Archived 2017 topics: Obscure Berrypecker (Melanocharis arfakiana): list as Least Concern?

BirdLife Species factsheet for Obscure Berrypecker:


Obscure Berrypecker, Melanocharis arfakiana, is endemic to the island of New Guinea (Papua New Guinea and Indonesia) and is currently listed as Data Deficient (see BirdLife International 2017). Historically, it was known from only two specimens, one from the Arfak Mountains, collected in 1867, and the other near the upper Angabunga River, collected in 1933 (Coates 1990). However, there have been increasing numbers of records of this species within the last 25 years. In 1994 this species was potentially tape-recorded, and two specimens collected above Tabubil, though they require comparing with the type specimen to confirm identifications (B. Whitney in litt. 2016 per G. Dutson in litt. 2016). There have continued to be sightings in the Tabubil area, where the species may be considered ‘not uncommon’, as well as records from the Huon Peninsula, Keki Lodge near Madang, the Kokoda Trail, and two other localities (see Beehler and Pratt 2016).

It is potentially a rare species, restricted to a very narrow altitudinal range between congeners (Coates 1990, P. Gregory in litt. 1994). However, it is cryptic by nature and the appearance of a patchy and localised distribution may in fact be more down to the species being overlooked. In fact, there is a large amount of suitable forest habitat for this species, at the appropriate altitudinal range, throughout the whole of New Guinea (B. Whitney in litt. 2016 per G. Dutson in litt. 2016), and the species appears to tolerate habitat degradation, being common in degraded forest in certain areas (G. Dutson in litt. 2016). This suggests that the species may not be threatened. Tolerance of degraded forest suggests that the population trend may be stable, or only declining at a very slow rate, while the large amount of potential habitat for this species suggests that the population size has the potential to be greater than the threshold for Vulnerable. Therefore, it is proposed that this species be listed as Least Concern.

We welcome any comments or further information on this proposed listing.



Beehler, B. M.; Pratt, T. K. 2016. Birds of New Guinea. Distribution, taxonomy, and systematics. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

BirdLife International. 2017. Species factsheet: Melanocharis arfakiana. Downloaded from on 24/04/2017.

Coates, B. J. 1990. The birds of Papua New Guinea, 2: passerines. Dove, Alderley, Australia.

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2 Responses to Archived 2017 topics: Obscure Berrypecker (Melanocharis arfakiana): list as Least Concern?

  1. Phil Gregory says:

    I have records of this species from 7 sites in 3 provinces and I think it is simply cryptic and easily overlooked, so LC seems appropriate as there is a lot of suitable habitat

  2. Hannah Wheatley (BirdLife) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2017 Red List would be to adopt the proposed classifications outlined in the initial forum discussion.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 4 August, 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 those in the initial proposal.

    The final 2017 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.

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