Blue Bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea rudolphi): downlist to Near Threatened?

This discussion was first published as part of the 2013 Red List update, but remains open for comment to enable reassessment in 2014.

BirdLife species factsheet for Blue Bird-of-paradise

Blue Bird-of-paradise Paradisaea rudolphi occurs in the eastern Central Ranges of Papua New Guinea, from Mt Sisa south of Tari to the Owen Stanley range. It is currently listed as Vulnerable under criteria C2a(i) of the IUCN Red List, based on a small, patchily distributed population that was suspected to be declining owing to pressure from hunting for its plumes.

The population has been estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

However, the species is tolerant of degraded habitats in human-dominated ecosystems, occurring in garden mosaics, copses of planted trees in upland valleys (B. Beehler in litt. 2012, G. Dutson in litt. 2012), forest edge and nearby disturbed areas (van den Bergh 2009). In addition, hunting levels may be lower than previously thought due to a law preventing the killing of birds with non-traditional means (i.e. shotguns), or it could be that it has become increasingly more difficult to find the species, perhaps due to its patchy distribution (M. Supuma in litt. 2012). The issue that remains is that the species seems to be patchily distributed in eastern Papua New Guinea and still absent from some apparently suitable environments (B. Beehler in litt. 2012). Nevertheless, if this species is found to have a stable population it could qualify for downlisting to Near Threatened under criterion C2a(i).

Further information is required on the estimated population size, distribution, likely population trends, size of the largest subpopulation and on the severity of hunting for this species.

Reference:

van den Bergh, M. O. L. (2009) Destructive attraction: Blue Birds of Paradise and local inhabitants: an equilibrium?

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3 Responses to Blue Bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea rudolphi): downlist to Near Threatened?

  1. I think this is an interesting and important discussion, and I would like to respond to some of the points made.
    First all, with regards to species tolerance of forest edge and nearby disturbed areas, it should be noted that it remains uncertain whether the species also successfully breeds in these areas (see also, van den Bergh 2009).
    Secondly, the birds-of-paradise, including the Blue Bird-of-paradise, are protected by law in Papua New Guinea through the Fauna Act of 1966-73. Also, all species of birds-of-paradise occurring in PNG are listed in the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) appendix II23. The two above described protection statuses prohibit the commercial sale of any bird-of-paradise (alive or dead). Trade in bird-of-paradise plumes must be for customary purposes. In addition, it is illegal for non-citizens to take birds-of-paradise without a permit from PNG’s Department of Environment & Conservation. Finally, the killing of birds-of-paradise with anything other than traditional means is prohibited for PNG citizens (van den Bergh 2011).
    However, during a research I conducted in 2008, the majority of the interviewees said they were aware of existing regulations, but indicated that these regulations have no influence on BBOP collection and trade, as the law is not enforced. Surprisingly, this view was shared by the Tari district officer and the policemen interviewed. Moreover, ideas about the content of conservation regulations differed among respondents. For instance, some thought it is illegal to hunt and trade BOP, while others thought it is illegal to hunt BOP, but legal to trade BOP. Some respondents doubted whether the BOP restrictions also apply to BBOP or only to the commonly used Raggiana Bird-of-paradise Paradisaea raggiana (Ibid. 2011)
    PNG’s weak central government authority, a lack of law enforcement and law and order problems make collection and trade laws and regulations doomed to fail. Conservation efforts are hindered by several factors, such as law and order problems, corruption, political instability, a high and increasing crime rate, and a lack of infrastructure (Ibid. 2011).
    On the other hand, market access and integration may decrease collection by the local inhabitants (see van den Bergh 2011). Tourism, however, plays a double role. While bird-related tourism is on the increase, which creates a direct incentive to decrease hunting, general tourism may result in an increase in singsings (where the feathers play an important role) and the sale of the feathers to tourists. Similarly, the increasing influence of Christianity plays a double role; Christian priests forbid the use of BBOP, while – ironically- the celebration of Christmas results in an increase of singsings (Ibid 2011).
    Lastly, it’s seems likely to have a declining population, at least locally. For instance, Mamu (in litt., 2009) indicates that the BBOP is becoming very rare and uncommon in many areas. Gregory (in litt., 2009) believes that the BBOP is more severely threatened than suggested, because government protection is on paper only, and written laws are not taken too seriously in PNG’s highlands. This, combined with the intense human pressure on the bird’s natural habitat in its already restricted range, makes it the most threatened of all BOP species at this moment (see also, van den Bergh 2009). Also more recently, O’Reilly (in litt. 2012), reported a decreasing population in at least one area.

    References:
    van den Bergh, M. O. L. (2009) Destructive attraction: Blue Birds of Paradise and local inhabitants: an equilibrium?
    van den Bergh, M. O.L., Kusters, K., & Dietz, A. T. (2013). Destructive attraction: factors that influence hunting pressure on the Blue Bird-of-paradise Paradisaea rudolphi. Bird Conservation International, 23(02), 221-231.
    Gregory, P. (sicklebill@optusnet.com.au). (7 Mar 2009). Muruk. E-mail to Michiel van den Bergh (michielvdbergh@gmail.com).
    Mamu, T. (tmamu@wwfpacific.org.pg). (1 Apr 2009). Re: Blue Bird-of-paradise. E-mail to Michiel van den Bergh (michielvdbergh@hotmail.com).
    O’Reilly, R. (Richard.O’Reilly@sjhc.london.on.ca). (8 Dec 2013). Master’s Thesis. E-mail to Michiel van den Bergh (michielvdbergh@hotmail.com).

  2. Andy Symes says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information and comments posted above, our preliminary proposal for the 2014 Red List would be to treat Blue Bird-of-paradise Paradisaea rudolphi as Vulnerable under criterion C2a(i).

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 March, after which recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  3. Andy Symes says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there has been no change to our preliminary proposal for the 2014 Red List status of this species.

    The final categorisation will be published later in 2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessment by BirdLife and IUCN.

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