This species qualifies as Critically Endangered because the very rapid rate of decline in its very small global population observed over the past three generations is expected to increase owing to habitat loss and degradation combined with the impact of introduced predators including the possible arrival of Brown Tree Snake (Boiga irregularis) on Saipan. This snake is a likely factor in the reed-warbler's extirpation from Guam.
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Gender agreement of species name follows David and Gosselin (2002a).
Acrocephalus luscinia Collar et al. (1994), Acrocephalus luscinia BirdLife International (2000), Acrocephalus luscinia Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993)
Distribution and population
18 cm. Large, lanky, scruffy-looking warbler with long bill and often dishevelled feathers and erect head feathers when singing. Dingy olive-yellow above, with dull yellow eyebrow and underparts. Voice Call a loud distinctive chuck or tchack. Males sing long, loud, varied and complex song. Hints Skulks in dense thickets, more often heard than seen. Sometimes sings at night. Male most often sings from exposed perches.
This species is historically known from Guam (to USA)
, Saipan, Alamagan, Aguijan and Pagan in the Northern Mariana Islands (to USA)
, and from a specimen thought to have come from Yap, Federated States of Micronesia
. The subspecies yamashinae
of Pagan was extinct by the late 1970s, and astrolabii
, whose type specimen is thought to be from Yap, is also extinct (Reichel et al.
1992, Kennerley and Pearson 2010). The species has also been extirpated from Guam. A tiny population was reported to occur on the uninhabited island of Aguijan (1-6 birds) but has not been observed on the island since the mid-1990s despite extensive surveys in 2000, 2001, 2008, and 2009 (USFWS 1998, Esselstyn et al.
2003, Camp et al.
2009b, Amidon et al.
2014), and so is unlikely to number more a few individuals, if any (Marshall et al.
2008). A population exists on Alamagan, numbering 1,125 (95% CI = 504 - 1,539) individuals in 2000 and 946 (95% CI = 428-1,762) individuals in 2010 (Marshall et al.
2011). The majority of the population occurs on Saipan. Abundance (based on a density estimate extrapolated across the area of Saipan, 115.39 km2
) declined from 6,658 birds (5,331-8,054) in 1982 down to 4,639 (3,669-5,689) birds in 1997, and has continued to decline to 2,742 birds (1,686-3,956) in the 2007 survey (Camp et al
. This represents a 59% decline in the species since 1982. Over three generations this equates to an overall population decline of 47%, but this rate of decline has been increasing such that the rate recorded between 1997 and 2007 corresponds to a three generation decline of 60%. The rapid human expansion on Saipan in the 1990s has been slowing since c. 1998, but the U.S. military is expanding its presence and operations which could lead to further habitat conversion and degradation, if this expansion occurs on Saipan or Alamagan. Furthermore, persistent reports from the island of Saipan suggest that Boiga irregularis
may be in the process of becoming established there (Rodd and Savidge 2007). This is cause for concern given the catastrophic declines it caused on Guam's birds.Population justification
Three island populations currently exist: Aguijan (1-2 indidivuals [Marshall et al.
2008]), Alamagan (946 individuals [Marshall et al.
2011]) and Saipan (2,742 individuals [Camp et al.
2009a]). This equates to a global population of c.3,700 individuals. However, given the rapid decline occurring on Saipan and that a proportion of the population will be immature birds this is cautiously interpreted as 2,000-2,499 mature individuals.Trend justification
Abundance on Saipan declined from 6,658 birds (5,331-8,054) in 1982 down to 4,639 (3,669-5,689) birds in 1997, and has continued to decline to 2,742 birds (1,686-3,956) in 2007 (Camp et al
. 2009a). Over three generations this equates to an overall population decline of 47%, but this rate of decline has been increasing such that the rate recorded between 1997 and 2007 corresponds to a three generation decline of 60%. Given the projected increase in military personnel on Saipan and the possible introduction of Brown Tree Snake (Boiga irregularis
) projected declines above 80% over three generations in the future are expected.Ecology
On Saipan, it occurs in thicket-meadow mosaics, forest edge, reed-marshes and forest openings (Craig 1996)
. A recent study on Saipan found nests in upland introduced Leucaena leucocephala
forest, a native mangrove wetland and a native reed wetland (Mosher and Fancy 2002)
. On Alamagan, it inhabits open forest with brushy understorey and wooded ravine forest adjacent to open grasslands. On Aguijan, it inhabits formerly disturbed areas vegetated by groves of trees and thickets. On Guam and Pagan, it was almost exclusively found in freshwater wetland and wetland edge vegetation (Engbring et al
Reichel et al.
1992, USFWS 1998)
On Guam, several factors in combination are likely to have caused the species's extirpation, including wetland destruction, predation by the introduced Brown Tree Snake (Boiga irregularis
), pesticide-use and major fires. On Saipan, available habitat has been reduced for agriculture, home-building and tourist-related facilities although in recent years these have not had a substantial impact. During the early 20th Century the native forest habitat was devastated by agriculture such as sugar cane and the invasion of Saipan by the US military (J.E. Gourley in litt.
2012). Persistent reports from the island of Saipan suggest that the brown tree snake may be in the process of becoming established there (Rodd and Savidge 2007) and unless it can be controlled, the reed-warbler population is likely to be extirpated rapidly once snake numbers have reached the point where they impact bird populations. Ivy Gourd (Coccinia grandis
) became established in the mid-1990s and has effectively invaded >90% of forest stands on Saipan (S. Mosher in litt
. 2012). This species covers forest canopies, effectively smothering the canopy to the point of killing trees to causing the collapse of the canopy, therefore reducing the canopy height that is important for nesting reed-warblers (S. Mosher in litt.
