Pomarea whitneyi 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Passeriformes Monarchidae

Scientific Name: Pomarea whitneyi
Species Authority: Murphy & Mathews, 1928
Common Name(s):
English Fatuhiva Monarch, Fatu Hiva Flycatcher
French Monarque de Faut Hiva, 'Oma'o Ke'eke'e
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: 19 cm. Large flycatcher with plush-like feathers on forehead. Adult glossy purplish-black. Immature dull brown above, redder on wings, buffy-white below with rufous tinges to face, neck, and sides of breast. Voice Typical call described as cri-ri-a-rik, similar to the shrill meow of a cat whose tail has been stepped on. Alarm call is a nervous ki ki ki.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A2be+4be;B1ab(ii,v);C2a(i,ii);D ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Ghestemme, T., Gouni, A. & Raust, P.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Bird, J., Calvert, R., Derhé, M., O'Brien, A., Shutes, S., Stattersfield, A., Symes, A., Khwaja, N. & Wright, L
This species is endemic to one tiny island where, despite its very small population, it was considered secure. However, since the first observation of black rats in 2000 it has declined extremely rapidly and the current population is now estimated to be extremely low. It hence qualifies as Critically Endangered.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Pomarea whitneyi is endemic to Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia. In 1975, the population was estimated at several hundred pairs and, in 1990, it was still common (Holyoak and Thibault 1984, Seitre and Seitre 1991). In 2000 the total population was estimated at 400-1,000 individuals (Thibault and Meyer 2001, Gouni 2006). Unlike in 1975, no birds were observed in the groves of mango on the slopes and ridges up the Omoa Valley, and the lack of adults with immatures indicated low breeding success (Thibault and Meyer 2001). Repeat visits in 2003 and 2006 only found the species using three from eight potentially suitable valleys above Omoa, and just one from seven near Hanavave. Furthermore, the encounter rate during surveys declined from 0.35 individuals per point count in 2003 to 0.23 individuals in 2006, a decline of 35% in the number of monarchs detected during that period (Gouni 2006). These catastrophic declines have continued, with a five-month survey in 2009 finding only 0.11 individuals per point count (T. Ghestemme in litt. 2010), and totals of 13 territories and 41 birds found. The total population in 2009 was estimated to be as low as 67 individuals (Le Barh 2009, T. Ghestemme in litt. 2010). In 2011, an estimated 65% of the birds were restricted to a region of 2 km² in the Omoa Valley (Ghestemme et al. 2011).

Countries occurrence:
French Polynesia (Marquesas)
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:100
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:1Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:NoLower elevation limit (metres):50
Upper elevation limit (metres):775
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The population was estimated to number 67 individuals in 2009 (T. Ghestemme in litt. 2010). Based on a 30% decline in territories since this estimate, it is now thought to number c. 50 birds, roughly equivalent to 33 mature individuals (T. Ghestemme in litt. 2012).

Trend Justification:  In February 2000 the total population was estimated at a few hundred pairs (Thibault and Meyer 2001, Gouni 2006), but by 2011 the total population was estimated to have fallen to as low as 50 individuals (Anon. 2010, T. Ghestemme in litt. 2010, 2012). Since the first observation of Black Rats (Rattus rattus) on Fatu Hiva in 2000 there has been an extremely rapid population decline equating to over 90% over 21 years (three generations). Recent predator control has though reduced the rate of territory loss from 60% in 2007-2009, to 30% in 2009-2011 (Ghestemme 2012).

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:33Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:1Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:Yes
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation:100

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It occurs in dense, native forest from 50 m to 700 m, with some non-breeding birds found up to 775 m on a crest below the highest summit on Mt Touaouoho in native wet forest (Thibault and Meyer 2001). It feeds on insects (e.g. Coleoptera), spiders and seeds (Holyoak and Thibault 1984). Nests are placed in a thin tree fork (Anon. 2010).

