Archived 2017 topics: Ultramarine Lorikeet (Vini ultramarina): uplist to Critically Endangered?

BirdLife Species factsheet for Ultramarine Lorikeet:


Ultramarine Lorikeet, Vini ultramarina, is endemic to the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia. Once occurring on several islands in the group it has gone extinct on all bar one of these. On Ua Pou, the lorikeet declined from 250-300 pairs in 1975, such that it was considered rare in 1990 (Holyoak and Thibault 1984, Seitre and Seitre 1991) and despite some subsequent scattered records, it was not found in 1998 or 2012 (C. Blanvillain in litt. 2016). On Nuku Hiva it was even rarer than on Ua Pou in the 1970s, numbering just 70 birds in 1972-1975 and even though there have been some scattered records, it was not found in 1990 or in 2004 (Holyoak and Thibault 1984, Seitre and Seitre 1991, Ziembicki and Raust 2004). Thus it is probable that it is no longer present on these two islands.

Twenty nine individuals were (re-)introduced to Fatu Hiva in the 1990s (Kuehler and Lieberman 1993), and by 1997 the population had increased with 51 birds being counted on the island (Kuehler et al. 1997). However, rats became established there and by 2007 the species was considered extinct on Fatu Hiva (Ziembicki and Raust 2004, P. Raust in litt. 2007). The only island where it still is found is Ua Huka where it was (re-)introduced in the 1940s. The population was considered to be c.200-250 pairs in the early 1970s, which potentially increased to c.1,300 individuals in 1991 (Holyoak and Thibault 1984, Thibault 1988, Kuehler et al. 1997), 1,763-2,987 individuals in 2004 (Ziembicki and Raust 2004) and 2,094 individuals in 2009 (T. Doukas in litt. 2010). However, the last surveys may have overestimated the number of individuals as the species is much less common in the uninhabited part of the island (Blanvillain et al. 2012).

Probably the major threat to this species is the Black Rat, Rattus rattus, which was the likely cause of its extinction on the several islands where it no longer occurs, and it has been suggested that if they colonise Ua Huka, the lorikeet could decline almost to extinction within 20 years (Ziembicki and Raust 2004). This is not the sole threat to the species though, as other introduced and invasive species have established on Ua Huka, including exotic bird species that may transmit diseases, the yellow crazy ant and the Singapore ant, and feral cats (C. Blanvillain in litt. 2016). The species’s habitat may also be under threat as grazing and fire have led to the loss of dry forest throughout the current and former range of this species (WWF/IUCN 1994-1995), while sections of habitat have also been cleared for agriculture, as well as to make wood carvings for tourism (Doukas et al. in litt. 2010). Therefore, given these threats it is precautionarily assessed that the species is undergoing a slow ongoing decline.

It is currently listed as Endangered under criteria B1ab(i,ii,iii,iv,v); C2a(ii) because it is restricted to only one island, with a small population which was precautionarily assessed to be declining (see BirdLife International 2017). The recent French Regional Red List assessment (UICN France 2015), which included an assessment of the birds of French Polynesia, listed this species as Critically Endangered under criterion B1ab(iii), and following a review of Extent of Occurrence (EOO) data it has been noticed that this species does actually meet the threshold for Critically Endangered under criterion B1.

The currently used EOO is listed as 100km2, but this arose from the EOO value being rounded up from 99km2. The threshold value to be considered for potential listing as Critically Endangered under criterion B1 is <100km2, therefore this rounding moved the range size over this threshold value, and the original value of 99km2 should be used. However, this is not the sole condition for a species to be listed as CR under criterion B1. Two of the following conditions must also be met to qualify as Critically Endangered: a) the species must be found at only one location* or its range must be severely fragmented; b) the species must be undergoing a continuous decline in (i) extent of occurrence; (ii) area of occupancy; (iii) area, extent and/or quality of habitat; (iv) number of locations or subpopulations; (v) number of mature individuals; and c) it experiences extreme fluctuations in (i) extent of occurrence; (ii) area of occupancy; (iii) number of locations or subpopulations; (iv) number of mature individuals. The species is not known to undergo extreme fluctuations so condition c) can be discarded, but being found on only one very small island, where the most severe threat comes from invasives, the species does meet condition a). Also, given the species has recently undergone extinctions on several islands, it could be said to meet condition b) under (i), (ii), (iv) and (v), although if these are deemed to have taken place too long ago for inclusion it would still meet condition b) under (iii) and (v) owing to the likely ongoing threats to the extent and quality of habitat, which are likely causing a decline in the population. The extinctions on other islands are tentatively retained in this assessment because the potential date of extinction for at least Fatu Hiva falls within 3 generations (15 years) into the past, and so it is proposed that this species be listed as Critically Endangered under criterion B1ab(i,ii,iii,iv,v).

We welcome any comments regarding this proposed uplisting.


*Note that the term ‘location’ defines a geographically or ecologically distinct area in which a single threatening event can rapidly affect all individuals of the taxon present. The size of the location depends on the area covered by the threatening event and may include part of one or many subpopulations. Where a taxon is affected by more than one threatening event, location should be defined by considering the most serious plausible threat (IUCN 2001, 2012).



