This discussion was first published as part of the 2013 Red List update, but remains open for comment to enable reassessment in 2014.
Whiskered Pitta Pitta kochi is endemic to Luzon in the Philippines, where it is restricted to the mountains of the Cordillera Central and the Sierra Madre in the north, and the Bicol region in the south (BirdLife International 2001). It is currently listed as Vulnerable under criteria A2cd+3cd+4cd because it was thought to be declining rapidly (population reduction of ≥30% over three generations), owing to very rapid reductions in the area of its lowland and montane forest habitats, locally compounded by hunting.
Formerly judged to be rare and local overall, there have been a number of records from at least 13 widely spread localities since 1990. Populations in Bicol are likely to be highly threatened (D. Allen in litt. 2007, 2012) but it is still regularly observed by birdwatchers in some of the known localities, including Hamut Camp near Mt Cetaceo in the Sierra Madre (M. van Weerd in litt. 2012). If this species occurs widely in montane forest in the Sierra Madre, it may not be as threatened as previously thought. Although forest cover in the Sierra Madre has declined by 83% since the 1930s, illegal logging activities in this area target lowland tree species, rather than montane species, and there is reportedly no agricultural encroachment above 800 m in the northern Sierra Madre, suggesting that the species could be secure there (M. van Weerd in litt. 2012). In Isabela Province and most of Cagayan Province, montane forest is also covered by strict protection zones in Pas and although law enforcement is weak, there is no direct threat to montane forest as both loggers and farmers do not convert high elevation areas in the Sierra Madre (M. van Weerd in litt. 2012). In the Cordillera Central, montane forest is threatened by logging, agricultural encroachment and mining (M. van Weerd in litt. 2012). Large areas in the southern Cordillera Central have been converted for cultivation, and the species is likely to be rare or locally extinct there. However, the northern Cordillera Central is sparsely populated, and there are large areas of undisturbed forest. Surveys indicate that the species is not presently threatened by forest conversion in Apayao province (M. van Weerd in litt. 2012).
If this information is confirmed, and the global population of this species is not undergoing a rapid decline, this species would no longer qualify as Vulnerable. Should the species now be suspected to be declining at a rate of c.25-30% over three generations (13 years in this species), this species would warrant downlisting to Near Threatened, approaching criteria A2cd+3cd+4cd for Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Information is requested on this species’s distribution, population trends and size. Comments on the severity of habitat loss within this species’s global range would also be welcome.
BirdLife International (2001) Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International: Cambridge, U.K.