Aplonis pelzelni 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Passeriformes Sturnidae

Scientific Name: Aplonis pelzelni Finsch, 1876
Common Name(s):
English Pohnpei Starling
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: 18 cm. Small, very plain, dark starling. Mostly dull sooty-brown with slightly paler wings and tail. Dark iris. Similar spp. Juvenile Micronesian Starling A. opaca may appear all dark and have dark eyes, but is larger, with heavier bill, and accompanies adults of its species. Voice Shrill see-ay with a bell-like quality.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered B1ab(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): Buden, D., Millett, J., Raynor, B., Wiles, G., Kesler, D. & O'Brien, M.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Derhé, M., Dutson, G., O'Brien, A., Shutes, S., Stattersfield, A., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.
This species has only been recorded with certainty once in the last 50 years (in 1995), and it has declined drastically since 1930, possibly through habitat loss, hunting and predation by introduced rats. However, it may remain extant since there have also been a number of unconfirmed reports, and further intensive surveys are required. Any remaining population is likely to be tiny and continuing to decline, and for these reasons it is treated as Critically Endangered.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is endemic to the island of Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, where it declined drastically sometime after 1930, when about 60 specimens were collected in a three-month period. It was not located in a survey conducted in 1983 (Engbring et al. 1990), and has been considered extinct by some authorities. However, since the 1970s, there have been several possible records (D. Buden in litt. 2008), unconfirmed sightings and reports from local people and, on 4 July 1995, a specimen was collected (Buden 1996). In October 2008, surveys apparently produced three records, although there is neither documentation nor evidence, in the form of skins, photographs, field notes, or anything similar for these sightings (J. Millett in litt. 2009). A seven-day expedition to the high ridges of the island in late 2010 did not produce any sightings of the species (BirdLife International 2011). A thorough survey of Pohnpei was conducted in 2012, including multiple point transects throughout the island, during which the bird was not detected (D. Kesler in litt. 2012).

Countries occurrence:
Micronesia, Federated States of
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:110
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):425
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The population is assumed to be tiny (fewer than 50 individuals and mature individuals), with just three unconfirmed sightings, local reports and a single salvaged specimen since the 1970s.

Trend Justification:  The population is suspected to be declining due to habitat loss, hunting, and predation by introduced species.

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:1-49Continuing 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:This is reputedly a species of dark, damp montane forest above 425 m, although it has also been observed in plantations (Engbring et al. 1990), and there are records from lower altitudes and unconfirmed reports from local residents that it was formerly more widespread, occurring in the lowlands and possibly on the adjacent Ant and Pakin atolls (Buden 1996). The most recent specimen was taken at 750 m in dwarf forest (Buden 1996). It usually occurs in pairs, feeding on insects and fruit. Small berries from shrubs form a large part of the diet, although seeds and grubs are also taken from the ground (Engbring et al. 1990). The nest is reportedly placed in the hollows of trees, but this has not been confirmed (Engbring et al. 1990). All three reports of the species from the 2008 survey were of birds in a large native tree Campnosperma brevipetiolata (J. Millett in litt. 2009).

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):4.1
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The reason for the decline of this species is unknown, although habitat loss, bird hunting (a common practice among Pohnpeians), and predation by introduced rats Rattus spp. are all possible contributory factors (Buden 1996). Overall, there was a reduction of undisturbed upland forest on Pohnpei of over 60% from 1975 to 1995 (Buden 1996, 2000, B. Raynor in litt. 1995, 2012). The majority of the island's forests have been to various degrees converted or at least degraded to mixed forest (native species mixed with lowland secondary species), largely attributable to the cultivation of sakau (= kava) Piper methysticum as a major cash-crop (B. Raynor in litt. 2012). The fragmentation of such forest by sakau clearings also introduces and encourages the spread of invasive species in isolated areas throughout the forest. Although efforts over the past 20 years to reduce the amount of clear-cutting for sakau plantations have resulted in the slowing of native forest conversion rates, the trend remains negative (B. Raynor in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
In 2007, the Conservation Society of Pohnpei and Island Conservation conducted a trial rat eradication on 5 small islands in Pohnpei to test and perfect rat eradication methods. A four day survey ('Operation Finding Mountain Starling') was carried out in October 2008 (J. Millett in litt. 2009). During a week-long expedition in 2010 and a thorough survey of Pohnpei in 2012 (conducted by the University of Missouri and the Conservation Society of Pohnpei), the species remained undetected (BirdLife International 2011, D. Kesler in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to search exhaustively for this species and investigate any records of its presence (Engbring et al. 1990). Protect upland forests (Buden 1996, G. Wiles in litt. 1999).

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Aplonis pelzelni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22710490A94247819. . Downloaded on 26 September 2018.
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