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Atrichornis rufescens 

Scope: Global
Language: English
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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Passeriformes Atrichornithidae

Scientific Name: Atrichornis rufescens
Species Authority: (Ramsay, 1867)
Common Name(s):
English Rufous Scrub-bird, Rufous Scrubbird
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A., Fishpool, L.D.C., Boesman, P. and Kirwan, G.M. 2016. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: Passerines. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.
Identification information:

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B2ab(ii,iii,iv,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Andren, M., Baker, B., Ford, H., Garnett, S., Holmes, T., Watson, D., Woinarski, J., Stuart, A. & Newman, M.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Garnett, S., Mahood, S., McClellan, R., O'Brien, A., Symes, A., Taylor, J., North, A.
Justification:
This species has been uplisted to Endangered it has a very small, severely fragmented area of occupancy, and is experiencing habitat destruction and a continuing population decline. Inappropriate management continues to threaten the quality of its habitat and there are concerns that drying caused by increasingly erratic climate conditions may lead to its disappearance from much of its current range (e.g. recent research suggests it may suspend its breeding when winter rainfall is low).

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Atrichornis rufescens occurs in isolated populations in north-eastern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland, Australia. A. r. rufescens occurs in the Gibraltar Ranges, Border Ranges, the northern part of the McPherson Range and in parts of the Main Range, but formerly occurred in lowland habitats of the Rich­mond and Tweed River basins. A. r. ferrieri occurs on Barrington Tops, Hastings Range and in the Dorrigo/ Ebor area (Garnett et al. 2011). The species is mostly confined to areas above 600 m but an observation at 240 m has been documented (Boles and Tynan 1994). In the early 19th century, the population size may have been c.12,000 pairs, but surveys from 1979-1983 estimated it at c.2,500 pairs, A. r. rufescens numbering 730 pairs and A. r. ferrieri 1,720 pairs at a density of about 6 pairs/ km2 (Ferrier 1984, in Garnett et al. 2011). Declines are suspected in both sub­species (Ekert 2005, in Garnett et al. 2011). Some subpopulations of A. r. rufescens are thought to have disappeared within the last 2 decades, including those at Mt Warning and Spicers Gap, while declines in A. r. ferrieri are inferred because of a reduction in area occupied by calling males in New England National Park (Garnett and Crowley 2000) and the recent disappearance of birds below 1,100m in the Gloucester Tops (Newman et al. 2014). There is evidence of altitudinal retreat throughout its range (A. Stuart in litt. 2016).

Countries occurrence:
Native:
Australia
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:410Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:33600
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:NoLower elevation limit (metres):600
Upper elevation limit (metres):1300
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:In recent monitoring across accessible habitat supporting known populations throughout the range, less than 100 territories have been, and none in areas adjacent to known populations (M. Newman in litt. 2016). It is estimated that there may be a maximum of 2500 pairs or 5000 individuals, though this may be optimistic (M. Andren and M. Newman in litt. 2016). Core populations remain at similar territorial densities to base line levels found by Ferrier (1985, Newman et al. 2014). However, the species is no longer found at many locations where it was found by Ferrier 30 years earlier. Consequently there appears to be a relentless ongoing decline in the area of occupancy (M. Andren and M. Newman in litt. 2016).

Trend Justification:  In the early 19th century, the population size was probably c.12,000 pairs, but surveys from 1979-1983 estimated it at c.2,500 pairs, rufescens numbering 730 pairs (Garnett and Crowley 2000).  Declines are suspected in both sub­species (Ekert 2005, in Garnett et al. 2011). Some subpopulations of A. r. rufescens are thought to have disappeared recently, including those at Mt Warning and Spicers Gap, while declines in A. r. ferrieri are inferred because of a reduction in area occupied by calling males in New England National Park (Garnett and Crowley 2000).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:Yes
No. of subpopulations:6Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
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:The species requires dense, metre-high under-storey, a moist microclimate and very dense ground cover or leaf-litter, as found in rainforest and adjacent wet eucalypt forest above 600 m. The habitat used in rainforests is usually associated with canopy openings caused by natural tree-falls, selective logging, or watercourses. It forages on small invertebrates, including snails and insects, on the ground and over fallen logs, amongst leaf-litter and on other ground vegetation and debris, within the dense understorey (Higgins et al. 2001). No longer occurs in "lowland" rainforest.

Systems:Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):5
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Most of the bird’s lowland habitat was cleared in the 19th century, and, while clearance itself is not a continuing threat with almost all birds being in protected areas, the subdivision of a small population into even smaller fragments makes each subpopulation more susceptible to random events. The suitability of remaining eucalypt forest, although, estimated to support 65% of the present population, is potentially threatened by inappropriate burning and logging practices, but wild fires may be a more serious threat during dry periods. Declines in density may also occur naturally as vegeta­tion matures and ground cover provides less shelter, so some fire or other disturbance such as storms may be necessary to maintain suitable habitat. There has also been an unexplained retreat of the southern part of the population to higher altitudes, even from uncleared forest, and this may be related to drying caused by climate change; this appears to be continuing and occurring throughout the range. Breeding behaviour was shown to be affected by dry conditions in the breeding season (Newman et al. 2014). In the southern part of the range there has been increased clustering of territories over the last 30 years, suggesting that the habitat is less uniformly suitable. In the longer term, the viability of some small remaining subpopulations may be questionable.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions UnderwayNegotiations are ongoing with Forests New South Wales to improve the protection of Rufous Scrub-bird habitat during logging and burning events (M. Newman in litt. 2016).
The vast majority of remaining birds are within protected areas. Some monitoring has been initiated in four areas (Newman et al. 2014, Stuart et al. 2012).

Conservation Actions ProposedContinue existing surveys of core populations to monitor trends in territorial density with additional surveys to more accurately estimate population sizes. Increase negotiation with Forests New South Wales to improve the protection of Rufous Scrub-bird habitat during logging and burning operations. Liase with the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service and Queensland Department of National Parks to improve the protection of Rufous Scub-bird habitat (Newman in litt. 2016). Determine the effect of fire on territory occupation and determine the appropriate fire regime to maintain habitat suitability, including the timing and extent of recovery in habitat destroyed by wildfires. Develop and implement fire management plans for all subpopulations. Maintain the ban on logging in all known territories. Assess whether experimental habitat manipulation is justified. Identify fire refugia at local and landscape levels (Garnett et al. 2011).


Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Atrichornis rufescens. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22703608A93929693. . Downloaded on 08 December 2016.
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