Nilgiri Flycatcher (Eumyias albicaudatus): downlist to Least Concern?

This discussion was first published as part of the 2013 Red List update, but remains open for comment to enable reassessment in 2015.

BirdLife species factsheet for Nilgiri Flycatcher

Nilgiri Flycatcher Eumyias albicaudatus is restricted to the Western Ghats of southern India. It is currently listed as Near Threatened under criterion B1ab(ii,iii) because it was thought to occupy a moderately small and fragmented range, likely to be experiencing a continuing decline owing to a number of emerging threats associated with human population increase.

However, mapping of the species range shows that it is larger than previously thought, with an Extent of Occurrence (EOO) of 32,800km2. Although the population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction, and the global population size is unknown, the species is described as common, especially at higher elevations (del Hoyo et al. 2006).

If this information is confirmed, and the EOO of this species does not approach 20,000km2, it would no longer qualify as Near Threatened under the range size criterion. If its population size is not thought to approach 10,000 mature individuals, with all individuals in one subpopulation or all subpopulations approaching 1,000 mature individuals;  and is not suspected to be declining at a rate of ≥25% in three generations (11 years), this species would warrant downlisting to Least Concern.

Information is requested on the distribution, population size and trends, and the severity of threats to this species. Additional comments on the proposed downlisting are welcome.


del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D. A. eds (2006) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 11. Old World Flycatchers to Old World Warblers. Lynx Edicions: Barcelona.

BirdLife range map for Nilgiri Flycatcher:

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10 Responses to Nilgiri Flycatcher (Eumyias albicaudatus): downlist to Least Concern?

  1. Praveen J says:

    I am curious to know how a figure of 32,800 km2 was arrived at for EOO. If there is a sample map (shapefile or jpg) available, then people would be able to better comment if this is correct. As far as I am aware of, there has been no novel information on this species in the last 5-10 years which should have changed its EOO – unless the previous EOO calculation was itself wrong.
    Since the discussion is solely based on the EOO size, it is felt that the calculation details (i.e. the map) be shared for comments.

  2. Joe Taylor says:

    Many thanks Praveen for your comment. I have uploaded a JPEG of the range map to the discussion topic. The range map can also be viewed on the species factsheet (link at the top of the discussion topic).

    This topic has been provoked by more stringent application of the IUCN Red List criteria in relation to the Near Threatened category.

  3. PO Nameer says:

    Nilgiri Flycatcher is seen in the following sites in Kerala,

    Neyyar WLS, Peppara WLS, Ponmudi Kallar, Kulathupuzha RF, Shendurny WLS, Periyar Tiger Reserve, Idukki WLS, Thattekkad WLS, Eravikulam NP, Pampadum shola NP, Mathikettan Shola NP, Anamudi Shola NP, Kurinjimala WLS, Chinnar WLS, Vazhachal-Sholayar RF, Parambikulam WLS, Chimmony WLS, Nelliampathy Hills, Peechi-Vazhani WLS, Siruvani Hills, Silent Valley NP, Nilambur RF, Sound Wayanad Hills, Kakkayam RF, Malabar WLS, Wynad WLS, North Wynad Forests, Aaralam WLS & Kottiyur WLS,

    the total cumulative extent of which comes to about 5000 sq. km. Even if one assumes that Nilgiri Flycatcher is seen in all the forests areas of Kerala (including the vested forests) it is only 11,000 sq. km. If we add about 2500 sq. km. each from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to the distribution range of this bird, even then the it comes to only 16,000 sq. km.

    Of course the EOO, is calculated by drawing the polygon connecting the outermost distributional points within the range of the species. The Kerala state has a total length of ~550 km, plus if we add 50km from Karnataka, multiplied by 30km width in the W Ghats where the Nilgiri Flycather is seen, the EOO comes to about 600×30 = 18000 sq. km.

    The estimation on the population size is also appears to be exaggerated and we have data based on our bird surveys and could work out a more realistic estimate on the population size of Nilgiri Flycatcher for Kerala..

  4. V. Santharam says:

    I think the range as indicated in the map may be exaggerated. Since the flycatcher is only found at higher altitudes, the actual range for the bird may be much smaller than indicated. The bird’s habitat is also fragmented with human habitations, plantations natural grasslands etc. Again, the bird’s population may not be that high. Considering all this, down-listing the species without further studies and taking into account ground realities may be unwarranted and risky.

