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Sulu Racquet-tail Prioniturus verticalis
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Justification
This parrot has been uplisted to Critically Endangered because observations suggest that it now has an extremely small population, which is suspected to be in rapid and accelerating decline owing to on-going forest clearance, as well as persecution. Conservation actions are hindered by security issues, but urgent action is required to assess the severity of the species's plight, alleviate the impact of threats, and initiate its recovery.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Identification
30 cm. Green parrot with racquet-like tail extensions. Whitish-grey bill. Bright green head, with bright blue crown. Male has large red spot in centre of crown. Rest of body yellowish-green, darkest on wings, with bluish wash to inner and outer webs of all primaries. Outer tail feathers tipped black and tail spatules also blackish. Similar spp. Possibly confusable with Tanygnathus parrots, but smaller, appearing shorter-tailed (except for racquets which can be difficult to see) and has pale (not red) bill (female T sumatranus has white bill also but bill is much larger). Voice Prioniturus trumpety calls are easy to detect.

Distribution and population
Prioniturus verticalis is endemic to the Sulu archipelago in the Philippines, where it is historically known from six islands (BirdLife International 2001). At the turn of the century it was described as locally abundant but, by the 1970s, it had evidently undergone a huge decline. There have been no records from Tumindao and Manuk Manka for c.80 years, although there may have been a lack of search effort during this time, and it is regarded as probably extinct on Bongao and Sanga-sanga, although it could persist on Sibutu (D. Allen in litt. 2011). Very small numbers persisted at three sites (Buan, Tarawakan and Parangan) on Tawi-Tawi in the early 1990s, with the situation apparently continuing to deteriorate. The species appears to be becoming ever scarcer, and local people report that it is the least encountered parrot species on Tawi-Tawi (I. Sarenas in litt. 2011). During a one-week visit to Tawi-Tawi in early 2008, the species did not respond to tape luring (D. Allen in litt. 2008), and it was heard only once during a visit to the island in early 2010, which included seven field days, with visits to Sitio Lambug (Panglima Sugala) and the Bilatan Islands (I. Sarenas in litt. 2010, 2011). A five-day visit in January 2012 produced sightings of three individuals (I. Sarenas in litt. 2012). However, movement by tourists is increasingly restricted owing to security concerns, and the species could be numerous in other parts of the island beyond the small area sampled by visitors (I. Sarenas in litt. 2011, 2012). Although the population was previously estimated at fewer than 1,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2001), more recent observations indicate that there could now be fewer than 250 mature individuals remaining.



Population justification
The population was previously estimated at fewer than 1,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2001), but more recent observations indicate that there could now be fewer than 250 mature individuals remaining, thus the population is now placed in the band for 50-249 mature individuals, probably equivalent to a total population of 75-375 individuals.

Trend justification
This species is suspected to be declining rapidly owing to the on-going loss of remaining forest fragments within its small range, as well as hunting pressure. As habitat continues to be lost, the rate of decline is thought to be accelerating.

Ecology
It inhabits forests, including mangroves, which provide roosting and foraging (and potentially nesting) sites, and also frequents forest edge and degraded forest, but not cultivated areas away from forest.

Threats
Virtually no primary forest remains on the island of Sibutu and there is little forest remaining on Sanga-sanga. By the mid-1990s, the rapid clearance of primary forest on Tawi-Tawi had rendered remaining lowland patches highly degraded. Logging of the few remaining tracts, now confined to rugged mountainous areas, is likely to be followed by uncontrolled settlement and conversion to agriculture. The tameness of this parrot, combined with the high rate of gun ownership in its range, have made it an easy target in the past. As of January 2012, logging was said to be on-going (R. Hutchinson in litt. 2012), and hunting pressure on hornbills was increasing, suggesting that other species may be suffering from increased persecution (I. Sarenas in litt. 2010). Claims that the species is captured for trade to Indonesia have not been confirmed, and the species is apparently not favoured as a pet because it can not be sustained on rice (D. Allen in litt. 2012).


Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. Military activity and insurgency continue to present a serious obstacle to general conservation activity in the Sulus. There are no formal protected areas in the archipelago. In 1997, an awareness campaign focusing on the conservation of terrestrial biodiversity on Tawi-Tawi was initiated. A proposal exists to provide conservation funding for the Tawi-Tawi/Sulu Coastal Area, although neither the outcome nor the likely benefits to the species are known. A municipal resolution has been in development, with the hope of putting a stop to the hunting of endemic species (I. Sarenas in litt. 2010).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys in all remnant forest and mangrove patches in the Sulus in order to quantify the size of the remaining population. Urgently establish formal protected areas where the species persists, and pursue protection for other areas of suitable habitat (key sites are the central hilly areas to the east of Tarawakan across to Lubbuk, and as much as possible of the forest east of there through Languyan municipality and the southern bay). Continue and expand environmental awareness programmes. Consider the feasibility of captive-breeding (D. Allen in litt. 2012).


References
BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Lowen, J., Peet, N., Taylor, J.

Contributors
Allen, D., Hutchinson, R., Sarenas, I., Tabaranza, B.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Prioniturus verticalis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/12/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/12/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Critically Endangered
Family Psittacidae (Parrots)
Species name author Sharpe, 1893
Population size 50-249 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 620 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species