Rynchops albicollis 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Charadriiformes Laridae

Scientific Name: Rynchops albicollis Swainson, 1838
Common Name(s):
English Indian Skimmer
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. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.
Identification information: 40-43 cm. Typical skimmer. Black above. White forehead and collar and white below. Long, thick, deep orange bill with yellow tip and longer lower mandible. In flight, white trailing-edge to wing and short forked tail with blackish central feathers. Non-breeders are duller and browner above. Juvenile has dusky orange bill with blackish tip, paler, brownish-grey crown and nape with dark mottling and paler, more brownish-grey mantle, and whitish to pale buff fringing scapulars and wing-coverts. Voice Nasal kap or kip notes, particularly in flight and when disturbed.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2cde+3cde+4cde ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Htin Hla, T., Ukil, P., Praveen, J., Rajguru, S. & Das, D.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Gilroy, J., Pilgrim, J., Taylor, J., Westrip, J.
This species is listed as Vulnerable because its population is undergoing a rapid decline as a result of widespread degradation and disturbance of lowland rivers and lakes.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Rynchops albicollis is confined to Pakistan and India, north of c.16°N, Bangladesh, where a large proportion of the population winters, principally in the Padma-Meghna delta, and Myanmar. It is a rare visitor to Nepal. It was formerly widely distributed across the Indian Subcontinent, along the major rivers of Myanmar and along the Mekong in Indo-China. It was common in the 19th century in Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, but there are very few recent records from Myanmar (Sundar 2004) and none from Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam. It has declined in India and Pakistan, although a new breeding site was discovered in Odisha, India, in 2016 (P. M. Ukil and S. S. Rajguru in litt. 2016). Its population is estimated at 6,000-10,000 mature individual; however, recent winter surveys in Bangladesh only located a maximum of 600 individuals around Domar Char, though further research will be needed to identify whether this is a result of a shifting distribution or a large decline in the over-wintering population there (Mohsanin 2014).

Countries occurrence:
Bangladesh; India; Myanmar; Nepal; Pakistan; Viet Nam
Possibly extinct:
Regionally extinct:
China; Lao People's Democratic Republic
Iran, Islamic Republic of; Oman; Thailand
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:5030000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):YesExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:11-100Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The population was estimated to number 10,000 individuals by Perennou et al. (1994), but BirdLife International (2001) considered that it may well have fallen below this level given the evidence of declines throughout its range. The Asian Waterbird Census recorded 5,542 in 2001 (Li and Mundkur 2004). S. Balachandran (in litt. 2005) estimated the Indian population to be 2,500 individuals. Its total poulation is estimated at 6,000-10,000 individuals, roughly equating to 4,000-6,700 mature individuals; however, recent winter surveys in Bangladesh only located max. 600 individuals around Domar Char, though further research will be needed to identify whether this is a result of a shifting distribution or a large decline in the over-wintering population there (Mohsanin 2014).

Trend Justification:  Rapid population declines are suspected to be occurring in line with the widespread degradation of riverine and wetland habitats throughout the species's range. Recent winter surveys in Bangladesh only located max. 600 individuals around Domar Char (Mohsanin 2014). Further research will be needed to identify whether this is a result of a shifting distribution or a large decline in the over-wintering population there (Mohsanin 2014).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:4000-6700Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:2-100Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation:1-89

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It occurs primarily on larger, sandy, lowland rivers, around lakes and adjacent marshes and, in the non-breeding season, estuaries and coasts. It breeds colonially on large, exposed sand-bars and islands.

Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):11.5
Movement patterns:Full Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Its decline is attributable to widespread increases in human disturbance, exploitation and degradation of rivers and lakes through fishing, transportation, domestic use, irrigation schemes and pollution from agricultural and industrial chemicals. An emerging threat for breeding colonies is from sand mining (Das 2015). These factors have reduced reproductive and foraging success. The population stronghold at National Chambal Sanctuary, Utter Pradesh (India) has been badly affected by the damming of the Chambal River in upstream Rajastan, resulting in dropping water levels and allowing predators and livestock to access breeding islands (Sundar 2004). Water release from dams and seasonal floods can destroy breeding colonies. Encroachment of vegetation, especially the invasive water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes, is an increasing problem at lakes and reservoirs. House Crows Corvus splendens, which have been witnessed to decimate at least one breeding colony, are attracted to human settlements, cultivation and areas of food waste and animal carcass disposal, activities that also encourage the presence of stray and domestic dogs (Siddiqui et al. 2007). The main threats for the newly discovered breeding site in Odisha appears to be rising water-levels, cattle-grazing and the impacts of local fishing boats (P. M. Ukil in litt. 2016).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
It occurs in National Chambal Sanctuary, India. Narora, in Uttar Pradesh, has been declared a Ramsar site (Siddiqui et al. 2007). The newly discovered breeding site in Odisha has received protection from the Forest Department (Praveen J. in litt. 2016). Active management has reduced key threats at some wetland sites.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Cambodia to clarify its current distribution and status. Organise a population census in India and Pakistan during the breeding season. Conduct detailed research into seasonal movements of non-resident populations. Campaign for strict protection of the National Chambal Sanctuary. Maintain appropriate water levels around breeding sites during the breeding season (P. M. Ukil in litt. 2016). Promote active management of static wetlands used as feeding areas. Promote strict control of pesticide use near important sites. Research and mitigate threats at important breeding colonies. Campaign for increased representation of large waterways in protected-area systems. Carry out awareness-raising activities (Siddiqui et al. 2007), perhaps targeting certain stretches of river. Consider persuading some farmers to abandon islands along certain stretches of river (Siddiqui et al. 2007). In some areas, use physical barriers and people to prevent access to river islands by other people and unwanted animals (Siddiqui et al. 2007, P. M. Ukil in litt. 2016).

Amended [top]

Amended reason: Edited Geographic Range, Conservation Actions, Population Justification, Trend Justification and Threats Information text. There were subsequent alterations to Important Conservation Actions Needed, and the stresses for one threat. Added new references, new Contributors and new Facilitator/Compiler.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2017. Rynchops albicollis (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22694268A110600990. . Downloaded on 16 August 2018.
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