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:No
Generation Length (years):6.9
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Fatu Hiva is a relatively well preserved, well forested island (with no overgrazing or destruction of vegetation by fire). Black Rat (Rattus rattus) was observed for the first time on the island in February 2000 (Thibault and Meyer 2000). Identified as a serious threat as its presence is strongly correlated with the decline and extinction of monarch populations (Thibault et al. 2002), rats already appear to have caused an extremely rapid population decline and represent the principal threat (Gouni 2006). Their density remains very high (T. Ghestemme in litt. 2012). Successful recent breeding has only very rarely been noted except in areas cleared of rats; elsewhere the lack of juveniles indicates a rapidly ageing population, with at least 4 of the 10 protected pairs confirmed as sterile in 2011 (Anon. 2010, Ghestemme et al. 2011). Feral cats also appear to be a significant threat to the species as two adults were sighted without tails, typically a sign of a cat predation attempt. Cats are apparently released in agricultural areas near to where the monarch is found (T. Ghestemme in litt. 2010), and have been found in every part of the island (T. Ghestemme in litt. 2012). They are presumably capable of impacting the monarch even in areas where rats have been cleared (Anon. 2010). Bush fires during the dry season, forest clearance and the establishment of non-regulated agricultural tracks in the species's habitat are also increasing threats (Raust 2010, T. Ghestemme in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation and Research Actions Underway
The population has been regularly checked since the 1970s (Holyoak and Thibault 1984, Thibault and Meyer 2001). Conservation efforts have increased owing to the recent rapid decline in the population. Rat control has been on-going at accessible territories since 2008. It focuses on the Omoa Valley (T. Ghestemme in litt. 2012), but work is being extended gradually to additional areas (A. Gouni in litt. 2007, T. Ghestemme in litt. 2010): in 2011 all known accessible territories (29 individuals in 12 valleys) were being protected against rats, with significant improvements including spreading bait with catapults to reach previously inaccessible areas (Ghestemme et al. 2011). No nest predation has been recorded in rat controlled areas since January 2010 (T. Ghestemme in litt. 2011). Feral cat control has been underway since August 2010 (Ghestemme et al. 2011). A feasibility study was carried out to assess the suitability of other islands for translocation: without further rat eradications, Rimatara was found to be the only suitable island and due to the small amount of suitable habitat for the Fatuhiva Monarch, translocation of  Tahiti Monarch (P. nigra) was considered preferable here (Ghestemme et al. 2011, A. Gouni in litt. 2007). The island of Makatea has also been assessed as a suitable translocation site if it is eradicated of rats (Albar et al. 2009).  A recovery group, shared with P. nigra, has been established to formulate a conservation strategy (T. Ghestemme in litt. 2010), and a site support group was created in August 2010 (Ghestemme et al. 2011). An awareness campaign is being run, targeted at local people, with an aim to educate about the status of the species, and a poster and t-shirt have been produced as part of the process (T. Ghestemme in litt. 2010). Population banding began in late 2009, with nine birds colour-banded by the end of 2011 (Ghestemme et al. 2011, T. Ghestemme in litt. 2010, 2012). A species action plan is being formulated. The Ministry of Health and Environment is working to reduce bushfires during times of drought and increasing regulation of agricultural tracks that would impact the species's habitat (Raust 2010).

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Continue and improve rat control in areas where this work is already ongoing, and expand control to other areas (Thibault and Meyer 2000, Thibault et al. 2002, T. Ghestemme in litt. 2010). Examine the feasibility of complete rat eradication. Produce a more detailed action plan (T. Ghestemme in litt. 2012). Conduct surveys elsewhere on the island using the same methodologies and continue to monitor the known population through banding (Gouni 2006, T. Ghestemme in litt. 2010). Consider translocation, either to another island or by creating another, larger controlled area in an accessible part of Fatu Hiva which would allow birds to be translocated to it from valleys where protection is impossible (Anon. 2010). Establish a captive-breeding programme to aid in establishment of new populations/supplementing existing populations.  Continue the public awareness programme (Gouni 2006, T. Ghestemme in litt. 2010). Continue and extend cat control and assess its effect on the species (T. Ghestemme in litt. 2010).

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Pomarea whitneyi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22707192A94110251. . Downloaded on 24 March 2017.
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