Archived 2019 topic: Red List Implications of the Asian Songbird Trade

This discussion was first published as part of the 2018 Red List update. At the time a decision regarding the status of several species was pended, but to enable potential reassessment of these species as part of the 2019 Red List update this post remains open and the date of posting has been updated.

The species which are still open for discussion are; Javan White-eye (Zosterops flavus), Sumatran Leafbird (Chloropsis media), Greater Green Leafbird (Chloropsis sommerati), and Javan Leafbird (Chloropsis cochinchinensis).

While historically recognised as a threat to species, the cage bird trade, and in particular the Indonesian songbird trade has been receiving more attention as a key driver behind species declines in Asia (see Chng et al. 2015, Eaton et al. 2015, Harris et al. 2015, 2017, Shepherd et al. 2013, 2016). In 2016 a suite of species were proposed to be uplisted to higher threat categories on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM as a result of recent information regarding the potential impacts of this trade on their extinction risk.

A species’s Red List status is calculated through the application of a range of criteria, each with their own threshold values, to give an indication of the species’s risk of extinction (see IUCN 2012). As a rough guide a species listed as Vulnerable has a high risk of extinction; a species listed as Endangered has a very high risk of extinction; and a species listed as Critically Endangered has an extremely high risk of extinction.

As part of the call for suggestions for species to review in 2018 for potential Red List status changes, the Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group kindly provided a list of species that could warrant uplisting (D. Jeggo in litt. 2018). The list of these species, the proposed categories, and their current listings are provided in the table below.

Common Name Scientific Name Current Listing Proposed Listing
Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus EN CR
Javan White-eye Zosterops flavus VU EN
Sumatran Leafbird Chloropsis media VU EN
Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati VU EN
Sunda Laughingthrush Garrulax palliatus LC NT or VU
Javan Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis NT EN
Blue-masked Leafbird Chloropsis venusta NT VU
Java Sparrow Lonchura oryzivora VU EN
Bar-winged Prinia Prinia familiaris LC potential for >LC


To warrant a change in status though, we do need to provide to IUCN a justification based on the IUCN criteria. Most of these species (those with hyperlinks) were assessed in 2016 based on the available information at the time. To show that any of these species warrant uplisting to a higher threat category we therefore require some further information, particularly regarding population size and trends in the wild, so that we can compare the species to the IUCN thresholds, and as such have justifiable reasons for status change to submit to IUCN.

Taking Straw-headed Bulbul, for example, there is strong support for listing the species as Critically Endangered (Bergin et al. 2018, D. Jeggo in litt. 2018). Population estimates from Singapore suggest that the subpopulation there contains >50 mature individuals (minimum 202 individuals) (Yong et al. 2018), and so the species could not be listed as Critically Endangered under criterion C2a(i). As this sub-population occurs within the taxon’s natural range, has produced viable offspring and has been present for more than five years (considerably longer), this population is appropriately considered in the global population assessment, even if it were clearly established that it had been founded through escaped individuals in the past (IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee 2014, Yong et al. 2018).

There are fears that population declines may have reached over 80% over 10 years (Bergin et al. 2018), but as of yet there is no clear evidence from population trends in the wild that such declines have taken place, and recent data from Singapore demonstrates that this population is stable (Yong et al. 2018). Bergin et al. (2018) urge that further research takes place on this species to allow for clearer Red List assessments, and we strongly agree with this, as to avoid any proposed status change being rejected by IUCN we would need a clear justification for the change.

Therefore, for all of these species we urgently request any further information regarding population sizes and trends in the wild as these are key to assessing the species’s Red List status.

We provide here further details regarding the three species in the table above for which there was no discussion topic in 2016. They could well qualify for uplisting, as they were excluded from the 2016 discussions largely due to a lack of evidence.

