This charismatic species is classified as Endangered on the basis of its very small, severely fragmented population, with a very small extent of occurrence limited to New Caledonia, which is suffering an overall decline. However, there is cause for hope, as recent research shows it still to be widespread, and populations in some areas are increasing due to a reduction in incidental killing by hunting dogs. Should the species's range be found not be declining this species will warrant downlisting to a lower category of threat.
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.
Distribution and populationRhynochetos jubatus
55cm. Ghostly-grey bird, belonging to a monospecific family. Flightless. Uniform plumage contrasts with orange-red bill and legs. Long shaggy crest erected in display. Spread wings expose prominent black-and-white barring. Similar spp. Unmistakable; heron species are rarely found in forest and none has uniform grey plumage or red bare parts. Voice Loud barking at dawn and various quiet hissing and rattling calls. Hints Usually seen stationary or walking slowly in shaded forest. Locally common in Rivière Bleue: permits and advice can be obtained at the entrance gate.
is endemic to New Caledonia (to France)
. The highest recorded densities are in Parc Provincial Rivière Bleue, where the population has increased recently and was estimated at 300 in 1998, and 500 birds in 2007 (Y. Létocart and C. Lambert in litt.
1999, Ekstrom et al.
Ekstrom et al.
2002, Mériot in litt.
2007). Elsewhere, a survey of calling birds in 1991-1992 recorded 491 adults, 82% in Province Sud, and another survey conducted between 2003 and 2006 (though not designed specifically for Kagu survey) recorded 357 birds, but these figures may be underestimates (Hunt 1996, Y. Létocart and C. Lambert in litt.
1999, Mériot in litt.
2007). The population therefore is likely to be in excess of 850 birds. It was previously thought to be declining outside Rivière Bleue, with most subpopulations thought to be small (<4 birds) and some subpopulations considered to have become extinct (Hunt 1996, Ekstrom et al.
2000, Ekstrom et al.
2002). Populations now seem to be stable in the most important area for the species outside Rivière Bleue (the forest between Bourail and Thio) and possibly at the key site, the Canala - Boulouparis area. At least 15% of the surveyed population died in the Rivière Bleue Park during the 2006 breeding season
, perhaps due to disease, highlighting the fragility of the population (J. Theuerkauf in litt.
The total population is placed in the band 250-999 mature individuals, equating to 375-1,499 individuals in total, rounded here to 350-1,500 individuals.Trend justification
Thanks to new field studies (Chartendrault and Barré 2005, 2006) and oral information, it appears that kagus are still present in most of the areas surveyed by Hunt in 1992. Chartendrault and Barré found, between 2003 and 2006, that kagus were present on 36 of 82 surveyed massifs (44%) and populations seem to be stable or even increasing in the southern province, although they may be declining or stable in the North. In the Mont Do and Nakada area ("Entre les monts Do et Nakada" IBA), Hunt found 135 birds over 14 point counts. Chartendrault found 113 birds in the same area (different points) in 2005 over only 7 points (Chartendrault and Barré 2005, 2006). Rats and cats may affect the population, although there are currently no proven records of this. Hunting dogs are the main threat to the species, which particularly affect populations in unprotected areas outside of Riviere Bleue. However, hunting activity (particularly with dogs) is decreasing in some areas, allowing birds to recolonize (R. Gula and J. Theuerkauf in litt.
It inhabits a variety of forest-types, usually in humid forest with open understory, at mid-altitudes but ranges from sea-level to 1,400 m and also occupies drier forests at low altitude in the centre of the island (Boulouparis-La Foa area, from 100 m in the upper Ouenghi river) (Chartendrault and Barré 2005, 2006) and sometimes utilises closed-canopy scrub during the wet season (Hunt 1996, Létocart and Salas 1997). It feeds on worms, insects, snails and lizards (Létocart 1991). Pairs occupy exclusive territories of 10-28 ha and fledge 0.9 juveniles per year in Rivière Bleue (Létocart and Salas 1997) (though reproductive success is now lower [Theuerkauf et al. 2009]).
Birds survive over 30 years in captivity (Y. Létocart and C. Lambert in litt.
1999), and at least 20 years in the wild (results from several radiotracked Kagus in the wild [R. Gula and J. Theuerkauf in litt.
Dogs killed 17 out of 21 birds with radio-transmitters at Pic Ningua in 1993 (Hunt et al.
1996). Most mortality at Rivière Bleue occurs in chicks under three weeks old, possibly by introduced rats and cats (Y. Létocart in litt.
1999), although a long term study showed that rats had no impact on Kagu populations there (Gula et al. 2010). Feral pigs occasionally take eggs (two out of 40 eggs and unlikely to be a significant threat [J. Theuerkauf in litt. 2007, S. Rouys in litt. 2008]) and forest floor rootings may make foraging for worms less easy (Hunt 1997, Létocart and Salas 1997, DDRP 1998, Y. Létocart in litt. 1999, Ekstrom et al. 2000). Introduced Rusa deer Cervus timorensis are damaging forests in the Boulouparis - La Foa - Canala triangle, an important areas for the species outside Rivière Bleue, and so may pose a threat to the species (Chartendrault and Barré 2005, 2006). Forest is being slowly eroded by mining and fires (Y. Létocart and C. Lambert in litt. 1999, Ekstrom et al. 2000, J. Ekstrom in litt. 2003), and logging aids access for hunters and dogs (Y. Létocart in litt. 1999, Ekstrom et al. 2000). Disease in the Rivière Bleue may be a severe threat in the future (Chartendrault and Barré 2005, 2006).
