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Poliocephalus rufopectus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA AVES PODICIPEDIFORMES PODICIPEDIDAE

Scientific Name: Poliocephalus rufopectus
Species Authority: Gray, 1843
Common Name(s):
English New Zealand Grebe, New Zealand Dabchick

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable 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): Bell, B., Owen, K., Robertson, H. & Taylor, G.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Mahood, S., McClellan, R., Pilgrim, J., Taylor, J.
Justification:
This species is considered Vulnerable because it has a very small and fragmented population, which is probably declining overall.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Poliocephalus rufopectus is endemic to New Zealand. The remaining population is restricted to North Island with a wide but fragmented distribution. Occasional vagrants have appeared in the north of South Island since the late 1980s. In 2012, a pair bred near Takaka, representing the first confirmed breeding record on South Island since 1941 (K. Owen in litt. 2012). The national population has been estimated to number 1,900-2,000 birds, including c.200 in Northland, c.700 in the Volcanic Plateau, c.400 in the Hawkes Bay, c.150 in Wairarapa and c.400 in Manawatu (Heather and Robertson 1997, Sachtleben in prep.). Numbers appear to be stable or increasing in some parts of its range (Marchant and Higgins 1990, Sachtleben in prep.), but the population is precautionarily suspected to be in decline overall, owing to continued threats. The reason for the rapid decline and extinction on South Island in the 19th century is not known.

Countries:
Native:
New Zealand
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The population has been estimated at c.1,900-2,000 birds (Heather and Robertson 1997, Sachtleben in prep.), thus the number of mature individuals is put at 1,200-1,400, based on the assumption that mature individuals account for around 2/3 of the total population.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It inhabits small bodies of freshwater such as sand-dune lakes and lagoons and larger inland lakes with shallow, sheltered inlets (Marchant and Higgins 1990, Heather and Robertson 1997). It also uses "artificial" habitats such as farm ponds and dams and oxidation ponds. It usually builds its nest on emergent vegetation at the water's edge, floating but attached to vegetation or overhanging branches; as such, it is easily broken up by wave motion or swamped (Marchant and Higgins 1990). It feeds predominantly on aquatic invertebrates, mostly insects and larvae, but sometimes fish and freshwater crayfish (Heather and Robertson 1997). Little is known about the species's life history or population dynamics.

Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Threats include the drying of dune lakes, destruction of nesting habitat, increasing vegetation, increased human activity on waterways, especially boat traffic, and predation by introduced rats Rattus spp. and mustelids Mustela spp., especially when nesting (Marchant and Higgins 1990, G. A. Taylor in litt. 1994). Nests are prone to boat wash caused by recreational boating, which occurs on many occupied lakes during the breeding season (K. Owen in litt. 2012). Low breeding success is achieved on large waters, possibly owing to fluctuating water-levels, wave action and disturbance by other species. Breeding success on dune lakes, farm dams and the sheltered arms of lakes appears to be higher (Marchant and Higgins 1990, K. Owen in litt. 2012), and increases in the number of water storage dams may be driving increases in this species's population in some areas (K. Owen in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
Infrequent, region-wide surveys have been undertaken to monitor some key population changes, e.g. the five-yearly census of the Rotorua lakes population (Sachtleben in prep.). Predator control operations since c.2002 have included the use of bait stations to control numbers of brown rats Rattus norvegicus around the shoreline of Lake Tarawera at the Tarawera settlement, which has led to a doubling of the local P. rufopectus population (Sachtleben in prep.).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Regularly monitor population changes throughout its range. Carry out research into the species's life history and population dynamics (K. Owen in litt. 2012). Quantify the effects of introduced predators on breeding success. Consider reintroductions to the South Island (B. D. Bell in litt. 1999).


Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Poliocephalus rufopectus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 20 August 2014.
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