Charadrius obscurus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Charadriiformes Charadriidae

Scientific Name: Charadrius obscurus Gmelin, 1789
Common Name(s):
English Southern Red-breasted Plover
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.
Taxonomic Notes: Charadrius obscurus and C. aquilonius (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) were previously lumped as C. obscurus following Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993).
Identification information: 25 cm. Largest Charadrius plover. Sexes similar in eclipse. Brown upperparts. Feathers with paler edges. White forehead. Whitish underparts. Dark line through eye. Breeding adult, reddish underparts. Male, slightly redder on breast for much of year. Heavy black bill. Legs pale/mid grey. Iris dark brown. Voice Sharp chip most common call, long, loud churring call used in aggressive interactions.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered D ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Dowding, J., Hitchmough, R. & Parrish, R.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Harding, M., Khwaja, N., Mahood, S., McClellan, R., Taylor, J. & Symes, A.
This species, which has been extirpated from most of its historic range, has recovered from a low of just 62 birds in the early 1990s following intensive cat and rat control, and its population is currently stable with some annual fluctuations. The total population remains very small, and it is therefore listed as Endangered. It remains conservation dependent, and were the population to decline it would likely be eligible for uplisting to Critically Endangered. Conversely if the recovery continues it may warrant downlisting in the future. 

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Charadrius obscurus is endemic to New Zealand. Following the split of C. aquilonius, C. obscurus is now restricted when breeding to Stewart Island, although it formerly occurred on the South Island (Dowding 1999). On Stewart Island, it declined by as much as 80% in c.40 years, numbering 62 birds (including only 18 pairs) in 1991-1992 (Dowding and Murphy 1993), but thanks to the poisoning of feral cats it recovered to 111 birds in 1997, 150 in 1999 and 250 in 2005 (J. E. Dowding in litt. 1999, Wilson 2005, Dowding 2006)
The current population status is management-dependent, and significant declines would begin immediately if intensive management stopped (R. Hitchmough in litt. 2005).

Countries occurrence:
New Zealand
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:2200
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):YesExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:11-100Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):1000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The population reached a low of 62 birds in 1992, but following intensive management the post-breeding population has fluctuated between 240 and 290 birds since 2005 (Dowding 2013). This roughly equates to 160-190 mature individuals.

Trend Justification:  The population declined historically to a low of 62 birds but subsequently increased following management and has been stable with some fluctuation between 240 and 290 birds since 2005 (Dowding 2013).
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:160-190Continuing decline of mature individuals:No
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:Yes
No. of subpopulations:1Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:Yes
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation:100

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:On Stewart Island, it breeds inland, usually at high altitudes on bare hilltops and open bog or tussock-grasslands (J. E. Dowding in litt. 1999). It lays three eggs. It feeds mostly on terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates. Young generally begin to breed in their second year. The oldest recorded bird lived to at least 31 years of age (Heather and Robertson 1997).

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

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Introduced predators (primarily stoats and other mustelids) were the primary cause of extinction on the South Island (Dowding 1999). Feral cats (and possibly rats) caused the rapid decline on Stewart Island (Dowding and Murphy 1993). Males incubate at night, and are more vulnerable; a severe gender bias developed, with female-female pairs forming (Dowding 2013). Where native avian predators (notably Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus) occur at high densities, they are a significant threat to eggs and chicks.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation and research actions underway
On Stewart Island, cats and rodents are intensively controlled at four important breeding sites (J. E. Dowding in litt. 1999, Ombler 2006). Captive-breeding trials with aquilonius have been undertaken in case the technique is required for obscurus (Dowding 1998). Chicks have been raised successfully (J. E. Dowding in litt. 1999), but their survival in the wild has been low. A revised species recovery plan was published in 2007 (Dowding and Davis 2007).  Management at some sites is funded by programmes for other species, and there is no guarantee that the current level of management will continue.

Conservation and research actions proposed
Estimate the population size annually, and continue current management on Stewart Island. Maintain the mustelid-free status of Stewart Island, and investigate more cost-effective methods of cat control.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Charadrius obscurus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T62290750A95195463. . Downloaded on 24 October 2017.
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