Archived 2014 discussion: Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata) is being split: list C. macqueenii as Vulnerable and C. undulata as Least Concern?

The initial deadline for comments on this topic is provisionally set as 17 April, and is therefore later than for most other discussions underway this year.

Please note that BirdLife International is carrying out a more detailed status review for C. macqueenii, with the support of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). Please contact Joe Taylor (joe.taylor[at]birdlife.org – replace [at] with @) if you would like to participate in this review. Further details of the review will be posted in due course.

This is part of a consultation on the Red List implications of extensive changes to BirdLife’s taxonomy for non-passerines

Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International will soon publish the HBW-BirdLife Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, building off the Handbook of the Birds of the World series, and BirdLife’s annually updated taxonomic checklist.

The new Checklist will be based on the application of criteria for recognising species limits described by Tobias et al. (2010). Full details of the specific scores and the basis of these for each new taxonomic revision will be provided in the Checklist.

Following publication, an open and transparent mechanism will be established to allow people to comment on the taxonomic revisions or suggest new ones, and provide new information of relevance in order to inform regular updates. We are also actively seeking input via a discussion topic here regarding some potential taxonomic revisions that currently lack sufficient information.

The new Checklist will form the taxonomic basis of BirdLife’s assessments of the status of the world’s birds for the IUCN Red List. The taxonomic changes that will appear in volume 1 of the checklist (for non-passerines) will begin to be incorporated into the 2014 Red List update, with the remainder, and those for passerines (which will appear in volume 2 of the checklist), to be incorporated into subsequent Red List updates.

Preliminary Red List assessments have been carried out for the newly split or lumped taxa. We are now requesting comments and feedback on these preliminary assessments.

Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata is being split into C. undulata and C. macqueenii, following the application of criteria set out by Tobias et al. (2010).

Prior to this taxonomic change, C. undulata (BirdLife species factsheet) was listed as Vulnerable under criterion A2bcd, on the basis that it was estimated to have undergone a rapid population decline (30-49% over three generations [c.20 years]), owing largely to unsustainable hunting levels, as well as habitat degradation.

C. macqueenii is partially migratory and distributed across West Asia (the Middle East), and parts of South Asia, Central Asia and East Asia. A rate of decline in West Asia of c.25% over 20 years was estimated in 2004 (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004, Tourenq et al. 2004) and the species is described as having declined “sharply” in East Asia (O. Combreau in litt. 2012). An overall estimated decline rate in East Asia of c.40-50% over 20 years, as estimated in 2004 (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004, Tourenq et al. 2004), is thought to remain realistic. If c.70% (East Asia) of the total population is declining by 40-50% and c.30% (West Asia) is declining by c.25%, then the overall rate of decline is likely to be around 35-43% over c.20 years. It is therefore suggested that the species be listed as Vulnerable under criteria A2bcd+3cd+4bcd, on the basis that it is thought to be in rapid and on-going population decline (30-49% over three generations [c.20 years]), owing to hunting pressure and habitat degradation.

C. undulata (as defined following the taxonomic change) is widespread in North Africa and occurs in the Canary Islands. It is likely to be listed as being of Least Concern on the basis that it is not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN criteria. Although it showed a steady decline of c.25% in the 20 years preceding 2004 (F. Launay pers. comm. 2004), this trend has since been reversed by a successful captive breeding and release programme in east Morocco and west Algeria, and the overall population is now thought to be increasing (O. Combreau in litt. 2012) (at a conservative estimate, by 1-10% over 20 years).

Comments are invited on these suggested categories and further information would be welcomed.

References:

Tobias, J. A., Seddon, N., Spottiswoode, C. N., Pilgrim, J. D., Fishpool, L. D. C. and Collar, N. J. (2010) Quantitative criteria for species delimitation. Ibis 152: 724–746.

Tourenq, C., Combreau, O., Pole, S. B., Lawerence, M., Ageyev, V.S., Karpov, A. A., Launay, F. (2004) Monitoring of Asian houbara bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii populations in Kazakhstan reveals dramatic decline. Oryx 38: 62-67.

