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Rarotonga Monarch Pomarea dimidiata
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Once among the rarest birds of the world, this species has been brought back from the brink of extinction. It has been downlisted to Vulnerable as the population has increased in recent years owing to intensive conservation efforts with no evidence of a continuing decline for for the last five years. However, it still has a very small population and range and remains threatened by chance events such as cyclones other stochastic factors that could drive it to qualify as Critically Endangered or even Extinct in a short time period. The survival of the species remains dependent on a continuation of intensive conservation efforts.

Taxonomic source(s)
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Identification: 14 cm. Inquisitive, grey-and-white flycatcher. First year, orange plumage with yellow base to lower mandible, 2nd year, orange plumage with evenly steel-blue bill (in hand, appearing black in field), 3rd year, mixed grey-and-orange plumage, black bill, 4th year, grey and white plumage, black bill. Similar spp. None, the smallest landbird on Rarotonga, could only be confused as an adult (momentarily) with adult Rarotonga Starling Aplonis cinerascens. Voice Wide variety of discordant calls. Loud male territorial call given repeatedly during pre-breeding period, and onomatopoeically rendered as Kakerori, the bird's Maori name.

Distribution and population
Pomarea dimidiata is endemic to Rarotonga, Cook Islands, where it is largely restricted to the Totokoitu, Turoa and western Avana Valleys. It was common until the middle of the 19th century, but thought to be extinct in the early 1900s (Robertson et al. 1994). A survey in 1983 located only 20 birds and two nests, and estimated a population of 35-50 birds (Hay 1986, H. Robertson in litt. 2005). A recovery plan initiated in 1987 has improved breeding success and recruitment, and decreased mortality of adults, resulting in 177 birds in 1998, 196 in 1999, 222 in 2000, 255 in 2001, 289 in 2002 and 308 in 2003 (H. Robertson in litt. 2007). In 2001, ten birds were translocated from Rarotonga and released on Atiu, 200 km north-east; similar numbers, consisting of one to two-year-old birds, were translocated to Atiu in 2002 and in 2003 (Robertson et al 2006). Four fledglings were recorded on Atiu in autumn 2003 (World Birdwatch 2003). By August 2004, at least 281 birds were found on Rarotonga, and 25 on Atiu, giving an overall estimated population of 306 individuals. However, five cyclones passed through the southern Cook Islands in five weeks in summer 2005 and though direct mortality was less than expected, a very poor breeding season followed, with the population estimated at 291 individuals in August 2006; 255 on Rarotonga and 36 on Atiu (Robertson and Saul 2007). By 2007, the population had increased to 314 birds; 271 on Rarotonga and 43 on Atiu (Robertson et al. 2009) and by August 2011 (supplemented by data from July 2011), the population was estimated at c.380 birds, including 69 yearlings (Robertson et al. 2011, H. Robertson in litt. 2011), suggesting a population of c.310 mature individuals.

Population justification
The population was estimated at 296-300 in August 2004, but a subsequent series of devastating cyclones in early 2005 lead to a decline, especially on Rarotonga. The total population began to increase in 2007 due to good recruitment on Atiu (where 30 birds were transferred in 2001-2003) and a stable population on Rarotonga. In 2011 the population was estimated at c.380 birds, including 69 yearlings (Robertson et al. 2011, H. Robertson in litt. 2011), suggesting a population of c.310 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population has grown rapidly owing to intensive management, particularly predator control, and the transfer of 30 young birds to Atiu Island in 2001-2003. The population on Rarotonga declined as a result of five cyclones in one month in early 2005, and subsequent poor breeding in 2005-2006; however, the population has now been increasing since 2007, owing to intensive conservation action.

It prefers steep-sided, wet, forested, small valleys sheltered from south-east trade winds in the headwaters of streams. It feeds mainly on small caterpillars, flies, beetles and bugs. Clutch-size is two. Usually only one brood is raised each year (McCormack and Künzle 1990, Sanders et al. 1995, Saul et al. 1998, E. Saul in litt. 1999). Before intensive predator control began, annual adult mortality was 24.3% and life expectancy was 3.6-6.0 years for males and 2.4 years for females. Since intensive management, annual mortality has dropped significantly to 14.2% and life expectancy has increased to 7.6 years for males and 6.3 years for females (H. Robertson in litt. 2007). The species is reportedly capable of breeding at one year old, but more recently, it is rare for yearlings to breed (<5%), and most do not start breeding until 3-4 years old (H. Robertson in litt. 2012).

