Arborophila rufipectus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Arborophila rufipectus
Species Authority: Boulton, 1932
Common Name(s):
English Sichuan Partridge

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered C2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Bo, D., Dowell, S. & He, F.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Keane, A., Pilgrim, J., Taylor, J. & Khwaja, N.
This species is listed as Endangered because its population is very small and severely fragmented, and is undergoing a continuing decline because of on-going hunting and habitat loss, although the latter is at lower levels than previously.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Arborophila rufipectus is endemic to China, where it is known from south-central Sichuan, with probable records from north-east Yunnan (BirdLife International 2001). Surveys in 1996 and 1997 estimated densities of 0.48 and 0.24 calling males per km2, respectively. The total area of suitable habitat within its known range was then estimated at 1,793 km2, and on the basis of densities recorded, and the assumption that each calling male represents one pair, the total population was estimated at 860-1,722 birds. However, it has since been recorded at several new sites and more recent surveys in Laojunshan Nature Reserve recorded densities of 3.64-4.84 individuals per km2, suggesting the presence there of over 100 pairs (Dai Bo et al. 2009), so this population estimate is likely to be too low (S. Dowell in litt. 2007), although population densities across its range appear to be highly variable.

Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Surveys in 1996 and 1997 estimated densities of 0.48 and 0.24 calling males per km2, respectively. The total area of suitable habitat within its known range was then estimated at 1,793 km2, and on the basis of densities recorded, and the assumption that each calling male represents one pair, the total population was estimated at 860-1,722 birds. However, it was recorded at several new sites between 1998 and 2002 and more recent surveys at Laojunshan Nature Reserve at the eastern edge of its range recorded densities of 4.24 ±1.77; 0.6 calling males per km2. Although reliable, this is the highest density recorded for this species and it is known to occur at much lower densities further west, so it is probable that Laojunshan represents optimal habitat within the bird's preferred altitudinal range (about 1000 to 2000 m). Nevertheless, the 1996/7 population estimate is likely to be too low, hence it is best placed in the band 1,000-2,499 mature individuals. This equates to 1,500-3,749 individuals in total, rounded here to 1,500-4,000 individuals.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It is found in temperate broadleaved cloud forest, mainly mixed evergreen and deciduous, at 1,100-2,250 m, perhaps mostly at 1,400-1,800 m (Liao et al. 2008b). Radio telemetry studies have shown that, when foraging, it favours undisturbed, closed-canopy forest with sparse bamboo growth and a thick layer of damp leaf-litter (Liao et al. 2008a, 2008b, Dai Bo et al. 2009, S. Dowell in litt. 2007) and probably also an open forest floor (Dai Bo et al. 2009, S. Dowell in litt. 2007) contra Liao et al. (2008b), although it seems to prefer areas of dense shrub cover for roosting (Liao et al. 2008a). Although it prefers shallow slopes, most of the remaining areas of forest within its range are on steep slopes. It occurs in secondary forest at similar densities, but usually within 1 km of primary forest (S. Dowell in litt. 2007). Birds show a preference for primary and mature planted broadleaved forest over degraded forest and scrub (Dai Bo et al. 2009). Research has also shown that it occurs in broadleaved plantations after about 15 years of growth provided that native broadleaved species are used in the replanting (S. Dowell in litt. 2007, Dai Bo et al. 2009).

Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Until recently the main threat was habitat destruction through commercial clear-felling of primary forest, as most remaining primary broadleaved forest within its known range was at risk from logging within 20-25 years. In 1998, a government-imposed ban on logging in the upper Yangtze Basin led to a complete halt in deforestation throughout its range (S. Dowell in litt. 2007, Liao et al. 2008a, 2008b, Dai Bo et al. 2009). There is now a major forest plantation scheme in operation aiming to re-forest ridges and steeper slopes (S. Dowell in litt. 2007). In general though, habitat is still declining (S. Dowell in litt. 2012). In some areas, forest is still being cleared for agriculture or illegally logged, although this is on a small scale. Many people enter the forest to collect bamboo shoots, firewood and medicinal plants in spring and early autumn, which creates substantial disturbance during the breeding season, and additional disturbance is caused by livestock either grazing in, or moving through, the forest. It is also illegally hunted. Hydroelectric schemes and the resulting reservoirs in the valleys below its mountain forest habitat cause indirect future threats as the people they displace will be moved to higher locations in close proximity to the remaining forest, putting it under increased pressure (S. Dowell in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
It is a nationally-protected species in China. In 1998, it was recorded in Mabian Dafengding Nature Reserve, where there was estimated to be 192 km2 of potentially suitable habitat. Several recent surveys and a radio telemetry study have greatly improved knowledge of its distribution, population density, and ecological and conservation requirements (S. Dowell in litt. 2007, Liao et al. 2008a, 2008b, Dai Bo et al. 2009). Some forestry practices may be of benefit to its conservation, notably leaving strips of primary forest along ridge tops and replanting with native broadleaved trees. In 2001, Laojunshan Nature Reserve (35 km2) in Pingshan County was established specifically to protect Sichuan Partridge and this reserve now contains the highest known population densities of this species. The site was gazetted as a national nature reserve in 2011 (S. Dowell in litt. 2012). Two further reserves were subsequently established within the range of the partridge, at Mamize (380 km2) in Leibo County in 2002 and at Heizhugou (over 300 km2) in E'bian County (S. Dowell in litt. 2007, Dai Bo et al. 2009) in 2004. Both these reserves contain substantial areas of suitable broadleaved forest and Sichuan Partridge has been recorded in both, although at much lower densities than at Laojunshan. All three reserves have received support to train and equip staff and engage with the local community to provide alternative livelihoods and encourage sustainable forest resource management practices, and annual monitoring is undertaken at each. This support has been provided by the Sichuan Forest Biodiversity Project which is a collaboration between the Sichuan Forest Department, and Chester Zoo (who provide funding) and Liverpool John Moores University in the U.K.  As part of the project, a further reserve is being supported at Ma'anshan, which is contiguous with Heizhugou. Environmental education has greatly improved local awareness of the species throughout this region (S. Dowell in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Expand protected area network by extending Laojunshan and Mabian Dafending, proposing and establishing new reserves, connecting reserves using habitat corridors and assisting existing reserves to attain national nature reserve status. Incorporate knowledge of the habitat requirements of roosting birds into management practices (Liao et al. 2008a). Create habitat corridors by planting fast-growing native broadleaved tree species. Enhance management capacity at protected areas, including removing fast-growing alien tree species where possible and policing the collection of bamboo shoots (Dowell 2011). Enforce tighter controls on hunting (Dai Bo et al. 2009). Develop sustainable wood-cutting, bamboo and medicinal plant collection and alternative livelihoods to provide economic benefits for local people. Encourage controlled ecotourism in selected areas in line with tourism plan for region. Monitor populations to establish the population size and density in all reserves, and to determine the effects of management. Conduct education programmes for local schools about forests and wildlife using Sichuan Partridge as an ambassador. Develop a range-wide management plan to guide conservation actions in the future. Revise the species's population size estimate.

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Arborophila rufipectus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <>. Downloaded on 21 September 2014.
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