Archived 2011-2012 topics: Rufous-vented Prinia (Prinia burnesii) and Swamp Prinia (P. cinerascens): request for information

This discussion was first published on Dec 1 2010 as part of the 2010-2011 Red List update.

Initial deadline for comments: 31 January 2012.

Link to BirdLife species factsheet for Rufous-vented Prinia (prior to split)

Rufous-vented Prinia Prinia burnesii has been split into P. burnesii and P. cinerascens following Rasmussen and Anderton (2005). Prior to this taxonomic change, the lumped taxa were listed as Near Threatened under criteria A2c; A3c; A4c, on the basis that the population was suspected to be undergoing a continued decline of 1-19% over 10 years owing to habitat loss and degradation. This taxonomic change has prompted a review of these species’ threat status, and there is speculation that P. cinarescens could qualify as threatened (del Hoyo et al. 2006).

P. burnesii (in Pakistan and north-west India) is regarded as locally common to abundant in its restricted habitat and shows tolerance to some levels of habitat degradation and the ability to take advantage of artificial habitats. P. cinerascens (in north-east India and northern Bangladesh) was formerly locally common, but there are few recent published records (del Hoyo et al. 2006). In northern Bangladesh this species’s habitats are almost totally destroyed, and its scarcity in recent years suggests that it has a low tolerance of habitat degradation (del Hoyo et al. 2006). The threats of habitat loss and modification through conversion for agriculture may indeed be impacting the two species to different extents, thus the rate of decline over 11 years (estimate of three generations) may differ in the two species; however, information is lacking. Likewise, there are apparently no data on the population sizes of these species.

Information is requested on the population sizes and estimated rates of decline in both species in order to help in the assessment of their Red List status.

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D. (2006) Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 11: Old World Flycatchers to Old World Warblers. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.

Rasmussen, P.C. and Anderton, J.C. (2005) Birds of South Asia: the Ripley Guide. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.

This entry was posted in Archive, Asia and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Archived 2011-2012 topics: Rufous-vented Prinia (Prinia burnesii) and Swamp Prinia (P. cinerascens): request for information

  1. James Eaton says:

    Despite annual visits to such reserves as Kaziranga and Dibru-Saikhowa along the Brahmaputra River I have only recorded the same individual in the same territory for 3 years running (2006-2008) at Dibru-Saikhowa. Apparently this individual has been present for several years and is the same bird the local tour operator, Peter Lobo, sees each year.

    Despite actively searching for the species using playback in tall elephant grass where the Black-breasted Parrotbill occurs I have been unsuccessful in recording the species, presumably indicating it is either a very low density species or that it is highly restricted to a certain habitat requirement, as appears to be the case with Marsh Babbler and Black-breasted Parrotbill also. I do fear greatly for these species due to the continued grazing by livestock in reserves such as Dibru Saikhowa.

    James Eaton

  2. I do agree with the comments of James Eaton. I am also monitoring the Swamp Prinia (P. cinerascens) for the last four years at the location and most probably the same pairs of birds. I had even taken the photographs of birds as well as the nest where they had a succesfull breeding in the year 2009. But unfortunately in the year 2010 the local villagers cleared off the grassland for agriculture as it is located out side the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. Now there is a total loss of habitat and the birds are sometimes seen in the open grassland nearby. But it is interesting to note that during my ten years of birding experience in Dibru-Saikhowa I have never seen the Swamp Prinia (P. cinerascens) in other location of Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. Moreover, there is no report of this bird from other grasslands of Assam. I think it needs the specific micro- habitat for its survival.

  3. Paul Thompson says:

    I am not aware of any records from Bangladesh in the last 40 years, and suspect that there may be no location with patches of suitable year round habitat (most floodplain grasses are harvested before being completely innundated in the monsoon.

  4. Duncan Wilson says:

    With the relatively recent discovery and description of an intermediate taxon in Nepal, does the split of these forms need to be re-visited?

  5. Carol Inskipp and Hem Sagar Baral says:

    Rufous-vented Prinia is a very rare and very local resident in Nepal. A subspecies endemic to Nepal nepalicola was discovered in Nepal in April 2005 in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve when three birds were seen. It has been assessed as Critically Endangered under the criteria B1 and B2ab(i,ii,ii) in The State of Nepal’s Birds 2010 published by Bird Conservation Nepal and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Kathmandu. The species was very recently re-assessed under the same categories and using the same criteria for the Nepal Red Data Book which is currently being researched and written (to be published by the Zoological Society of London). In Nepal Rufous-vented Prinia is restricted to only one site (islands in the Koshi River) with an area less than 100 km-1. Here it inhabits grassland patches age c. 5 years and is absent from heavily disturbed grasslands. A population of 500 birds was estimated in 2007. However severe monsoon flooding in 2008 may well have changed the habitat, so surveys to estimate current habitat extent and population are recommended. The species’ grassland habitat is severely threatened by loss and degradation resulting in continuing declines in the extent of occurrence, area of occupancy and habitat quality.
    The above information is a summary of the species account written for the Nepal bird Red Data Book- a full account including references has been sent to Stuart Butchart and Mike Crosby at BirdLife.

  6. Tim Inskipp says:

    Duncan Wilson’s comment about the intermediate population in Nepal does not seem to have been picked up. Now that the decision has been taken to split Swamp Prinia it is necessary to make a decision as to which species the new subspecies nepalicola belongs in. It is intermediate geographically and, to some extent morphologically, and cannot easily be ascribed to either burnesii or cinerascens. It seems likely that the population south of Kosi in Bihar is part of the same subspecies but it is only known from one record and no specimens are apparently available now. Jerdon (1863, The birds of India, Vol. 2(1): 74) described it, under the heading The Long-tailed Reed-bird (Eurycercus burnesii), as follows: ‘Quite recently I found it at Monghyr on the Ganges in March, frequenting grass mixed with Jhow bushes. When flushed, it flew close to the ground, and endeavoured to escape observation, hiding itself in the grass, and with more of the aspect of a Chatarrhoea than of a Drymoica. It will probably be found in suitable spots all along the Gangetic valley. In its rufous under tail-coverts, and slightly spotted breast, it recalls the coloring of the African genus Parisoma.’ At that time cinerascens had not been described so no comparison was possible. Oates (1889, Fauna of British India, birds, Vol. 1 included this record under burnesii rather than cinerascens, noting that ‘Jerdon records it from Monghyr on the Ganges in March.’ Baker (1924, Fauna of British India, birds (2nd ed), Vol. 2: 431) also included it under burnesii, as did Ripley (1961, Synopsis of the birds of India and Pakistan). However, Ripley (1982, Synopsis, 2nd ed) transferred this population to cinerascens, without any explanation. Rasmussen & Anderton (2005, Birds of South Asia) treated cinerascens as a separate species, based on morphological and vocal differences and included ‘W Bihar’ in the distribution, again without explanation. The vocal differences of the two forms are based on very small samples and are not particularly striking; clearly further analysis is required, with inclusion of material from the Nepal population. The type description of nepalicola (described as nipalensis) [Danphe 16 (4)] refers to genetic work underway and noted that ‘Genetically Nepal birds have been found markedly different from burnesii but no DNA analysis has been carried out on cinerascens to determine their genetic identity (Per Alström in litt. 2007 to Hem Sagar Baral).’

Comments are closed.