt 2010). In 2009, new areas were reportedly being assessed for conversion to agriculture. Undisturbed habitat within the species’s preferred elevation range has been reduced to tiny fragments; however, observations also suggest that the species can persist in degraded habitat (Rheindt 2010). The same fieldwork in 2009 also indicated that encounter rates have fallen substantially since fieldwork in 1991 (Davidson et al. 1991), and that the species and its eggs are intensively targeted for consumption (Rheindt 2010). Given this level of hunting pressure and the observation that most of the lowland forest on Taliabu has been cleared for logging, along with observations that the species has suffered drastic declines on other range islands (M. Indrawan pers. comm. in Rheindt 2010), it seems likely that the population is declining at a rate equivalent to more than 30% over 12 years, and perhaps more than 50% over 12 years, making it eligible for at least Vulnerable status under the A criteria.

A proposal is thus made, to uplist this species to Vulnerable under criteria A2c,d,e; A3c,d,e; A4c,d,e, on the basis that the species is suspected to have declined by at least 30% over 12 years, and is projected to decline at the same rate in the future, qualified by declines in the EOO, Area of Occupancy (AOO) and/or quality of habitat, actual or potential levels of exploitation and the effects of introduced species. It should be noted that the species could qualify as Endangered under all or some of the same criteria if a 50% decline over 12 years is shown to be probable, and it could qualify as Endangered under criterion B1a+b(i,ii,iii,v) if it can be demonstrated that its population is severely fragmented within an EOO of less than 5,000 km2, in addition to continuing declines observed, inferred or projected in the EOO, AOO, area, extent and/or quality of habitat and the number of mature individuals. Comments are invited on this proposal and additional information is also requested.

Davidson, P., Stones, A., Lucking, R., Bean, N., van Balen, B., Raharjaningtrah, W. and Banjaransari, H. (1991) University of East Anglia Taliabu Expedition 1991: Preliminary Report. University of East Anglia, Norwich.

Rheindt, F. E. (2010) New biogeographic records for the avifauna of Taliabu (Sula Islands, Indonesia), with preliminary documentation of two previously undiscovered taxa. Bull. B. O. C. 130: 33-51

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1 Response to Archived 2010-2011 topics: Sula Megapode (Megapodius bernsteinii): uplist to Vulnerable or Endangered?

  1. Whilst on Peleng in September ’09 looking for Sula Pitta I observed a single Sula Megapode, detail as follows:

    Species: Sula Megapode, Megapodius bernsteinii
    Location: approx. 3kms E of the village of Kawalu, (which is itself a few kms East of Salakan), NE Peleng, Indonesia.
    Age: adult
    Date/time: 2nd Sept 2009, 430-730am
    Habitat: secondary forest, immediately north of the only east-west paved road to the east of Kawalu.
    Vocalisations heard: none
    After describing the species we were taken to the site by locals who were familiar with the bird. They advised that many locals took Megapodes for food, and that the species also occurred closer to/immediately east of Kawalu village (although we searched (single visit) and did not find the species there.)

    I photographed the species- 3 of the images can be seen on the Oriental Birds Image Database e.g.:

    Only this single individual was encountered during a three-hour visit to the site. Two other apparently suitable sites were visited close to Kawalu but no other megapodes were seen.

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