  1. Sunda Laughingthrush, Garrulax palliatus. Numbers being traded have increased dramatically in recent years, seemingly in line with the decrease in availability of Sumatran Laughingthrush bicolor (Shepherd et al 2016). Very few individuals observed were of the Bornean subspecies G. p. schistochlamys, and this subspecies is unlikely to be significantly impacted by trapping in the short-term. However the Sumatran birds are likely to be suffering a considerable decline as a result of trapping. Contributing to roughly half the range of the species (but with no comparative estimate of the proportion of the global population) significant declines here may be sufficient to approach or exceed the thresholds for listing as Vulnerable under criterion A (a 30-49% decline in a three generation period [14 years]). However, considerable numbers may persist in the less accessible parts of northern Sumatra, making a decline in excess of 60% over this period within Sumatra less likely. Consequently, the rate of overall decline is most likely to approach, rather than exceed, the threshold for listing as Vulnerable, indicating that an assessment as Near Threatened under criterion A2d+A3d+A4d may be appropriate. Clearly we would like more information from wild populations; proportion of discrete sites visited where the species is no longer recorded may be possible should enough people share their experience: for instance, has it disappeared from more than half of Sumatran locations at which it was present 14 years ago?
  2. Blue-masked Leafbird, Chloropsis venusta. Considered to be less of a target for bird trappers than Greater Green Leafbird, the species has been recorded in markets in Sumatra which is cause for concern given its relatively restricted range on Sumatra. Already considered generally uncommon, evidence of declines and local extinctions coupled with targeting for the cagebird trade may suggest that this species could warrant uplisting. However, the elevational range of the species contains a large extent of the more difficult to access parts of Sumatra and there does not appear to be any data indicating population declines or local extinctions as yet, nor data indicating increases in market price.
  3. Bar-winged Prinia, Prinia familiaris. A bird of open, scrubby habitats and secondary growth, including gardens and parks it has not been considered likely to be of conservation concern until recently. However it now has a dedicated class in the kicau mania, the bird singing competitions and has experienced intensive trapping pressure partly because of its ability to coexist with people. There is no quantification of the rate of loss, only that it has dramatically declined in Java. There is no apparent information on any impacts on Sumatra. More information is needed: is this previously abundant and resilient bird really threatened? Could the decline be sufficient to approach or exceed the threshold for listing as Vulnerable?

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 discussion outlined above.


Bergin, D.; Chng, S. C. L.; Eaton, J. A.; Shepherd, C. S. 2018. The final straw? An overview of Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus trade in Indonesia. Bird Conservation International 28: 126-132.

Chng, S. C. L.; Eaton, J. A.; Krishnasamy, K.; Shepherd, C. R.; Nijman, V. 2015. In the market for extinction: an inventory of Jakarta’s bird markets. Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia: TRAFFIC.

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

Harris, J. B. C.; Green, J. M. H.; Prawiradilaga, D. M.; Giam, X.; Giyanto, Hikmatullah, D.; Putra, C. A.; Wilcove, D. S. 2015. Using market data and expert opinion to identify overexploited species in the wild bird trade. Biological Conservation 187: 51–60.

Harris, J. B. C.; Tingley, M. W.; Hua, F.; Yong, D. L.; Adeney, J. M.; Lee, T. M.; Marthy, W.; Prawiradilaga, D. M.; Sekercioglu, C. H.; Suyadi; Winarni, N.; Wilcove, D. S. 2017. Measuring the impact of the pet trade on Indonesian birds. Conservation Biology 31: 394-405.

IUCN. 2012. Guidelines for Application of IUCN Red List Criteria at Regional and National Levels: Version 4.0. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: IUCN.

IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee. 2014. Guidelines for Using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Version 11. Prepared by the Standards and Petitions Subcommittee. Downloadable from

Shepherd, C. R. 2013. Protection urgently needed for the endemic Sumatran Laughingthrush. TRAFFIC Bull. 25: 53–54.

Shepherd, C. R., Nijman, V., Krishnasamy, K., Eaton, J. A. and Chng, S. C. L. 2016. Illegal trade pushing the Critically Endangered Black-winged Myna Acridotheres melanopterus towards imminent extinction. Bird Conservation International 26: 147-153.

Yong, D. L.; Lim, K. S.; Lim, K. C.; Tan, T.; Teo, S.; Ho, H. C. 2018. Significance of the globally threatened Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus populations in Singapore: a last straw for the species? Bird Conservation International 28: 133-144.

