Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Mesitornithiformes Mesitornithidae

Scientific Name: Mesitornis unicolor
Species Authority: (Des Murs, 1845)
Common Name(s):
English Brown Mesite, Brown Roatelo
French Mésite unicolore
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.
Identification information: 30 cm. Slim, low-slung, terrestrial bird with small head. Dark brown on back, with paler, greyish head, variable white streak behind eye, and paler, pinkish underparts. Rather slim and short, greyish bill. Similar spp. Told from Madagascar Wood-rail Canirallus kioloides by long full tail, less pure grey on head, slim bill, and very horizontal posture. From White-breasted Mesite M. variegata by lack of conspicuous head pattern and even, mid-rufous brown underparts. Voice Song, rather rarely given, is a loud rolling chooi-whoop-chooi-whoop chooi-whoop. Hints Walks slowly around, looking for invertebrates in the leaf-litter by flicking over leaves with its bill.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2cde+3cde+4cde;C2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Taylor, J. & Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Hawkins, F.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J.
This species is listed as Vulnerable because its habitat is becoming increasingly fragmented, its extent of occurrence and the area and quality of suitable habitat are decreasing, and thus its small population is suspected to be declining rapidly.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2008 Vulnerable (VU)
2004 Vulnerable (VU)
2000 Vulnerable (VU)
1996 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Vulnerable (VU)
1988 Threatened (T)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Mesitornis unicolor has a patchy distribution in the eastern rainforest of Madagascar (Morris and Hawkins 1998), known for certain from as far north as Marojejy and the Masoala peninsula and extending almost as far south as Taolañaro (Fort Dauphin). It is thinly distributed and never common, although its status is difficult to ascertain as it is secretive and rarely seen.

Countries occurrence:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 37300
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Number of Locations: 11-100
Continuing decline in number of locations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Upper elevation limit (metres): 1200
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend Justification:  The population is suspected to be rapidly declining, in line with the clearance and degradation of rainforest for subsistence agriculture and timber extraction, as well as mortality from hunting and introduced predators.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 2500-9999 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: Yes
No. of subpopulations: 2-100 Continuing decline in subpopulations: No
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: No
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation: 1-89

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This is a ground-dwelling species of undisturbed primary, evergreen, humid forest (Langrand 1990; Morris and Hawkins 1998). It occurs from sea-level to 1,200 m but is most frequently encountered below 800 m. It seems to prefer steep slopes and dark areas with much leaf-litter and little herbaceous growth (Langrand 1990; Morris and Hawkins 1998). It forages on the forest floor for seeds and small insects, often in family groups of two to three (Langrand 1990), also gleaning from leaves and stems at ground-level (Evans et al. 1992). The nest is built 1-1.5 m from the ground and clutch-size is one.

Systems: Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Yes
Generation Length (years): 4.2
Movement patterns: Altitudinal Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Rainforest is under pressure from slash-and-burn cultivation by subsistence farmers, with commercial timber exploitation and hunting in some areas (Morris and Hawkins 1998; ZICOMA 1999). Near villages, dogs and rats Rattus may predate the species as it is a reluctant flier (Langrand 1990).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
The species is known from 14 Important Bird Areas in eastern Madagascar, including seven National Parks, one Strict Reserve, four Special Reserves and one Classified Forest (ZICOMA 1999).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor rainforest clearance and degradation. Assess threat posed by predatory non-native mammals. Conduct interviews to assess the level of mortality from hunting. Protect remaining tracts of rainforest on the east coast through community reserves and carbon trading.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2012. Mesitornis unicolor. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22692966A37878571. . Downloaded on 07 October 2015.
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