Plectrophenax hyperboreus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Plectrophenax hyperboreus
Species Authority: Ridgway, 1884
Common Name(s):
English McKay's Bunting

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2014
Date Assessed: 2014-07-24
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Renner, H.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Bird, J., Capper, D., Isherwood, I., Khwaja, N., O'Brien, A., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.
This species has been downlisted from Near Threatened because its population is estimated to be larger than previously thought and because there are not thought to be any plausible threats that could cause a rapid or very rapid decline in a short time period. It is now listed as Least Concern on the basis that it is not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the Red List criteria.

2012 Near Threatened

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Plectrophenax hyperboreus breeds on the Hall and St Matthew islands (totalling 300 km2) in the Bering Sea, U.S.A., and occasionally on St Lawrence and probably St Paul islands. It winters along the west Alaska coast from Kotzebue to the tip of the Alaska Peninsula, irregularly on the south coast of Alaska, occasionally to the Aleutian Islands and accidentally in British Columbia, Canada, and Washington and Oregon, U.S.A. The population had been estimated to number only c.2,500 individuals; however, Matsuoka and Johnson (2008) estimated there to be 27,500-35,400 birds in the population, based on surveys conducted across its restricted breeding range on St Matthew and Hall islands.

United States
Present - origin uncertain:
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Matsuoka and Johnson (2008) have estimated there to be 27,500-35,400 individuals in the population, based on surveys conducted across its restricted breeding range on St Matthew and Hall islands. This is assumed here to equate to c.18,400-23,700 mature individuals.

Population Trend: Increasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: On the breeding grounds, it inhabits vegetated and rocky tundra, mostly in coastal lowlands, and typically nests on shingle beaches. It winters on coastal marshes, shingle beaches and agricultural fields with exposed vegetation.

Systems: Terrestrial; Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Although under no immediate threat, it would be susceptible to predation by introduced mammals, such as rats Rattus spp. or weasels Mustela spp. Red foxes Vulpes vulpes have recently established a breeding population on St Matthew, after they were first observed there in 1997, and as of 2012 they had completely suppressed or displaced the native Arctic foxes V. lagopus (H. Renner in litt. 2013). It has been hypothesised that McKay's Bunting will be little affected by the shift from Arctic to red foxes on St. Matthew Island, because of the bunting's presence and abundance over the entire island and its use of diverse and predominately secure habitats for nesting in crevices (H. Renner in litt. 2013).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
This species's range islands are in part protected by the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge (Matsuoka and Johnson 2008). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visits the islands every 5-10 years, but this is typically timed for seabird studies and thus usually too late to study nesting McKay’s Buntings. (H. Renner in litt. 2013).

Conservation Actions Proposed
A survey of the breeding grounds is needed to determine population density and to assess whether populations are stable or threatened. Ensure continued protection of the breeding grounds.

Citation: BirdLife International 2014. Plectrophenax hyperboreus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <>. Downloaded on 29 August 2014.
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