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36 Responses to Archived 2019 topic: Red List Implications of the Asian Songbird Trade

  1. Simon Mahood says:

    For most of these species there will never be “information regarding population size and trends in the wild” until there are few enough to count on one hand. Calculating population size requires survey across a range of habitats and sites, whilst trends require this to repeated rigorously at biologically relevant intervals in time. More importantly, to understand the trends now requires this to have already been done in the past. Some of these species occupy an area of land the size of western Europe with fewer birders than Cambridge. As BirdLife are aware this is the state of play for almost every species in the tropics. If this is the standard that is required “To show that any of these species warrant uplisting to a higher threat category…”, and this same standard is applied to other species then we will be waiting a very long time for anything to be uplisted (or downlisted).

    Moreover, it is not the standard that is applied to other heavily traded taxa with a similar distribution to the species under discussion. For instance, Sunda Pangolin “is listed as Critically Endangered A2d+3d+4d due to high levels of hunting and poaching…there have been suspected declines of <80%…". Even though "There is virtually no information available on population levels of any species of Asian pangolin and no comprehensive population estimates." But "Evidence from seizures involving this species attest it is present in some number in Indonesia …. however, the magnitude of international trade originating from Indonesia in the last decade suggests populations here are or could be in severe decline. Stating categorically that this is the case is difficult due to a lack of information on past or present population levels…. however, bearing in mind the estimated generation length, … the magnitude of seized trade ….. for example there have been seizures …. each of which involved several thousand animals and which likely comprises only a fraction of the trade, supports this assertion."

  2. Adam Miller says:

    Planet Indonesia has conducted wild surveys in Kalimantan, Indonesia in both Gunung Palung National Park GPNP (119 point counts) and Gunung Niut Nature Reserve GNNR (353 point counts). Also below we have compiled information from several publications on wild bird surveys across this species range (see below).

    GPNP in West Kalimantan was surveyed by our team in 2015 for a 3 month period. The Straw-headed Bulbul was never found during these surveys. However, the species was noted to exist there in the early 2000s (the last bird survey that was taken place) by Tim Lamen.

    In Gunung Niut Nature Reserve intensive surveys have been underway since September 2016. 233 point counts were setup in the West part of the reserve and were surveyed from September 2016 to February 2017 (3 sampling occasions). The Straw-headed bulbul was never found.

    120 point counts were set up in the east part of the reserve and surveyed from March 2017 – November 2017 (5 sampling occasions), the Straw-headed Bulbul was never found.

    Together, GPNP and GNNR represent over 220,000 ha of primary Bornean rainforest. Together, they also represent all 7 major forest types in Borneo. In these same areas the Critically Endangered Helmeted Hornbill and Bornean Orangutan are commonly encountered.

    In our 2018 publication in Tropical Conservation Science (Rentschlar et. al. 2018. A Silent Morning: The Songbird Trade in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Tropical Conservation Science 11.) We also further underlined the size of the trade for this species from market data gathered across all 5 provinces in Kalimantan, Indonesia.

    Our trapper and trader surveys also highlighted the need for uplisting to CR as the majority of Straw-headed Bulbuls in markets were indicated as brought in illegally from outside of Indonesia. We strong lobby for this species to both be considered as CR but also for an uplisting of this species under CITES as Indonesian populations are virtually non-existence, traders and trappers are sourcing birds from outside the country.

    Moreover, a simple comparison of confiscations and species that are often viewed as “sexy” in Kalimantan can shed light on the sad story of the straw-headed bulbul. At both national parks mentioned above in Kalimantan the CR helmeted hornbill and CR Bornean orangutan are commonly found. Both of these species, on Indonesian markets bring a price of 3-8 million rupiah per individual (roughly USD 250-700 ; Planet Indonesia unpublished data). Let’s compare that to the Straw-headed Bulbul.

    In Kalimantan, where the demand for Straw-headed Bulbuls is considerably lower than in Java, a pair of these birds easily brings 18+ million rupiah in a bird market. The last confiscation of two baby orangutans in 2017 in West Kalimantan, each was being sold at the price of 3.5 million Rupiah (Planet Indonesia unpublished data), indicating that the price for a SHB can be an upwards of 2-3x the price of the critically endangered bornean orangutan.

