Archived 2011-2012 topics: Chuuk Monarch (Metabolus rugensis): 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 Chuuk Monarch

Chuuk Monarch Metabolus rugensis is widely distributed on the high lagoon islands and outer reef islets of Chuuk (=Truk) Lagoon in the Federated States of Micronesia, where it is most abundant in native upland forest, but occurs in a variety of other habitats (Engbring et al. 1990, G. Dutson in litt. 2003). It is listed as Endangered under criterion C2a(ii) because it has a very small population, estimated to fall into the band 1,000-2,499 mature individuals based on data from the 1990s, which is suspected to be in rapid decline owing to the loss of habitat within its extremely small range. Habitat loss is driven by a rapidly growing human population (Engbring et al. 1990). Although it has an Extent of Occurrence (EOO) estimated at c.80 km2, the species does not qualify as Critically Endangered under criterion B1 because it occurs at more than 10 locations and its habitat is not considered severely fragmented (i.e. over 50% in fragments too small to support viable populations).

As this species is suspected to be rapidly declining there is a significant risk that the population data from the 1990s are now out-of-date and that the population size needs to be re-estimated. Observations in 2001 added support to the suspicion of declines since surveys in the early 1980s (G. Dutson in litt. 2003). Visits to Weno suggest that the species has become extirpated, or perhaps extremely rare, on that island since 2005 (C. Collins in litt. 2011). There are also second-hand reports that the species has been targeted with slingshots on Weno (C. Collins in litt. 2011).

Further information on this species is requested, in particular recent data and observations on the rate of habitat loss, severity of any other threats, and current population size of M. rugensis.

Reference:

Engbring, J., Ramsey, F. L. and Wildman, V. J. (1990) Micronesian forest bird surveys, the Federated States: Pohnpei, Kosrae, Chuuk, and Yap. Honolulu: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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4 Responses to Archived 2011-2012 topics: Chuuk Monarch (Metabolus rugensis): request for information

  1. Joe Taylor says:

    The following comments were sent by Chris Collins on 16 November 2011:

    In my opinion there would be no logic in the Monarch being treated as endangered and the White-eye as vulnerable, especially as the former is more widely distributed in the archipelago. The White-eye is on far fewer islands and anicodotal discussions with local people suggest the monarch can survive in less than perfect habitat.

    I don’t feel that the time I have spent on Weno is sufficient to say the Monarch is no longer present there – it is simply a case that I haven’t seen it there recently and we now look for it on Tol South as it is easier to find there. Based on moderately recent discussion with local people (ie last 2-3 years or so) I think it is probably still on Weno but almost certainly pretty rare.

  2. Joe Taylor says:

    The following comments were sent by Derek Scott on 8 September 2011:

    I have visited Truk (Chuuk) three times: during my travels as the Co-ordinator of the Oceania Wetlands Inventory in August 1990, and as leader of Birdquest tours in December 2008 and December 2010. I also have the report of the Birdquest visit to Truk (lead by Mark Beaman) in December 2005. The Truk (Chuuk) Monarch was recorded on all four visits, but is clearly not a common bird. In August 1990, I only visited the island of Moen (Weno) where the main town and international airport are located. I saw one female Truk Monarch in a small patch of woodland (native and introduced trees) near the north-west corner of the island. This patch of forest still exists (as of December 2010) and the species might still survive there, but we did not check the area in 2005, 2008 or 2010. Mark Beaman and his group saw three juvenile Truk Monarchs in the native forest near the summit of Mount Winipot on Tol South on 20 December 2005, and found a pair building a nest in a tall breadfruit tree in ‘agricultural forest’ between Foson and Wonip villages in the lowlands of Tol South on 21 December 2005. On 7 December 2008, two members of my group saw a single juvenile Truk Monarch in the native forest near the summit of Mount Winipot. We returned to Tol South the next day and spent the whole morning searching for Truk Monarchs in the agricultural forest and mangroves between Foson and Wonip but without success. We had local guides who knew the bird and said that it was becoming rarer. One village elder said that it had been common when he was a boy but was now very scarce. The next day (9 December 2008), we spent much of the morning on Dublon Island (the nearest high island to Moen) and quickly found a pair of Truk Monarchs with a fledged juvenile in an area of tangled thicket bordering mangrove woodland on the north-eastern peninsula of the island. On 5 December 2010, we found a total of nine Truk Monarchs (including two adult males) on the upper slopes of Mount Winipot on Tol South. Five of these were in mixed forest (native and introduced trees) just below the summit plateau, and the others were in the tall native forest near the summit. The next day (6 December 2010), we spent the whole morning searching the area on Dublon Island where I had seen the monarchs in December 2008 but without success. My conclusion is that this definitely a rare and decreasing species. While it can occur in introduced forest in the lowlands, it would seem to prefer native forest which, on Tol South, is now restricted to the tiny summit plateau.

  3. bohryz says:

    is this bird an indigenous species to Chuuk?

    • Andy Symes says:

      Yes, it’s native to, and only found on, the high lagoon islands and outer reef islets of Chuuk.

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