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. Dogs are controlled in Rivière Bleue (Létocart 1991, Hunt et al. 1996). Another important population is protected in Reserve Speciale de Faune et de Flore de la Nodela, but without wardening or dog control (Ekstrom et al. 2000). The Grandes Fougères Park, is also a key site. Legislation and education aims to reduce capture by hunting dogs, but incidental killings are difficult to control (Hunt et al. 1996). Birds have been successfully bred in captivity since 1978, and reintroduced to protected areas (Bregulla 1987). A repeat of Hunt's 1992 survey is planned for 2008-09 to document population trends (Chartendrault and Barré 2005, 2006). A Kagu Species Action Plan (PASC) which spans the period 2009-2020 was compiled in 2008 by the Société Calédonienne d'Ornithologie (SCO) with financial support from Conservation International.Conservation Actions Proposed
Assess genetic status of the population. Evaluate fragmentation and gene flow between subpopulations with molecular methods (now possible because of Stoeckle et al. 2012) Investigate dispersal between isolated populations. Survey poorly-known forest areas. Monitor populations in better-known areas. Determine effects of rat predation at different sites, particularly in the north. Ascertain effects of deer. Investigate possibilities of deer population control in some important areas (Chartendrault and Barré 2005, 2006). Control dogs and cats in key forest sites. Initiate intensive conservation projects on Boulouparis - Canala range and more widely along the provincial boundaries to protect important subpopulations (Nodela, Farino, Mé Adéo-Mé Ori (Chartendrault and Barré 2005, 2006) . Initiate conservation actions in the Northern province to protect the last small subpopulations there (such as Massif des Lèvres, Goro Até, Mé Kanin-Arago and Prokoméo) and more widely in small remote subpopulations (Such as Pic Ningua and Grand Koum) (Chartendrault and Barré 2005, 2006). Investigate the possibility of Kagu reintroduction (Panié) or reinforcement (Massif des Lèvres) (Chartendrault and Barré 2005, 2006). Increase public awareness programmes regarding Kagu conservation and responsible dog ownership (Y. Létocart and C. Lambert in litt. 1999, Ekstrom et al. 2000, 2002, J. Ekstrom in litt. 2003).
Related state of the world's birds case studies
Bregulla, H. L. 1987. Zur Biologie des Kagu, Rhinochetus jubatus. Der Zoologische Garten 57: 349-365.
Chartendrault, V.; BarrÃ©, N. 2006. Etude du statut et de la distribution des oiseaux des forÃªts humides de la province Sud de Nouvelle-CalÃ©donie. Institut agronomique nÃ©o-calÃ©donien, Port Laguerre, Nouvelle-CalÃ©donie.
Collar, N. J.; Butchart, S. H. M. 2013. Conservation breeding and avian diversity: chances and challenges. International Zoo Yearbook.
DDRP. 1998. DÃ©pouillement de l'EnquÃªte-Chasse 1994.
Ekstrom, J. M. M.; Jones, J. P. G.; Willis, J.; Isherwood, I. 2000. The humid forests of New Caledonia: biological research and conservation recommendations for the vertebrate fauna of Grande Terre. CSB Conservation Publications, Cambridge, U.K.
Ekstrom, J. M. M.; Jones, J. P. G.; Willis, J.; Tobias, J.; Dutson, G.; Barre, N. 2002. New information on the distribution, status and conservation of terrestrial bird species in Grande Terre, New Caledonia. Emu 102: 197-207.
Gula, R., Theuerkauf, J. , Rouys, S. and Legault, A. 2010. An audio/video surveillance system for wildlife. European Journal of Wildlife Research 56: 803-807.
Hunt, G. 1996. Environmental variables associated with population patterns of the Kagu Rhynochetos jubatus of New Caledonia. Ibis 138: 778-785.
Hunt, G. 1997. Ecology and conservation of the Kagu Rhynochetos jubatus of New Caledonia. Thesis. Ph.D., Massey University, Palmerston North.
Hunt, G. R.; Hay, R.; Veltman, C. J. 1996. Multiple Kagu Rhynochetos jubatus deaths caused by dog attacks at a high-altitude study site on Pic Ningua, New Caledonia. Bird Conservation International 6: 295-306.
LÃ©tocart, Y. 1991. Mise en evidence par biotelemetrie de l'habitat utilise, du comportement territorial et social, et de la reproduction chez le cagou huppe (Rhynochetos jubatus) dans le Parc de la RiviÃ¨re Bleue.
LÃ©tocart, Y.; Salas, M. 1997. Spatial organisation and breeding of Kagu Rhynochetos jubatus in RiviÃ¨re Bleue Park, New Caledonia. Emu 97: 97-107.
Stoeckle, B.C., Theuerkauf, J., Rouys, S., Gula, R., Lorenzo, A., Lambert, Ch., Kaeser, T. and Kuehn, R. 2012. Identification of polymorphic microsatellite loci for the endangered Kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus) by high-throughput sequencing. Journal of Ornithology 153: 249â€“253.
Theuerkauf, J.; Rouys, S.; MÃ©riot, J. M.; Gula, R. 2009. Group territoriality as a form of cooperative breeding in the flightless Kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus) of New Caledonia. The Auk 126(2): 371-375.
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Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Derhé, M., Dutson, G., Ekstrom, J., Mahood, S., Stattersfield, A.
Chartendrault, V., Ekstrom, J., Lambert, C., Létocart, Y., Mériot, J., Rouys, S., Theuerkauf, J., Gula, R.
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Rhynochetos jubatus. Downloaded from
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Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
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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.
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