    No one can find this species in the wild, the ones sold in markets represent some of the most expensive wildlife, not just birds, available in Indonesia. And yet we are still arguing that a feral population of 200 birds in Singapore merits this species to not be listed as CR.

  3. Adam Miller says:

    Part II: SHBs – Review of other papers and Indonesian Political Climate:
    A simple google scholar compilation of papers also shows that this species is largely missing from a number of protected areas across its range.

    Burner et. al. in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology in 2016 from a bird survey conducted in Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak Malaysia state “We did not detect Pycnootus relyanicus during our expedition, but it was last heard near the park headquarters in in July 2010 by FHS. We assume that is has been extirpated by the pet trade, as in the case for the species in most of Borneo.”

    Rahim et. Al. 2014 in Bird Surveys at Sungai Dusun Wildlife Reserve, Perak, Malaysia in the Journal of Wildlife and Parks notes the SHB is missing from mist net captures.

    Sabah Forestry Department in the Timimbang – Botitian Forest Reserve (Rayner Bili June 18th 2014) does not list the SHB as a species encountered in their transects and point counts.

    Rahman et. Al. 2002 in the ASEAN Review of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation (ARBEC) noted at Crocker Range National Park no SHB were found.

    Biun and Buang 2014 in the Journal of Wildlife and Parks do not list the SHB as a species encountered in Tasek Bera Wildlife Reserve from point counts.

    Biun et. al. 2014 also in the Journal of Wildlife and Parks do not list the SHB as a species encountered during their survey period in Penang National Park.

    Sulaiman et. al. in Tropical Natural History 2015 did not encounter the SHB in their short surveys in Lake Kenyir Malaysia.

    Arif & Modh-Azlan in the Indonesian Journal of Ornithology, Kukila, conducted mist netting in Gunung Gading National Park in Sarawak Borneo and published their results in 2014. The Straw-headed bulbul was not encountered from their mist netting activities conducted from November 2011 to April 2012.

    Zahidin et. al in the Journal of Sustainability Science and Management in 2016 from their Biodiversity Assessment of Bako National Park in Sarawak, Malaysia also did not find the SHB.

    Fischer et. Al 2016 in the Forktail in an inventory of Avifauna in Bukit Batikap Protection Forest in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia notes:

    “Local people were very familiar with this species [SHBs] and keen to obtain any pertinent information as it is an extremely popular cage bird, persecuted with such vigour that its Vulnerable status is no longer appropriate (Eaton et al. 2015). Not surprisingly, this species was recorded on only seven occasions between January and July 2014 (160–180 m). It is a cause for concern that no records were made between October 2014 and December 2015 suggesting that even in very remote parts of Kalimantan, trapping pressure is pushing this species to extinction (Brickle et al. 2010, Eaton et al. 2015). Immense pressure on this species may already have caused its local extinction in the Bukit Batikap Protection Forest, as the lack of records in 2015 suggests.”

    Even as early as Holmes (1997) it was stated that this species is “increasingly rare and perhaps now critically endangered, which was so common two decades ago in Kalimantan”

    This is just a subset of publications from across the species range, inside protected areas, that have time and time again found the Straw-headed Bulbul to no longer exist.

    It is difficult to prove 80% population decline for this species because it is more than likely that this species declined 80% in population size much longer than a decade ago. Moreover, there is very little historical data to compare current data. What is clear, even from just a small subset of publications, is no one is finding this species in protected areas across its range. 

Although additional wild surveys are always helpful, given the current situation spending ~5 years and considerable funding to coordinate systematic surveys across the Straw-headed Bulbul’s range just to prove what every bird expert in Southeast Asia is already saying, that this species is on the verge of extinction, seems like an inefficient use of time and money.

