Archived 2014 discussion: Sooty Woodpecker (Mulleripicus funebris) is being split: list both M. funebris and M. fuliginosus as Near Threatened?

This is part of a consultation on the Red List implications of extensive changes to BirdLife’s taxonomy for non-passerines

Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International will soon publish the HBW-BirdLife Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, building off the Handbook of the Birds of the World series, and BirdLife’s annually updated taxonomic checklist.

The new Checklist will be based on the application of criteria for recognising species limits described by Tobias et al. (2010). Full details of the specific scores and the basis of these for each new taxonomic revision will be provided in the Checklist.

Following publication, an open and transparent mechanism will be established to allow people to comment on the taxonomic revisions or suggest new ones, and provide new information of relevance in order to inform regular updates. We are also actively seeking input via a discussion topic here regarding some potential taxonomic revisions that currently lack sufficient information.

The new Checklist will form the taxonomic basis of BirdLife’s assessments of the status of the world’s birds for the IUCN Red List. The taxonomic changes that will appear in volume 1 of the checklist (for non-passerines) will begin to be incorporated into the 2014 Red List update, with the remainder, and those for passerines (which will appear in volume 2 of the checklist), to be incorporated into subsequent Red List updates.

Preliminary Red List assessments have been carried out for the newly split or lumped taxa. We are now requesting comments and feedback on these preliminary assessments.

Sooty Woodpecker Mulleripicus funebris is being split into M. funebris and M. fuliginosus, following the application of criteria set out by Tobias et al. (2010).

Prior to this taxonomic change, M. fuliginosus (BirdLife species factsheet) was listed as Least Concern, as it was not thought to approach the thresholds for listing as Vulnerable under any of the IUCN criteria. This species was estimated to have a very large range, and hence did not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence of less than 20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appeared to be stable, and hence the species did not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (at least a 30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it was not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (fewer than 10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be at least 10% over ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure).

M. funebris (as defined following this taxonomic change, and incorporating mayri and parkesi) occurs on Catanduanes, Luzon, Marinduque and Polillo, whilst M. fuliginosus is found on Leyte, Mindanao and Samar, where they occupy a variety of forest habitats, including secondary forest and forest edge (Winkler et al. 1995, Kennedy et al. 2000, del Hoyo et al. 2002).

It is suggested that both M. funebris and M. fuliginosus be listed as Near Threatened under criteria A2c+3c+4c, on the basis that, despite their tolerance of some habitat degradation and fragmentation, they could be undergoing moderately rapid population declines (approaching 30% over three generations [c.20 years]) owing to on-going and rapid rates of habitat loss and degradation throughout their ranges.

Comments are invited on the suggestion that both species be listed as Near Threatened, and further information would be welcomed.


del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2002) Handbook of the birds of the world, Vol 7: Jacamars to Woodpeckers. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.

Kennedy, R. S., Gonzales, P. C., Dickinson, E. C., Miranda, H. C., Jr. and Fisher, T. H. (2000) A guide to the birds of the Philippines. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tobias, J. A., Seddon, N., Spottiswoode, C. N., Pilgrim, J. D., Fishpool, L. D. C. and Collar, N. J. (2010) Quantitative criteria for species delimitation. Ibis 152: 724–746.

Winkler, H., Christie, D. A. and Nurney, D. (1995) Woodpeckers: a guide to the woodpeckers, piculets and wrynecks of the world. Robertsbridge, U.K.: Pica Press.

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4 Responses to Archived 2014 discussion: Sooty Woodpecker (Mulleripicus funebris) is being split: list both M. funebris and M. fuliginosus as Near Threatened?

  1. M. funebris still seems fairly common in areas such as Subic Bay and the Sierra Madre where it occurs up to at least 1000m. I agree it should be listed as Near Threatened.
    M. fuliginosus has always been a much scarcer bird which appears to be confined to the lowlands up to only 500m. These lowland forests on Mindanao are highly threatened and indeed at PICOP the species has either become very rare or has disappeared although other woodpeckers there including Buff-spotted and White-bellied, don’t seem to have undergone such rapid declines suggesting either competition with those two species or a dependency on good quality forests. The well protected forests of Pasonanca on the Zamboanga Peninsula might be a stronghold for the species and we recently recorded the species on Samar where is appears scarce. I would propose listing the species as Vulnerable.

  2. While M. funebris seems to occupy a wide altitude range (up to at least 1600m) and be quite tolerant of disturbed habitat, I have only seen M. fuliginosus in the lowlands up to 300m and it appears to have disappeared from areas within PICOP logging concession, near Bislig, Mindanao in areas that we formerly saw it regularly even though habitat degradation in some of them doesn’t appear significant.

  3. Joe Taylor says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information and comments posted above, our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List would be to treat:

    M. funebris as Near Threatened under criteria A2c+3c+4c

    M. fuliginosus as Vulnerable under criteria A2c+3c+4c

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 March, after which recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  4. Andy Symes says:

    Recommended categorisations to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there have been no changes to our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List status of these species.

    The final categorisations will be published later in 2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by BirdLife and IUCN.

Comments are closed.