Related posts:

  1. Archived 2012-2013 topics: Arabian Bustard (Ardeotis arabs) and Nubian Bustard (Neotis nuba): request for information
  2. Archived 2014 discussion: Moustached Kingfisher (Actenoides bougainvillei) is being split: list both A. bougainvillei and A. excelsus as Endangered?
  3. Archived 2011-2012 topics: Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax): what are the trends in Russia and Central Asia?
  4. Archived 2010-2011 topics: Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni): downlist to Near Threatened or Least Concern?
  5. Archived 2014 discussion: Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) is being split: list C. nivosus as Near Threatened, C. dealbatus as Data Deficient and C. alexandrinus as Least Concern?
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14 Responses to Archived 2014 discussion: Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata) is being split: list C. macqueenii as Vulnerable and C. undulata as Least Concern?

  1. alan lewis says:

    Is it completely certain that the North African re-introductions used birds of the local taxon (undulata) rather than, what I would have thought is the likely more easily obtainable macquenii? I have no evidence either way – I am just suggesting that this should be checked.

    cheers, alan

  2. Yves HINGRAT says:

    For your information

    On the genetic management of the EMIRATES CENTER FOR WILDLIFE PROPAGATION (based in Morocco) and birds used for reinforcement (not re-introduction) in North Africa, see following references:

    Lesobre L, Lacroix F, Caizergues A, Hingrat Y, Saint Jalme M (2010) Conservation genetics of Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata undulata): population structure and its implicationsfor the reinforcement of wild populations. Conservation Genetics Volume 11, Number 4, 1489-1497.

    Lesobre L. 2008. Structure génétique des populations menacée d’outardes houbara (Chlamydotis undulata undulata) au Maroc. Implications à la gestion d’un élevage conservatoire et au renforcement des populations. PdD. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, p 131

  3. Virag Vyas says:

    So, the species that is winter migrant to Rann of Kachchh in Gujarat (INDIA) is C. macqueenii and NOT C. undulata ??

    Please reply.

    • Joe Taylor says:

      Dear Virag,

      Yes, you are correct: the birds wintering in India are C. macqueenii.

      Many thanks,

      Joe

  4. John Pilgrim says:

    You appear to have missed the following reference: Tourenq, C., Combreau, O., Lawrence, M., Pole, S. B., Spalton, A., Xinji, G., Al Baidani, M. & Launay, F. (2005) Alarming houbara bustard population trends in Asia. Biological Conservation 121: 1–8.

    This suggests macqueeni may be better classified as EN or (more likely?) CR. I don’t have the reference to hand, but perhaps you could summarise to clarify the situation…

  5. Andy Symes says:

    Abstract from Tourenq et al. (2005):

    “Relative abundance and density estimates of Asian houbara were assessed during the breeding season in two breeding grounds of
    migrant populations (China and south Kazakhstan) and in one breeding ground of a resident population (Oman), between 1998 and 2002. For the study period, the relative abundance was from 0.004 to 0.06 individual per km driven and density estimates varied from 0.01 to 0.2 houbara per km2. Relative abundance and density of houbara declined by 63% and 69%, respectively in China, by 60% and 49%, respectively in Kazakhstan and by 50% and 75%, respectively in Oman. Overall, an average of 27–30% annual decline in both relative abundance and density was observed for the three regions. Despite being legally a strictly protected species in China,Kazakhstan and Oman, houbara are heavily hunted and poached on all their migration routes and wintering grounds. The current levels of hunting and poaching are not sustainable and without the immediate agreement and implementation of international conservation measures, the Asian houbara may face extinction in the wild in the foreseeable future.”

    Tourenq, C., Combreau, O., Lawrence, M., Pole, S. B., Spalton, A., Xinji, G., Al Baidani, M. & Launay, F. (2005) Alarming houbara bustard population trends in Asia. Biological Conservation 121: 1–8.

  6. Raffael Ayé says:

    C. macqueeni
    The use of West Asia and East Asia is a bit confusing. “East Asia” here refers basically to Central Asia (mainly Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, but also Xinjiang and Mongolia). West Asia basically refers to the Middle East. Maybe it would be better to talk of Middle Eastern and Central Asian populations (or migratory and resident) rather than using East and West Asia.

    Circumstantial evidence (own obs. 2004 to 2012, discussions with rangers in the same period) from a small number of protected areas in Iran suggests that also the Iranian population has still been decreasing in recent years. It is obviously very difficult to quantify this decline, but it seems to be substantial even in protected areas and possibly worse outside of PAs. That would support John’s statement, that the situation might be even worse than described above.

    C. undulata (sensu str.)
    As to Houbara Bustard, I wonder whether the evidence base for LC is good enough. Until recently, it was estimated that 30% of the global population of the two lumped species were living in North Africa. That would be 32’000 to 35’000 using the most recent estimate of 106’000 to 110’000 (see BirdLife International at http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=2769 ). This population was estimated to have decline 25% in 20 years.