    Moreover, Indonesia is currently revising the national list of protected species, for which nearly all songbirds are not apart of. Uplisting of the SHB, along with many other species, is likely to result in their protection within Indonesia. Therefore, this is a critical time for the majority of these songbirds as the list was last revised in 1999. If it is indeed published in 2018, as expected, then it could be another 19 years before the government revises their list. Meaning we currently have a golden opportunity for the international conservation status of these species to inform national policy. Any uplisting that occurs after the list is finalized will be tabled until the list is revised once again, which as mentioned, could be 20 years down the road.

    For the vast majority of Asian songbirds either found in Indonesia or with a high demand from Indonesian markets and sourced from neighbouring countries, the next few months of legislation and policy will decide these species fate.

    Therefore, I hope that Birdlife and IUCN will highly consider the uplisting of the SHB and a number of other species based on the data available and the critical timing for these species within their home range states.

    We are happy to further discuss this information and issue with interested parties.
Thank you
    Adam Miller

  4. I have been conducting bird surveys in Sarawak for a number of years and have not observed Straw-headed Bulbul since I began collaborating with researchers there in 2006. My work has focused on exotic tree plantations and native forest reserves in an area called Sarawak Planted Forests. Some of the reserves are quite large and some are relatively remote. The primary habitats in the reserves are are primarily peat swamp and kerangas forest but also lowland dipterocarp forest. Many of the areas are fairly remote and would be suitable habitat for this species, but it has not been observed. It is well known that this species is highly desirable and fetches a large sum on the market.

    Greater Green Leafbird is also on the list above. I have observed this species in native forest areas and even in very old Acacia mangium, but my confirmed observations are somewhat old (2011; but I have not resurveyed all the same areas where I saw it prior to 2011).

  5. Ricardo Cavalieri says:

    It’s strange that on eBird there have still been a couple of records of the Greater Green Leafbird on Thai-Malay Peninsula since 2017.

    • Ricardo Cavalieri says:

      The bird trade in Malay-Indonesia may not have great impact on the.bulk of Thai population of the GGL. Also according to TRAFFIC’s survey in Chatuchak Market, Bangkok in 2016 the GGL was not sold in large numbers. The leafbird-mania only occurs in Sundaic countries.

      • Ricardo Cavalieri says:

        Correction: Philip Round said that southern Thailand (peninsular Thailand) is a place where cage bird trade is also of large scale. The southernmost south Thailand, where locals are of Malayan origin, could also be under leafbird mania.

  6. Ricardo Cavalieri says:

    The amount of these records is not low, so the GGL may not be allegedly rare there.

  7. Ricardo Cavalieri says:

    The populations of Java Sparrow have been established on every major island of the Hawaiian Archipelago, and they are fairly common. This is told by a research er of the Bishop Museum, Hawaii. Nonetheless, size of these populations could fluctuate. Certainly the whole Hawaiian population is larger than the remnant Javan.

    • James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

      Thank you for your comment. However, these introduced individuals do not count towards a Red List assessment because they are not within the native range (or near to it) and they were not released to reduce extinction risk for the species.

      • Ricardo Cavalieri says:

        I understand, but this could be a way out.

      • Ricardo Cavalieri says:

        The curent range of the sparrow has been expanded larger than in the map, as is indicated on ebird. Noteworthy also is that the Hawaiian population has persisted for decades.

      • Ricardo Cavalieri says:

        Other feral populations of the sparrow are not doing well, e.g.
        in China they are always trapped.

        • James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

          Thank you for these further comments but we have to reiterate that these introduced individuals do not count towards a Red List assessment because they do not fulfill the requirements set out by IUCN. This is because are not within the native range and they were not released to reduce extinction risk for the species.

  8. Muhammad Iqbal says:

    I just thinking that Bar-winged Prinia should be uplisted.
    This common species is very rarely seen now (at least for me in South Sumatra province).

  9. Muhammad Iqbal says:

    Based on local birdwatcher facebook group discussion, Java Sparrow could be stable or some population increase (in Java and also southern Sumatra). This could be impact of trend on bird keeping in Indonesia. Singing bird contest is recently very popular, so that White-eye, Magpie Robin and Prinia are rarely seen; and hunting on Java Sparrow look like reduced.

