Archived 2011-2012 topics: Blue-moustached Bee-eater (Merops mentalis): request for information

Initial deadline for comments: 31 January 2012 [note that this has been moved back by about two months].

BirdLife species factsheet for Blue-moustached Bee-eater

Blue-moustached Bee-eater Merops mentalis was first recognised as a species distinct from Blue-headed Bee-eater M. muelleri by BirdLife in the 2011 Red List update, when it was listed as Least Concern on the basis that it was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN criteria. It is found in West Africa, occurring in Sierra Leone, south-eastern Guinea, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, southern Ghana, southern Nigeria and western Cameroon (Borrow and Demey 2001, 2004).

This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence of less than 20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline was not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (at least a 30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (fewer than 10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be at least a 10% over ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure).

The species appears to show some dependence on mature forest, being observed in clearings and along the edges of primary forest and old secondary forest (Borrow and Demey 2001, del Hoyo et al. 2001), although it may also feed over tilled land where a few dead trees remain standing (del Hoyo et al. 2001). It occurs in a region known for rapid and on-going deforestation, raising the question of whether it qualifies for a higher threat category under the A criterion. Remaining large tracts of forest in Liberia are under intense and increasing pressure from commercial logging and a consequent increase in settlement and small-holder agriculture (Anon. 2000). Elsewhere in the Upper Guinea region, forest survives in fragmented patches which are under intense pressure for logging and conversion to agriculture (Anon. 2000). In addition, the species occurs at relatively low densities and is rarely recorded (H. Rainey in litt.).

Further information on the species’s status is requested, in particular data and observations regarding the severity of potential threats such as the drivers of deforestation within its range.

References:

Anon. (2000) Restarting Nature Conservation in Liberia. Fauna & Flora News 12: 1-2.

Borrow, N. and Demey, R. (2001) Birds of western Africa. London, UK: Christopher Helm.

Borrow, N. and Demey, R. (2004) Field guide to the birds of western Africa. London, UK: Christopher Helm.

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2001) Handbook of the birds of the world, Vol 6: Mousebirds to Hornbills. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.

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2 Responses to Archived 2011-2012 topics: Blue-moustached Bee-eater (Merops mentalis): request for information

  1. This is certainly a low density species in Gola Forest, Sierra Leone, and always has been, though it is widespread. There’s no indication of a change in population in Gola. It seems to prefer broken canopy and small clearings but is nonetheless tied to areas of intact forest, not being found in the wider countryside within tree crops and farmbush. So it may tolerate some internal forest degradation but is less likely to cope with a slash and burn landscape.

  2. Joe Taylor says:

    The following information and comments were sent by Françoise Dowsett-Lemaire on 27 January 2012:

    1. Merops mentalis

    GHANA
    Blue-moustached Bee-eater Merops mentalis
    Distribution Guineo-Congolian endemic (Upper Guinea near-endemic, from Sierra Leone to W. Cameroon). Confined to the forest zone of the south-west, where local. The species is fairly common in only two plateau areas: the Tano Ofin plateau and its extensions, and Atewa Range. From Tano Ofin F.R. (where common around 700 m, in 2009), extends north-east to Opro River and Afram Headwaters F.Rs (alt. 350-400 m, single pairs in 2010), north to Bosumkese Hill (A. Hester), west to Ayum/Subim F.Rs (collected in 2003, B. Marks) and Mpameso F.R. (p.o. 2010). Common in plateau forest at Atewa Range (around 700-800 m, many observers); uncommon elsewhere: near Bonkro (per N. Borrow), in Pra-Suhien F.R. within 05°N01°BW (B. Phalan), and from the same square (probably) there is an old record by M. Horwood (in Grimes 1987) of one in a forest reserve near Tarkwa. In the extreme south-west, known from Ankasa N.P. where uncommon (Dowsett-L. & Dowsett 2011x) and Boi Tano F.R. (Dutson & Branscombe 1990). There is an old record of a pair “north of Cape Coast” (M. Horwood in Grimes 1987), shown with a hollow square, as it has not been found again, as in nearby Kakum N.P. (many observers). There is an old record of a pair “north of Cape Coast” (M. Horwood in Grimes 1987), shown with a hollow square, as it has not been found again, as in nearby Kakum N.P. (many observers).
    Ecology and habits In large and medium-sized trees of evergreen or semi-evergreen rain forest, with a preference for gaps or edge of roads and clearings; also in swampy area (Mpameso). In pairs or small family groups.
    Status Resident.
    Conservation Threatened by destruction of forest reserves, which is already well advanced in Opro River and Afram Headwaters (for teak plantations and farming concessions), in Tano Ofin (illegal logging and farming), Atewa Range (illegal logging). Protected only in Ankasa N.P., where, however, it is not common.
    Breeding Juvenile fed by one or more of three adults, 19 Feb 1995, Atewa Range (J. Simms). Independent immature(s) seen with adults on other occasions.
    Taxonomy Until recently included in the broader species concept of Blue-headed Bee-eater M. muelleri, but treated provisionally here as an Upper Guinea endemic.
    References Dowsett-Lemaire & Dowsett (2011xAnkasa); Dutson & Branscombe (1990); Grimes (1987).

    SIERRA LEONE
    In our report on Gola Forest (2007, sent to BirdLife), we wrote (p. 14): “Partial to broken canopy on hills: encountered on top of Ngbonkelaka Hill (at least two birds) on our two visits there. Possibly another in forest near Konella (heard briefly)”.

    LIBERIA
    On a recent visit to the Nimba range, Ben Phalan and I observed this bee-eater in several places within West Nimba Community Reserve (Nov 2011): “2-4 birds located at three sites on 1-3 Nov, south and north of Eytee camp, twice in farms and secondary forest near road banks; alt. around 400-450 m.” (coordinates: 07.50°N, 08.71°W, and also slightly to the north of this).

    CAMEROON
    We have some records from W. Cameroon, but we are not sure of the limits there between muelleri and mentalis. In the Yabassi Hills near Yingui (report in 2001, sent to BirdLife, including an electronic version sent via L. Fishpool last Dec.), we had “Blue-headed Bee-eater” sensu lato in Ebo Forest (once), Ndokbou Forest (north of Ebo, once) and Makombé Forest at Ndokiti; altitude up to 1250 m. This area is in the SW, quite close to Douala in latitude, so more likely to be mentalis. We did not in those days try and distinguish between what were considered races.
    You will have to check against localities of specimens, as both Louette (Birds of Cameroon) and H. Fry (his monograph on bee-eaters) are far too vague.

    I see we also have a record from the Central Bakossi Mts (west of Kupe) by I. Faucher, at forest edges, no altitude. This would have been in 1998. And this must also be mentalis.

    Conclusion: this bee-eater is threatened by deforestation (serious in Ghana), but does survive in fairly degraded forest in places and even on farms with large trees left (recent obs. in Liberia). Should be treated as Near Threatened or Vulnerable, still has a large range, but absent from Dahomey Gap.

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