Archived 2012-2013 topics: Black-throated Blue Robin (Luscinia obscura ): downlist to Near Threatened?

BirdLife species factsheet for Black-throated Blue Robin Black-throated Blue Robin Luscinia obscura breeds in the mountains of western China (B. King in litt. 2012). It is currently listed as Vulnerable under criterion C2a(i) on the basis that it was thought to have a small population (estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals), declining as a result of destruction of temperate forests within its breeding grounds. Until recently, it was known only from a handful of scattered records from Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi, together with several presumed non-breeding records from southern China and northern Thailand. A survey in 2011 reported 14 new sightings in two breeding areas in the Qinling Mountains, Shaanxi province (P. Alstrom in litt. 2012); effectively doubling the total number for this species since its first rediscovery 125 years ago (Davies 2011). Although the sightings were in a small area, there are said to be vast areas of similar habitat in the Qinling Mountains and the population is assumed to be relatively safe (P. Alstrom in litt. 2012). At the elevation (c. 2400–2500m) and steep terrain where this species occurs, there is apparently little conversion of forest to agriculture (P. Alstrom in litt. 2012) and although logging is a potential problem, very large areas are protected in the Qinling Mountains (mainly because of Giant Pandas)( P. Alstrom in litt. 2012). Given these recent findings, and with no indication that the population is in decline, this species may not be as rare as previously thought. If this information is confirmed, and this species’s population is no longer thought to number fewer than 10,000 mature individuals and is not in decline, this species would warrant downlisting to Near Threatened, approaching Vulnerable under criterion C2a(i) of the IUCN Red List, or even Least Concern. Further information is requested on this species’s likely population size, trends and distribution. Additional comments on this proposed downlisting are welcome. Reference: Davies, E. (2011) Rare robin breeding sites found. BBC Nature. Available at: file:///J:/SPI/Science/6b%20Red%20List%20new%20info/Asia/Luscinia%20obscura%20BBC%20Dec11.htm.

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3 Responses to Archived 2012-2013 topics: Black-throated Blue Robin (Luscinia obscura ): downlist to Near Threatened?

  1. Simon Mahood says:

    Agreed re. state of habitat on the breeding grounds. However, the number of unequivocal non-breeding records are very few. It might have a very small non-breeding range or specific non-breeding habitat. Until we know more about habitat trends in its non-breeding range/preferred habitat it might be best to be cautious.

  2. It does seem rather a risk to change it to LC/NT when the wintering range and habitat are essentially unknown? Having said that, VU also seems a pretty random assessment. Wouldn’t DD be the apt category, if there is general agreement that the positive reason for listing as VU (small pop based on breeding records) has been removed.

  3. John Pilgrim says:

    Agreed with SM & WD that it is not sensible to downlist this species to NT at this time – there is lots of apparently suitable habitat in the range of several of these robin species, yet they appear to have very specific habitat requirements that are not easily discernible to humans. Indeed, to quote from the BBC news article: “We spent three and a half weeks exploring different parts of the Qinling mountains, but we found this bird only in two places.” As the Red List is supposed to treat downlisting precautionarily, retaining at VU would be the appropriate approach… there certainly doesn’t appear to be any serious evidence pointing to a sizeable population yet!

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