  10. Serene Chng says:

    I agree with Adam Miller and Simon Mahood that by the time there is sufficient information regarding population size and trends in the wild to uplist, the species may well be gone.

    With specific regards to the Straw-headed Bulbul and Adam’s list of studies showing the lack of Straw-headed Bulbuls in habitats where they ought to be: this is a vocal species with a highly distinctive song, and if it is present would have a very high chance of being recorded in any observation-based field surveys (as opposed to more secretive species).

  11. Yong Ding Li says:

    Just to qualify some of the inaccuracies in the comments made –

    Some of us working in Singapore have (consistently) documented the Straw-headed Bulbul populations in Singapore, and the Malay Peninsula since the late 1980s. The records on the island are obviously not feral, as misleadingly misrepresented in a number of books and papers (and thus assumed so by some workers), and are backed by specimens collected since the 1920s. Our recent, comprehensive surveys for just one site, counted by about 50-volunteers over the past 6 months reveals a population of c. 100 individuals. Comprehensive surveys on the main island suggests a minimum population of >100 individuals, but is not exhaustive as some sites have not been surveyed. We can thus be confident that the Singapore population is expected to exceed 200 adult individuals.

    Without a clear understanding of the habitat requirements of this bird (often in riverine belukar dominated by Dillenia and other shrubs), many researchers are simply searching the wrong habitat and places (or that the species was not even the focus of the survey conducted) – it is unlikely it would be found in old-growth dipterocarp forests or montane forests (thus few, if any records from say Crocker Range, Kinabalu etc), where many ornithological expeditions have concentrated their efforts on.

    • James Eaton says:

      Outside of the ‘>100 individuals’ found on Singapore (of potentially dubious recent origin, cf Oriental Magpie-robin and White-Jumped Shama), I know of two well-known areas where Straw-headed Bulbul persist, which are clearly in old-growth dipterocarp forests (along rivers). To suggest ‘many researchers are simply searching the wrong habitat and places’ I would suggest is unfair and inaccurate, especially reading Adam Miller’s exhaustive accounts above, who is ideally placed, living in the field almost year-round, to comment on the current status more than nearly any other person.

      I whole heartedly agree with Adam’s (and Serene and Alison’s) comments, which are even more exhaustive than the previous discussion on Straw-headed Bulbul for uplisting.

      Having visited several sites throughout its range in 2017 and early 2018, once again I have failed to find the species is nearly all of it’s former haunts, finding it at just four localities compared to an additional 10 sites in previous years.

      • Yong Ding Li says:

        To qualify your previous comments – many of these published reports were based upon surveys carried out in reasonably good habitat and were broad forest bird surveys, so I don’t think it is reasonable to say that that SHB absent just because it was “absent” in the survey site. On the contrary, there are still reasonably large areas of belukar and secondary scrub on the peninsula and Sumatra (not on the birding circuit or areas frequented by tours) that the bird may occur in, and that has never been searched. I was in the field at two such places on the peninsula in the past month, and did find SHBs, and incidentally both such localities are in the fringes and margins of protected areas where surveys don’t happen, or that few birders will ever step on.

  12. Muhammad Iqbal says:

    Bar-winged Prinia still listed in restricted small recreation forest in Palembang city, please read here:

  13. Muhammad Iqbal says:

    but this species (Bar-winged Prinia) was absent during a bird survey in Acacia timber plantation in South Sumatra province (where species expected to be occur). Please read this paper:

  14. Rob Martin (BirdLife International) says:

    It is clear indeed that the declines in Straw-headed Bulbul are proceeding with alarming speed, and that regional extirpations are continuing. The worrying list of surveys from within the species’ range where it was previously present and is now absent is entirely consistent with this rapid, ongoing population decline: which is currently estimated at between 50-79% of the global population gone within the most recent ten years (when assessed, 2006-2016). The areas of persistence of the species within the range and the small, stable Singapore population is to make assessing this rate of decline as even higher (>80% in ten years) problematic. However the sample of studies from this area assembled for this topic suggest the most recent decade has seen an apparent switch to the final extirpation of the species from large parts of Borneo, considered to have held the bulk of the remaining population. With an assumed continuing decline at the former rate operating in Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia and declines reported from Sabah, this extensive and rapid loss from Kalimantan and Sarawak may suggest that the threshold for Critically Endangered has been breached. The strong representations of the Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group are that this species is at extremely high risk of extinction in the wild within only four or five generations.

