|Scientific Name:||Icterus oberi|
|Species Authority:||Lawrence, 1880|
|Red List Category & Criteria:||Critically Endangered B1ab(i,ii,iii,iv,v) ver 3.1|
|Reviewer/s:||Butchart, S. & Symes, A.|
|Contributor/s:||Atkinson, P. & Hilton, G.|
This species has always had an extremely small range, but recent volcanic eruptions have caused an extremely rapid population decline and extirpated it from all but two disjunct areas. Deposits of volcanic ash have seriously damaged the habitat of the remaining population, and further deposits or an increased frequency of hurricanes could have devastating effects. The future of this species in the wild is extremely uncertain, and it consequently qualifies as Critically Endangered.
|Range Description:||This species inhabits an extremely small area on Montserrat (to UK) in the Lesser Antilles. By the early 1990s, it occurred throughout the three main forested hill ranges on the island (the Centre, Soufrière and South Soufrière hills), but volcanic activity in 1995-1997 entirely destroyed two-thirds of remaining habitat (G. Hilton in litt. 2000, 2003). Initially, only the Centre Hills (c.14 km2) population was thought to have survived the pyroclastic flows (although even this area was heavily ashed) (P. Atkinson in litt. 1998, 1999, Arendt et al. 1999), but a remnant population was later discovered in a 1-2 km2 forest patch in the South Soufrière hills, just 1 km from the summit of the volcano (Bowden et al. 2001, Cotinga 17 2002: 7). In December 1997, the estimated population was c.4,000 birds (Arendt et al. 1999), but intensive monitoring between 1997-2003 indicated that the Centre Hills population declined by 40-50%, despite reduced volcanic activity (G. Hilton in litt. 2000, 2003, Hilton et al. 2003). In 2001, 2003 and 2006, further major volcanic eruptions caused heavy ash falls on large areas of the Centre Hills, destroying several nests and curtailing breeding (G. Hilton in litt. 2000, 2003, Cotinga 17 2002: 7, Anon 2006). Recent evidence suggests that the downward fluctuation noted between 1997-2003 may have been reversed and the population is recovering. In 2005 (post-recovery), using point-counts calibrated by territory mapping and the Extent of Occurrence defined by positive census records the population was estimated at 930-3,000 individuals in the Centre Hills (depending on method of extrapolation) and 150-300 individuals in the South Soufrière population (Bierley et al. in prep.). Confidence limits remain relatively wide, and the total population could conceivably be as low as 260 pairs or as high as 1,190 pairs (Bierley et al. in prep.).|
|Range Map:||Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.|
|Population:||Bealey et al. (in prep.) estimate a total population within the range 460-590 pairs (260-1,190 95% CI) or 920-1,180 mature individuals, though based on 2004 survey data Hilton (2008) had previously estimated 5,200 individuals.|
|Habitat and Ecology:||It occurs in most forest types between c.150-900 m, but reaches highest densities in wetter, higher altitude forests, and is absent from areas of very dry forest (Jaramillo and Burke 1999, G. Hilton in litt. 2000, 2003). It is found in all successional stages, and sometimes at the edges of cultivated areas and banana plantations but appears to be an obligate forest species (G. Hilton in litt. 2000, 2003). Nesting occurs in March-August, but the exact timing probably depends on the rainy season (P. Atkinson in litt. 1998, 1999, Jaramillo and Burke 1999). Nests are mainly suspended from the leaves of Heliconia caribbaea, although banana and other broad-leaved trees are also used (G. Hilton in litt. 2000, 2003). Its clutch-size is typically two or three. Unsuccessful pairs may attempt up to five clutches; successful pairs can very rarely rear three broods per year (G. Hilton in litt. 2000, 2003). It forages at all levels, but particularly in the understorey, feeding mainly on insects, but occasionally also on fruit and possibly nectar (G. Hilton in litt. 2000, 2003).|
|Major Threat(s):||Volcanic eruptions in 1995-1997 all but extirpated the species from the Soufrière and South Soufrière hills. Although volcanic activity was reduced in 1998-2000, the population continued to decline (G. Hilton in litt. 2000, 2003, Hilton et al. 2003). Potential causes are low insect availability (Marske et al. 2007) and/or chronic ill-health of birds resulting from ash fall on remaining forest, and other unknown and indirect knock-on effects of volcanic activity (G. Hilton in litt. 2000, 2003). Research into reproductive success, using nest cameras, has also revealed high rates of nest predation by rats and native Pearly-eyed Thrashers Margarops fuscatus, both of which occur at high but fluctuating densities (G. Hilton in litt. 2000, 2003, Bowden et al. 2001, Cotinga 17 2002: 7). In 2001 and 2003, drought appeared to cause reduced laying frequency and clutch-size, and this may be an increasing problem now that that species is confined to lower, drier areas (G. Hilton in litt. 2000, 2003). Conversely, excessive rainfall can also have a negative impact. A feral pig population is spreading fast and could cause serious damage to the forest habitat if not eradicated. Having a montane distribution that is close to the maximum altitude within its range, this species is also potentially susceptible to climate change (BirdLife International unpublished data). Despite being previously proposed as a threat, there is no nest parasitism by Shiny Cowbird because this species does not currently occur on Montserrat (P. Atkinson in litt. 1998, 1999), contra (Raffaele et al. 1998).|
Conservation Actions Underway
Continue the existing programme and research into the causes of the decline. Develop potential management interventions to boost reproductive success (G. Hilton in litt. 2000, 2003). Continue the close monitoring of the population (G. Hilton in litt. 2000, 2003). Investigate the reasons for the high densities of nest predators in the Centre Hills (G. Hilton in litt. 2000, 2003).
|Citation:||BirdLife International 2012. Icterus oberi. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 24 May 2013.|
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