Archived topics 2010-2011: Obscure Berrypecker (Melanocharis arfakiana): request for information

Link to BirdLife species factsheet for Obscure Berrypecker

Obscure Berrypecker Melanocharis arfakiana is currently listed as Data Deficient, on the basis that there is insufficient information available to evaluate the species’s threat status using the IUCN criteria. Recent records have shown the species to be more widespread than previously thought, although its known range is patchy and suggests that it is localised in occurrence (del Hoyo et al. 2008). It may be genuinely scarce; however, it has been suggested that the species has been overlooked in many areas owing to its cryptic nature, and is in fact widespread (del Hoyo et al. 2008).

Up-to-date information on this species is requested to help in the re-evaluation of its status. In particular, estimates of the population size and details of potential threats and their impacts would be useful. Forest in the species’s geographical and altitudinal ranges is under some threat from logging and clearance for agriculture; however, it appears to be tolerant of degraded forest (B. Whitney in litt. 2000), which coupled with recent records suggests it qualifies as Least Concern. Given the species’s patchy range, however, it could conceivably qualify for a higher threat category under the B1 and/or C1 criteria, as its known Extent of Occurrence is estimated at less than 20,000 km2 and its population could be approaching or fewer than 10,000 mature individuals, and may be declining due to habitat loss. This illustrates the need for more data on this species, and any contributions would be welcomed.

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D. A. eds. (2008) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 13: Penduline-tits to Shrikes. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.

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4 Responses to Archived topics 2010-2011: Obscure Berrypecker (Melanocharis arfakiana): request for information

  1. Guy Dutson says:

    I have only recorded this species at popular birding sites around Tabubil where it is locally not uncommon in degraded and regenerating forest. Given the geographic distribution of this very inconspicuous species, I would guess that it is much more widespread and have a population of more than 10,000 mature individuals, suffering only a slow decline due to habitat loss. However I would still err on the side of caution and treat it as Data Deficient until and unless its recently better-known plumage and calls lead to it being recorded at new sites.

  2. Phil Gregory says:

    I have records of this species from the Tabubil area in 3 separate localities 800m-1100m, occurring along forest edge and in degraded habitats; also from Boana near Lae, and Keki Lodge near Madang at around 100-1100m, and I have heard it at the highest levels in Varirata NP around 850m. Much of the Tabubil habitat is being badly degraded so all readily accessible sites there are being lost. It is cryptic, easily overlooked and/or misidentified unless you know the call. I suspect it’s localised and uncommon but under no specific threat as I imagine there would be 10,000+ individuals. May be best left as Data Deficient as Guy suggests as it’s kind of a specialist species which is hard to identify and find. It can range from canopy to sub-stage but is most usually seen in the mid-levels.

  3. Bruce Beehler says:

    I suspect the species is uncommon but widespread through New Guinea, both east and west. The fact that it has not been recorded (since original collection) in west is simply a product of sampling error – too few birders looking for it there. I would suggest leaving it as DD.

  4. Joe Taylor says:

    The following comment was received from Jon Hornbuckle on 29 January 2011:

    occurs at Tabubil in small numbers and at Keki Lodge near Madang so no worse than vulnerable

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