  15. Rob Martin (BirdLife International) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, including from the Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group, our preliminary proposal for the 2018 Red List would be to list:

    Straw-headed Bulbul as Critically Endangered under Criteria A3cd + A4cd

    Java Sparrow as Endangered under Criterion C2a(i)

    Sunda Laughingthrush as Near Threatened under Criteria A3d + A4d

    Bar-winged Prinia as Near Threatened under Criteria A3cd +A4cd

    Blue-masked Leafbird is to close the topic and retain the current listing for now, pending any further information regarding current trends.

    The preliminary proposal for Javan White-eye, Sumatran Leafbird, Greater Green Leafbird and Javan Leafbird is to pend a decision until 2019 and so retain the current listing as part of the 2018 Red List update.

    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.

  16. Movin Nyanasengeran says:

    My recent visits to bird markets in Jakarta turned up single individuals of Sumatran Leafbird; in contrast hundreds of Greater Green and Blue-masked Leafbirds were noted – suggesting a difficulty in obtaining specimens of this species.

    Its natural history and core habitat requirements remain poorly understood. But we know it does not utilise montane forest, and that it generally occupies an elevational band (600-1000m) that makes it very accessible for capture for the bird trade. The extreme paucity of sightings of the species in Tapan Road, is suggestive of a population decline in this species previously even noted from plantations and orchard.

    It’s putative stronghold in the Greater Leuser ecosystem remains largely unsurveyed, and assuming that secure populations of this species (along with other highly threatened Sumatran montane taxa) still persist seems incautious – this species and a number of Sumatran montane species commonly trade likely deserve uplisting.

    On a separate note, I wonder why a number of species commonly traded have not been earmarked for uplisting (eg. Sumatran Mesia, Sumatran Laughingthrush).

    • Rob Martin (BirdLife International) says:

      All three species mentioned were uplisted during the intial 2016 trade species review: both Sumatran Laughingthrush and Sumatran Mesia were of considerable concern and were assessed as globally Endangered.

      Sumatran Leafbird has apparently always been less well represented in bird markets and no dramatic increase in price per bird had been reported by 2016, but it was believed to be in considerable trouble in the accessible areas and was therefore assessed as Vulnerable due a suspected rapid decline. The lack of information on this species (and the other three species for which the preliminary decision is to pend a decision) is the reason the topic will remain open to next year.

  17. Simon Mahood says:

    Generation length is critical to calculating rate of decline (obviously). Have the Asian Songbird Specialist group provided BirdLife with the necessary data to calculate correct generation lengths? Or is everyone relevant agreed that the generation lengths as currently quoted are correct?

    • Rob Martin (BirdLife International) says:

      The Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group has been actively seeking information on generation length for these species and is sharing the data obtained with BirdLife. Those for Straw-headed Bulbul indicate that the current generation length needs revising, though are derived from a small sample of captive birds.

      This is in addition to an ongoing revision of generation lengths for all birds, which was planned to be incorporated next year.

      More information is welcome on any of the species threatened by both trade and rates of habitat loss, and is obviously highly relevant to the species under discussion.

  18. Ricardo Cavalieri says:

    According to the latest review on the status of Thai birds by BCST in 2016, the Greater Green Leafbird is still Least Concern in Thailand.

    Wichyanan Limparungpatthanakij, an author of “Birds of Thailand” (Lynx Editions), considers that the species is affected by trade in south Thailand (peninsular Thailand), thus shows population decline in certain regions, yet is still common in many protected areas.

    In regard of its Thai population, the Greater Green Leafbird could be retained as Vulnerable.

  19. Claudia Hermes (BirdLife International) says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, the recommended categorisation for this species has been changed:

    Straw-headed Bulbul is now recommended to be listed as Critically Endangered under Criteria A2cd+3cd+4cd.

