Archived 2010-2011 topics: Nilgiri Pipit (Anthus nilghiriensis): uplist to Vulnerable?

Link to BirdLife species factsheet for Nilgiri Pipit

Nilgiri Pipit Anthus nilghiriensis is currently listed as Near Threatened under criterion B1a+b(ii,iii) on the basis that although it has a moderately small range, there was insufficient information on potential threats and thus little evidence available to suspect a decline. The species, however, has been the subject of a recent PhD thesis, which has provided more detail on the threats that it faces.

The species’s main habitat of montane grassland, particularly with marshy valleys for nesting, is being lost through conversion to agriculture and plantations, such that grasslands in the Nilgiris are now regarded as highly fragmented (Vinod 2007). The species is also susceptible to grazing and fires during the breeding season. Furthermore, the species was shown to be more abundant in protected habitat compared to unprotected habitat, suggesting that it is impacted by disturbance (Vinod 2007). Surveys undertaken as part of the PhD project suggest that the species occurs at a density of c.0.1 birds/ha and that only 400 km2 of montane grasslands exist in its range, not all of which will be suitable for the species (Vinod 2007, U. J. Vinod in litt. 2010). Assuming that the vast majority of the birds recorded in the survey were breeding adults, and that all remaining montane grassland is occupied by the species, it can be calculated that there are c.4,000 mature individuals in the population. This population estimate could mean that the species is eligible for Vulnerable status under the C criterion; however, there is considerable uncertainty regarding the area of suitable habitat that remains, as well as the density of breeding adults.

It is proposed that this species be uplisted to Vulnerable under criterion B1a+b(i,ii,iii,v) on the basis that it has an Extent of Occurrence (EOO) estimated at 11,600 km2, in which its habitat is regarded as severely fragmented (over 50% of suitable habitat in patches too small to support viable populations) and ongoing declines are suspected in its EOO, Area of Occupancy, area, extent and/or quality of habitat and the number of mature individuals. Comments are invited on this proposed category change and a request is made for additional information on the species.

Vinod, U. J. (2007) Status and ecology of the Nilgiri Pipit in the Western Ghats. Ph.D. thesis. Bharathiar University, Coimbatore.

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3 Responses to Archived 2010-2011 topics: Nilgiri Pipit (Anthus nilghiriensis): uplist to Vulnerable?

  1. Praveen J says:

    Nilgiri Pipit is definitely rare in its entire range as also seen by studies in Kerala.

    a. The entire Southern Western Ghats were surveyed by a 5 member team in 2009-2010 visiting all locations where Dr.Salim Ali visited for Travancore-Cochin survey in 1933 on the same dates (6 months). They encountered the bird only in two locations Marayur & Munnar between an altitude elevation of 1588 to 2530 m. They had an encounter rate of 0.86 birds / 100 hours (Along the Trail of Salim Ali – A Study of Avifauna, Their Habitat and Ecological History: Travancore-Cochin Ornithological Survey 2009 Report – Sashikumar C et. al. 2010). However, it is noteworthy that the 1933 survey by Dr. Ali also did not record Nilgiri Pipit.

    b. In a series of bird surveys in various parts of its range conducted between 1990 to 2010, some of the data on Red Data species appear in this publication.
    http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/may252009/1390.pdf
    Praveen J & Nameer P O (2009) Monitoring bird diversity in Western Ghats of Kerala Current Science.
    Nilgiri Pipit occurs in 4 of the 7 sites included with densities (#/1000 birds) of 1.25 (Periyar TR), 0.52(Nelliampathies RF) , 0.58(Silent Valley NP), 0.29(Parambikulam WLS/TR)

    c. A survey of total of 145 bird hours spread across 3 seasons yielded 14 birds at Silent Valley National Park – an area with altitude > c.900m having some some of the best montane grasslands in South India.
    http://silentvalley.gov.in/pdf/Birddiversity.pdf (Surveys coordiated by P K Uthaman)

    d. Range is fragmented though locally common in high altitudes. It has been recorded from the high-altitudinal zones of these forest areas in Kerala – Aaralam WLS, Kottiyur RF, North Wyanad & South Wayanad Hills, Silent Valley NP, Siruvani RF, Nelliampathy RF, Paramabikulam WLS, Periyar TR, Eravikulam NP, Munnar – Marayur – Mankulam RF, Ponmudi Hills, Shendurney WLS
    (Sashikumar et. al. in prep Birds of Kerala – Status & Distribution)

    In summary, good habitats that support this species is very few – the best probably occurs around GrassHills-Eravikulam-Munnar & Nilgiris-Silent Valley. An extrapolated estimate of an upper limit of 4000 individuals may be true considering all the available information we have.

    This species should be elevated to Vulnerable.

  2. I am glad that our recommendations to up list the Nilgiri Pipit from Near Threatened to Vulnerable has been followed; and I fully support its proposed listing as Vulnerable based on our study.

    Nilgiri Pipit surely needs a detailed study especially on its population ecology and the habitat suitability. We found Nilgiri Pipits in low abundance, with some reduction in range and almost extinct in some former localities during our survey. Available 400km2 area of montane grasslands in the Western Ghats again restricted to small fragments due to the intervention of various anthropogenic activities like agriculture, plantations, grazing, fire and other disturbances. Within these fragments, marshy valleys are the crucial habitats of the species for their ecological activities. So the availability of the restricted habitat should be estimated.

    In this current situation there is immense need to upgrade Nilgiri Pipit by placing pressure on Government to support “Project Pipits”. Mr.Praveen has given valuable comment on the sighting reports of the species in Kerala part of the Western Ghats.

    Future conservation can be made possible through proper research on various vital aspects of Nilgiri Pipit. The lacunae of the research on the species are listed below with prioritization.

    1. Habitat suitability
    2. Range of distribution
    3. Population dynamics
    4. Seasonal and local movement
    5. Landscape approach of conservation keeping Nilgiri Pipit as a Flagship species.
    6. Habitat management studies
    7. Impact of Habitat loss, Grazing and burning, Spread of agriculture, Encroachment and invasive species
    8. Land use changes in land use practices and climate change.

    With the help of these, a full-fledged Conservation management option can be implemented with the local people and Government support to conserve the species as well as its habitat.

  3. I had three birding sessions in Korakundah Organic tea estate, if found this bird present in all the outings. This estate has some of the best shola forests in W.Ghats. These birds seems to prefer the grassy area around the estates. Looks as though it is common bird in this 2150MSL habitat.
    rajesh ramnarayan
    coimbatore.

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