BirdLife International. 2017. Species factsheet: Vini ultramarina. Downloaded from on 23/03/2017.

Blanvillain, C. ; Sulpice, H. ; Saulnier, D ; Sulpice, G. 2012. Rapport sur la deuxième mission de Biosécurisation de Ua Huka (2-9 novembre 2012). Rapport SOP-MANU, Tahiti.

Holyoak, D. T.; Thibault, J.-C. 1984. Contribution à l’étude des oiseaux de Polynésie orientale. Memoires du Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle – Serie A: Zoologie 127: 1-209.

IUCN. 2001. IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria: Version 3.1. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: IUCN Species Survival Commission.

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

Kuehler, C.; Lieberman, A. 1993. Ultramarine Lory update. Re-introduction News: 12.

Kuehler, C.; Lieberman, A.; Varney, A.; Unitt, P.; Sulpice, R. M.; Azua, J.; Tehevini, B. 1997. Translocation of Ultramarine Lories Vini ultramarina in the Marquesas Islands: Ua Huka and Fatu Hiva. Bird Conservation International 7: 69-80.

Seitre, R.; Seitre, J. 1991. Causes de disparition des oiseaux terrestres de Polynésie Française. South Pacific Regional Environment Programme, Nouméa.

Thibault, J.-C. 1988. Menaces et conservation des oiseaux de Polynésie Française. In: Thibault, J.-C.; Guyot, I. (ed.), Livre rouge des oiseaux menacés des régions françaises d’outre-mer, pp. 87-124. Conseil International pour la Protection des Oiseaux, Saint-Cloud.

UICN France; MNHN; SOP Manu. 2015. La Liste rouge des espèces menacées en France – Chapitre Oiseaux de Polynésie française. Paris, France.

WWF/IUCN. 1994-1995. Centres of plant diversity: a guide and strategy for their conservation. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Cambridge, U.K.

Ziembicki, M.; Raust, P. 2004. Conservation of the Ultramarine Lory in the Marquesas Islands. PsittaScene 16: 11-14.

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7 Responses to Archived 2017 topics: Ultramarine Lorikeet (Vini ultramarina): uplist to Critically Endangered?

  1. Ghestemme Thomas says:

    With a lack of correct estimate of numbers, and their evolution in the last 8 years, it appears to me difficult to propose an uplisting to CR.

  2. Philippe Raust says:

    As long as black rats are not found on Ua Huka the situation is under control, and population certainly stable. Biosecurity measures are implemented at the disembarking points of Ua Huka.
    On the other hand Vini ultramarina is a single island species that went quickly extinct on other islands as soon as black rats invaded them (Ua Pou, Fatu Hiva). A project to improve the size of the wharf in one village may increase the risk of introduction of rats.
    Eradication projects on other islands (Eiao, Motane) may offer opportunities for réintroductions in the future.
    Vini ultramarina has been classified as CR by IUCN at the national level in 2016 and as this species is endemic to French Polynesia we should follow this decision and I agree ulisting to critically endangered.

  3. caroline Blanvillain says:

    one of the other reason why it was uplisted to critically endangered during the national evaluation is that the Ultramarine loorikeet has disapeared from 5 previous locations (Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa, Tahuata – 1915, Ua Pou – 1980, Fatu Hiva 2002) and this impressive range restriction was never taken in consideration to classify the species as critically endangered. so when did we have to start ? when game is over ?
    I have personally worked on Ua Huka twice a year since 2012 and I’m convinced that somethis is going on in the island that decrease its numbers, even if the island is free from black rat : some valleys are full of creasy ants (reaching the level of blindness for young pig and goats); the cats are proliferating there (with the consequence we recently discovered on Fatu Hiva monarch). Habitat quality is decreasing (a lot of pandanus has been burn in Vaikivi valley for crops and many understory vegetations are destroyed by beef/horses/goats, many of them free ranging all over the island) – this and the probable over-estimation of the present population let me think that this population is at risk.
    I’m also favorable to upgrade the species to the critical statut

  4. 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.

  5. Tammy Doukas says:

    A survey of the population was done in 2010 and found to be stable in regard to the survey of 2004. This data was reported and in the process of publication including historical surveys. This will enable future surveyors to use the previous tracks for comparison, to better estimate stability, growth, or decline. In spite of the 2010 reported stability, I support the uplisting to critically endangered, due to the sensitivity of this bird’s status on one small island, and the historical experience of island extinction with the simple introduction of the black rat.

  6. Tammy Doukas says:

    The 2010 survey took into account the Vini population in different habitats of the island, so the 2010 should be accurate, not overestimated. In other words, the 2010 survey included tracks in northern regions of the island that are predominantly scrub and desert.

    Manu has access to the 2010 raw data and summary report. However, we have decided to publish detailed information regarding the last surveys (2004 and 2010) so that the tracks can be replicated in future surveys for accurate population comparisons.

  7. Hannah Wheatley (BirdLife) says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

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

    Vini ultramarina is now recommended to be listed as CR B1ab(iii).

    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.

Comments are closed.