2012). The habitat on Alamagan is heavily degraded from grazing by feral ungulates (F. Amidon in litt.
2012, N. Johnson in litt.
2012). Introduced predators, including feral cats (Felis catus
) and rats (Rattus
spp.), and possibly monitor lizard (Varanus indicus
), may be a large factor in the reported high proportion of nest failures (USFWS 1998, Mosher 2006)
. Conservation and Research Actions Underway
A recovery plan exists (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1998) but there has been little or no active management for the species to date and the milestones in the plan are now out of date. However, provisions to protect habitat and mitigate loss have generally been included in major land development projects. In 1989, a goat removal programme was begun on Aguijan but, by 1995, goat populations had begun to rebound with reduced hunting pressure. Trap lines for snakes are maintained at ports, night searches are conducted and a sniffer dog programme has recently been established. Publicity campaigns were conducted to raise the general awareness of island residents, including port workers, about the dangers of snake colonisation (USFWS 1998)
. Repeat surveys have been conducted on Saipan in 1982, 1997 and 2007; on Aguijan in 2000, 2001, 2008, and 2009 (USFWS 1998, Esselstyn et al.
2003, Camp et al.
2009b, Amidon et al.
2014); and on Alamagan in 2000 and 2010 (Marshall et al.
2011).Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Monitor the populations on all three islands (USFWS 1998)
. Protect Saipan, and also Alamagan, from snake colonisation
. Control feral ungulates and predators, including B. irregularis
. Continue control of Coccinia grandis
with particular emphasis on reed-warbler nesting sites. Identify and protect essential habitat and conduct basic research, e.g. on population dynamics and validity of subspecies, to assist in appropriate recovery efforts (USFWS 1998)
. Establish a captive-breeding programme and introduce additional populations on other islands (USFWS 1998)
. Clarify the status of B. irregularis
on Saipan and mitigate the potential effects should its number increase.
Related state of the world's birds case studies
Amidon, F., Camp, R.J., Marshall, A., Pratt, T.K., Williams, L., Radley, P. and Cruz, J.B. 2014. Status and trends of the land bird avifauna of Aguiguan, Mariana Islands. Bird Conservation International 24(4): 505-517.
Camp, R. J. 2008. Trends in bird populations on Saipan.
Camp, R. J., T. K. Pratt, F. Amidon, A. P. Marshall, S. Kremer, and M. Laut. 2009. Status and trends of the land bird avifauna on Tinian and Aguiguan, Mariana Islands. Appendix 3.1. Terrestrial Resource surveys of Tinian and Aguiguan, Mariana Islands, 2008. Working Draft. . U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, Honolulu, HI.
Camp, R. J.; Pratt, T. K.; Marshall, A. P.; Amidon, F.; Williams, L. L. 2009. Recent status and trends of the land bird avifauna on Saipan, Mariana Islands, with emphasis on the endangered Nightingale Reed-warbler (Acrocephalus luscinia). Bird Conservation International 19(4): 323-337.
Collar, N. J.; Butchart, S. H. M. 2013. Conservation breeding and avian diversity: chances and challenges. International Zoo Yearbook.
Craig, R. J. 1996. Seasonal population surveys and natural history of a Micronesian bird community. Wilson Bulletin 108: 246-267.
David, N.; Gosselin, M. 2002. The grammatical gender of avian genera. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 122: 257-282.
Engbring, J.; Ramsey, F. L.; Wildman, V. J. 1982. Micronesian forest bird survey, 1982: Saipan, Tinian, Agiguan, and Rota. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Honolulu.
Esselstyn, J., J. B. Cruz, L.L. Williams, and N. Hawley. 2003. Wildlife and vegetation surveys: Aguiguan 2002.
IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 19 November 2015).
Kennerley, P.; Pearson, D. 2010. Reed and bush warblers. Christopher Helm, London.
Marshall, A., Amidon, F. and Radley, P. 2011. Nightingale reed-warbler surveys on Alamagan. Appendix 1. Status of the Micronesian Megapode in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report to the U.S. Navy. Honolulu, Hawaii.
Marshall, A.P., Amidon, F. P., Radley, P., Martin, G. and Camp, R. 2008. Nightingale reed-warbler on Aguiguan. Appendix 2.4.4. Terrestrial Resource Surveys of Tinian and Aguiguan, Mariana Islands, 2008. Working Draft. , U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office., Honolulu. HI.
Mosher, S. M. Submitted. Ecology of the endangered Nightingale Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus luscinia) on Saipan, Micronesia. MSc Thesis. University of Idaho.
Mosher, S.M. and Fancy, S.G. 2002. Description of nests, eggs, and nestlings of the endangered nightingale reed-warbler on Saipan, Micronesia. Wilson Bulletin 114(1): 1-10.
Reichel, J. D.; Wiles, G. J.; Glass, P. O. 1992. Island extinctions: the case of the endangered Nightingale Reed-warbler. Wilson Bulletin 104: 44-54.
Rodda, G.H., and Savidge, J .A. 2007. Biology and impacts of Pacific Island invasive species. 2. Boiga irregularis, the brown tree snake (Reptilia: Colubridae). Pacific Science 61: 307-324.
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1998. Recovery plan for the Nightingale Reed-warbler Acrocephalus luscinia.
Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Recovery Plan
View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Calvert, R., Khwaja, N., Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Stattersfield, A., Derhé, M., Symes, A. & Wright, L
Camp, R., Dutson, G., Freifeld, H., Saunders, A., Radley, P., Mosher, S., Amidon, F. & Gourley, J.
IUCN Red List evaluators
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Acrocephalus luscinius. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 11/02/2016.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 11/02/2016.
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.
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