    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.

  20. Tan Choo Eng says:

    In West Malaysia, straw-headed bulbul is rare. Population declining and probably found only in a few well protected areas. Unlikely to be found in their previous habitat known as “belukar” in Malay, scrub-land near rivers or wetlands.
    Leafbird trapping is not uncommon in West Malaysia, although maybe declining – the trapping. Leafbirds, including Greater Leafbirds are not usually found at pet or bird shop. Most? trappers are weekend or part timers?

  21. Rob Martin (BirdLife International) says:

    Ahead of preliminary decisions on the categories for the four species pending from this topic further information has become available and the implications are presented below.

    Javan White-eye. Recent surveys (B. van Balen in litt. 2019) have revisited sites checked in 2006 and found greatly reduced populations or indeed in some cases complete losses. While the survey is ongoing, if the reported scale of the reduction is reflected throughout the rate of decline will exceed 50% within the past ten years.

    Javan Leafbird. While the species was considered to be generally scarce though widely distributed throughout Java and Bali prior to the recent high demand for leafbirds, it certainly does not appear to have escaped the impact of the changed taste in songbirds. Comments received here and on the previous topic including the species suggest strongly that the population is considerably lower than thought and likely restricted to several widely separated populations. In addition, initial reports from recent surveys from suitable hill forest sites in Java have failed to record the species, when it was present in these sites twenty years ago (B. van Balen in litt. 2019). Clearly there is a rapid population decline ongoing within the restricted remaining habitat. already restricted and seemingly entirely accessible to trapping.
    Symes et al. (2018) assigned a ‘High’ persecution category for the creation of exploitation curves. This effectively translates to assuming the entire population will be removed within 10 years from the accessible parts of the range, and discovered that the entire range was effectively accessible. This obviously resulted in a recommended listing as Critically Endangered. One observation on this study is that it assumes complete efficiency of trapping to zero individuals, which is not directly assessed in the study but seems highly pessimistic, and does not account for variable reproduction rates between species or within a species at differing densities.
    Taken together with the initial recommendation of the Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group to list the species as Endangered, it certainly appears that uplisting the species is warranted.

    Sumatran Leafbird. It is accepted that the extent of the likely impact of the targeting of leafbirds has extended throughout a large proportion of this species range and, as noted by Movin Nyanasengeran, the mid-elevation forest in which the species would like to exist is almost entirely accessible to trappers. Symes et al. (2018) considered that the impact of trapping would equate to a 72% population loss, and even if this is considered on the pessimistic side the likelihood is high that the rate of decline has been and will continue to be very rapid.

    Greater Green Leafbird. The rates of extraction of this species have clearly been terrifying and must have caused a collapse in populations in some considerable area of Borneo, Sumatra and it is clear the species is now very rare on Java. Populations in Malaysia and Thailand appear to be impacted to a lesser extent, but still have been impacted. The estimated combined (deforestation and hunting) rate of population decline given by Symes et al. (2018) was 69%, with 55% assigned to ‘hunting’.

    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(1), 4052.

  22. Rob Martin (BirdLife International) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposals for the 2019 Red List for the four species pending are to list;
    Javan White-eye Zosterops flavus as Endangered under criterion A2bcd + A3bcd +A4bcd,
    Sumatran Leafbird Chloropsis media as Endangered under criterion A2cd + A3cd +A4cd,
    Greater Green Leafbird C. sonnerati as Endangered under criterion A2cd + A3cd +A4cd,
    Javan Leafbird C. cochinchinensis as Endangered under criterion A2bcd + A3bcd +A4bcd.

    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 those in the initial proposal.

    The final 2019 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  23. Claudia Hermes (BirdLife International) says:

    Recommended categorisations to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, the recommended categorisations for these species have been changed.

    Javan White-eye is now recommended to be listed as Endangered under Criterion A2bd+3d+4bd;
    Sumatran Leafbird is now recommended to be listed as Endangered under Criterion A2d+3d+4d;
    Javan Leafbird is now recommended to be listed as Endangered under Criterion A2d+3d+4d.

    The final 2019 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

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