|Scientific Name:||Ophrysia superciliosa|
|Species Authority:||(Gray, 1846)|
|Red List Category & Criteria:||Critically Endangered D ver 3.1|
|Reviewer/s:||Butchart, S. & Symes, A.|
|Contributor/s:||Baral, H., Ghate, M. & Kalsi, R.|
This species has not been recorded with certainty since 1876, despite a number of searches, and it may have been severely impacted by hunting and habitat degradation. However, it probably remains extant, because thorough surveys are still required, and the species may be difficult to detect (favouring dense grass and being reluctant to fly). In addition, there is a recent set of possible sightings around Naini Tal in 2003. Any remaining population is likely to be tiny, and for these reasons it is treated as Critically Endangered.
|Range Description:||Ophrysia superciliosa is known only from the western Himalayas in Uttaranchal, north-western India, where about a dozen specimens were collected near Mussooree and Naini Tal prior to 1877. Field observations during the mid-19th century suggest that it may have been relatively common, but it was certainly rare by the late 1800s, potentially indicating a population decline. The lack of confirmed records since then suggests that the species may now be extinct. However, there have been few well-organised searches, there were possible sightings near Suwakholi in 1984 (Negi 2006) and around Naini Tal in 2003, and a female was reported by a hunter in 2010 (H. S. Baral in litt. 2010). There is still reason to hope that a small population survives in remoter areas of the lower or middle Himalayan range, especially given the difficulty in detecting similar species.|
|Range Map:||Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.|
|Population:||The population is assumed to be tiny (fewer than 50 individuals and mature individuals) based on a paucity of specimens, and a failure of recent surveys searching for this species|
|Habitat and Ecology:||
It was recorded in long grass and scrub on steep hillsides, particularly south-facing slope crests, between 1,650 m and 2,400 m. Generally encountered in coveys of 6-12 birds, it was extremely elusive, never flying except when almost stepped on. It was unclear whether it is sedentary or a short-distance migrant. It was only recorded around Mussoorie and Naini Tal hill stations during the winter months, suggesting it may breed at higher altitudes. A recent possible sighting by a local man was made in a wheat field near riparian pine forest (Baral et al. in prep.).
|Major Threat(s):||The species was last seen 60 years before independence, indicating that hunting levels during the colonial period contributed significantly to its decline. Widespread land-use changes thereafter, particularly open cast mining for limestone and related disturbance, are other likely contributory factors to its decline. Its contact call was apparently heard frequently in November and appears to have aided hunters to locate them. It is also hypothesised that habitat changes at lower elevations during the post-Pleistocene glaciation might have pushed subpopulations to suboptimal higher elevations, causing local extinctions.|
Conservation Actions Underway
There have been a number of official and unofficial attempts to rediscover the species, covering some of the most suitable areas around Mussoorie and Naini Tal. However, none has yet been successful. In 2002 and 2010, surveys used posters, interviews with locals and habitat analyses to direct field searches, but failed to find definitive evidence of the species (Kalsi 2004, H. S. Baral in litt. 2010). Further surveys involving local communities are planned (M. M. Ghate in litt. 2010). Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct further surveys in areas supporting Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichi, which has similar habitat requirements. Conduct interviews with local hunters, involving the state Forest Department, about possible locations for the species. Based on these interviews, continue a comprehensive series of field surveys, including in the vicinity of old sites (Budraj, Benog, Jharipani and Sher-ka-danda), over several seasons and following up recent local reports near Naini Tal. Provide posters and cash incentives to local people to stimulate search for the species (Baral et al. in prep.).
|Citation:||BirdLife International 2012. Ophrysia superciliosa. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 25 May 2013.|
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