  5. Praveen J says:

    I think the map should be corrected by identifying the habitat of this species in respective sub-clusters. The bird occurs in the following sub-clusters – Agasthyamalai, Periyar, Anamalai, Nilgiris, Talacauvery & Kudremukh – but does not occur in the intervening areas – hence, EOO should be drawn within these sub-clusters avoiding large regions of unsuitable habitats. Once this is drawn, we have to see if the total area falls within 20000km2. Though there has been sporadic reports from lower altitudes, these are probably strays from higher altitudes and does not occur regularly or breed – these areas will get eliminated once the map of EOO is drawn with sub-clusters in mind.
    Apart from distribution, there is not much new information on population size or trends. However, the threats are similar to other high altitude endemics and conversion of high altitude habitats to cultivated landscapes or habitation has to be closely watched.
    I will attempt to create such a map before the deadline and post for comments.

  6. Joe Taylor says:

    The following comments were received from Uma Vinod on 17 August 2013:

    We would like to contribute to the existing lacuna of information on the Nilgiri flycatcher, an endemic species restricted to Western Ghats, in view of the recent suggestion to de-list the species from ‘near threatened’ to the ‘least concerned’ status.

    The information on the population of Nilgiri flycatcher was recorded during a survey conducted for Nilgiri Pipit in the Shola-grasslands of Southern Western Ghats. The population survey was conducted within an altitude range of 1000-2500 covering an area of 936ha. I have seen Nilgiri Flycatcher in Kanniamallay, Top Division, Kadalar Estate, Kadalar Estate, Kundale Estate, Mathikettan Chola, Mannavan Chola, Sirenthri, Western Catchments, Upper Bhavani, Korakuntha, Bengithapal, Hut area. A total of 37 individuals of Nilgiri flycatcher were recorded. i.e., the density of the Nilgiri flycatcher was 0.03 per hectare. This data contradict the existing assumption of Nilgiri flycatcher as a ‘common’ species in the higher altitude. There were 4 nesting observations of Nilgiri Flycatcher obtained and all were found in the mud banks of the ecotone area of the shola grasslands. The most used nest materials were mosses and grass roots.

    My friend Ranjini J. also was along with me for her M.Sc. project and did a five month study on the non-breeding ecology of the Nilgiri Flycatcher in the Upper Nilgiris during 2003-2004. Based on her study , Nilgiri Flycatcher and was seen in the ecotone areas or openings within the shola forest (90.9%) or edges of Black Wattle plantations, occupied majority time foraging (71.4%) from short (3 to 5m) small leaved trees and occasionally participated in mixed feeding flocks composed of other species to find food. The flycatcher was always seen in proximity to stream (0-1m from stream, 89.7%), irrespective of their presence in shola forest or wattle plantations. Definitely we can assume such specificity in the evergreen forests also. While there is some information regarding the Nilgiri flycatcher in Shola forest, there are no information on its population status and ecology in the evergreen forest. It is necessary to conduct a comparative study on its status and ecology in these two habitats.

    Most of the literature available after year 1987 was on general characters and distribution, endemic status, restricted altitudinal distribution, the effect of habitat alteration on the species and its moulting. Its higher preference towards the shola-grasslands as well as its affinity towards the stream for most aspect of its life’s essentialities (Ranjini 2004) confirms the critical status of the Nilgiri Flycatcher. Further detailed studies extending to the breeding season of the species is needed for the integral information on the species.

    Hence, we strongly feel that the proposed possibility of downgrading Nilgiri flycatcher should be halted due to the following reasons –
    1. There are no authentic studies to comment on its status.
    2. Information available till date confirm the presence of this endemic species restricted within an altitude mostly above 1200m in Western Ghats which has fragmented severely due to several anthropogenic activities.

  7. Andy Symes says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2014 Red List is to pend the decision on Nilgiri Flycatcher Eumyias albicaudatus and keep this discussion open until early 2015, while leaving the current Red List category unchanged in the 2014 update.

    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.

  8. 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.

    This discussion will remain open for further comments and information until early 2015, and the current Red List category will remain unchanged in 2014.

  9. Praveen J says:

    Wrt. requirement of creating a new map, eBird maps are reasonably accurate and covers almost the entire range of the species.

    It should be possible to view the sub-clusters – from south to north
    Periyar & Anamalai
    Nilgiris & Talacauvery

  10. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2015 Red List would be to continue to list:

    Nilgiri Flycatcher as Near Threatened.

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

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife website in late October and on the IUCN website in November, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

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