    There is apparently a reinforcement programme in eastern Morocco and western Algeria. However, there is no reference to a publication about its results and the current population size in the project area. Maybe this can be added?

    It would seem to me that in other parts of the range (Tunisia, Libya, large parts of Egypt, the rest of Algeria, which is huge, Mauritania, Western Sahara) we have to assume a further decrease of the species. The estimated 400 birds on the Canary Islands are left aside here because they add little to the numbers (even though they may be important for the survival of the species because the political context may allow effective action). If we assume that the decline in other parts of the range continued at 25% in 20 years, then how strong would the population increase in the project area have to be in order to have a population growth for the total population?

    And what about the fragmentation of the population/decline of the occupied area? The species has become extremely rare in Tunisia and probably also other parts of the range. If we don’t have information on these aspects, maybe it should be DD, not LC. The assessment as LC seems optimistic to me.

  7. Richard Porter says:

    I agree with Raffael’s comment: Maybe it would be better to talk of Middle Eastern and Central Asian populations (or migratory and resident) rather than using East and West Asia.

    Population figures for Iraq are not known. Breeding is frequently reported by hunters in southern and western deserts where it is also a winter visitor. Now that Iraq is open to visits from organised Saudi and Gulf hunters it is heavily hunted with falcons and Nature Iraq have photos showing evidence of this. Hunting in Iraq will be a new threat, though the numbers and extent are not known.

  8. Salman Khan says:

    Thousands of Houbara bustard probably (Chlamydotis macqueeni) are hunted and trapped in Pakistan annually, the government allows the members of the royal families of gulf countries (Kuwait,Qatar,UAE,Saudi Arabia etc) to hunt Houbara bustard with no mercy. If current trends continue this bird will surely become extinct in the following decades, I suggest Birdlife must research the status of this bird to evalute it as Endangered under the IUCN criterai because of immense pressure of hunting and habitat loss due to desertification and even possibly climate change it faces!

    Like my Wildlife Conservation page http://www.facebook.com/wildsalman

  9. Joe Taylor says:

    Please note that BirdLife International is carrying out a more detailed status review for C. macqueenii, with the support of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). Please contact Joe Taylor (joe.taylor[at]birdlife.org – replace [at] with @) if you would like to participate in this review. Further details of the review will be posted in due course.

  10. Joe Taylor says:

    Riou et al. (2011) present analyses of survey data that indicate regional differences in the trends of breeding populations in Kazakhstan between 2000 and 2009. A steep decline was noted in north-eastern Caspian and Karakum regions, with a sharp drop followed by a stabilisation occurring in Kyzylkum. Over the same period, estimated densities were stable or increasing in the area around Lake Balkash, and increased in the Betpak-Dala region of central Kazakhstan. Autumn surveys showed more variability and revealed little decline overall. The survey data also indicate that the Betpak-Dala and Balkash regions hosted the largest populations. Distance analysis yields an estimated spring population in Kazakhstan of approximately 49,000 birds, of which 87% are found in Bedpak-Dala and Balkash, in the years 2006–2009, based on the assumption that the area of breeding habitat is roughly equivalent to the number of 40 km x 40 km sectors visited. The authors advise that this figure be treated with caution, owing to uncertainty in characterising the total area of occupied habitat (Riou et al. 2011).

    Reference:

    Riou, S., Judas, J., Lawrence, M., Pole, S. and Combreau, O. (2011) A 10-year assessment of Asian Houbara Bustard populations: trends in Kazakhstan reveal important regional differences. Bird Conservation International 21: 134–141.

  11. Joe Taylor says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information and comments posted above, our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List would be to treat:

    C. undulata as Least Concern

    C. macqueenii as Vulnerable under criteria A2cd+3cd+4cd

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 19 May, after which these 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.

  12. Joe Taylor says:

    Recommended categorisations to be put forward to IUCN

    Based on available information and comments posted above, our recommended categorisations to be put forward to IUCN for the 2014 Red List are:

    C. undulata as Vulnerable under criteria A2cd+3cd+4cd – change to the preliminary proposal

    C. macqueenii as Vulnerable under criteria A2cd+3cd+4cd

    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 assessment by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  13. Batsaikhan Nyamsuren says:

    I fully agree recommended categorization for the Central Asian houbara bustard species
    C. macqueenii as Vulnerable under criteria A2cd+3cd+4cd

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