The species's highly localised distribution leaves it vulnerable to cyclones, invasion of weeds and forest clearance. It continues to be threatened by black rat Rattus rattus and cats Felis catus. Predation by Long-tailed Cuckoo Eudynamys taitensis, a winter migrant from New Zealand, remains a possibility. The introduction of avian diseases could have a major impact, as could invasion by new predators (e.g. snakes and mongooses) (Robertson et al. 1994, H. Robertson verbally 1999, E. Saul in litt. 1999). Despite passing through a bottleneck of 29 birds, the genetic diversity in the species is moderately good and in line with the population being near that bottleneck size for only a short period of time and so inbreeding effects and loss of genetic diversity are not thought to be a threat (H. Robertson in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Underway
The valleys where the species survives (called the Takitumu Conservation Area) are managed by three landowning families who are developing an ecologically and commercially sustainable ecotourism venture. Intensive rat control is carried out during the breeding season, including fortnightly poisoning (H. Robertson verbally 1999, Robertson 2000). An insurance population has been established on Atiu and is breeding well in a variety of habitats (Robertson et al 2006, Saul et al 2007). The species's survival remains dependent on the continuation of such intensive conservation action.
Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue monitoring the population. Continue rat control in designated areas. Maintain the existing management programme. Maintain and (wherever possible) increase the training of local Cook Islanders in implementing the management programme. Win community support for occasional further translocations to Atiu to maintain genetic diversity in that population (Robertson et al. 1994, SPREP 1999). Ensure new predators do not become established on Rarotonga. Monitor to ensure no predators become established on Atiu.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Anon. 2005. Major setback for Rarotonga Monarch. World Birdwatch 27: 10.

Hay, R. 1986. Bird conservation in the Pacific Islands. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

McCormack, G.; Künzle, J. 1990. Kakerori - Rarotonga's endangered flycatcher.

Robertson, H. 2000. Kakerori recovery. Wingspan 10: 27.

Robertson, H. A.; Hay, J. R.; Saul, E. K.; McCormack, G. V. 1994. Recovery of the Kakerori: an endangered forest bird of the Cook Islands. Conservation Biology 8(4): 1078-1086.

Robertson, H. A.; Karika, I.; Mateariki, G.; Nia, L.; Saul, E. K. 2009. Long-term management of Kakerori (Pomarea dimidiata) in the Cook Islands. Department of Conservation, Wellington, NZ.

Robertson, H. A.; Saul, E. K. 2006. Conservation of Kakerori (Pomarea dimidiata) in the Cook Islands in 2004/05. Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Robertson, H. A.; Saul, E. S. 2007. Conservation of kakerori (Pomarea dimidiata) in the Cook Islands in 2005/06. New Zealand Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Robertson, H., Adams, L. and Cockburn, S. 2011. Status of Kakerori (Pomarea dimidiata) on Rarotonga, Cook Islands, in August 2011. Report to the Takitumu Conservation Area Project, and the Te Ipukarea Society as part of the project "Sustainable management of Rarotonga Flycatcher and Its Habitat". Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand.

Robertson, H.A., Karika, I. and Saul, E.K. 2006. Translocation of Rarotonga monarchs Pomarea dimidiata within the Southern Cook Islands. Bird Conservation International 16(3): 197-215.

Sanders, K. H.; Minot, E. O.; Fordham, R. A. 1995. Juvenile dispersion and use of habitat by the endangered Kakerori Pomarea dimidiata (Monarchinae) on Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Pacific Conservation Biology 2(2): 167-176.

Saul, E. K.; Robertson, H. A.; Tiraa, A. 1998. Breeding biology of the Kakerori Pomarea dimidiata on Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Notornis 45: 255-269.

Saul, E.; Karika, I.; Robertson, H. 2007. Restoring the Rarotonga Monarch.

SPREP. 1999. Proceedings of the Polynesian Avifauna Conservation Workshop held in Rarotonga, 26-30 April 1999.

Further web sources of information
Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This species has been identified as an AZE trigger due to its IUCN Red List status and limited range.

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
Derhé, M., Harding, M., Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Stattersfield, A.

Robertson, H., Saul, E., O'Brien, M., Ghestemme, T.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Pomarea dimidiata. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016.

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.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Rarotonga flycatcher (Pomarea dimidiata) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Monarchidae (Monarchs)
Species name author (Hartlaub & Finsch, 1871)
Population size 310 mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 2 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species