Country/Territory Philippines
Area 4,500 km2
Altitude 0 - 1000m
Priority critical
Habitat loss severe
Knowledge incomplete

General characteristics

The Philippine island of Cebu is one of the Visayan islands which also include Negros and Panay to the west (EBA 152), and Samar, Leyte and Bohol to the east (EBA 154). Deep-water channels dissect this geopolitical grouping, separating Masbate and Ticao (also part of EBA 152) from southern Luzon (EBA 151), and Cebu from Leyte and Bohol. Relatively recently, therefore, there was a land-bridge between Cebu and the other islands in the Western Visayas (EBA 152) and they would thus have had a shared fauna. Although this pattern is still shown by the mammals (five are endemic to this group of islands: W. L. R. Oliver in litt. 1996), it is not apparent in the distributions of today's restricted-range bird species, and Cebu is treated as an EBA in its own right because of its two endemic birds.

It is assumed that the island was once covered in tropical evergreen rain forest as in the other Philippine islands.

Restricted-range species

Of the six restricted-range species which are known to have occurred on Cebu, only two are extant, both of them having been thought in the past to be extinct. All the restricted-range species are or were originally forest birds.

Two of the restricted-range species-Coracina coerulescens altera and Ixos siquijorensis monticola-were represented by endemic subspecies, and a further 10 subspecies of more-widespread species are or were endemic to the island.

Species IUCN Category
Philippine Spinetail (Mearnsia picina) NT
Blackish Cicadabird (Edolisoma coerulescens) LC
Streak-breasted Bulbul (Hypsipetes siquijorensis) EN
Black Shama (Copsychus cebuensis) EN
Philippine Leafbird (Chloropsis flavipennis) VU
Cebu Flowerpecker (Dicaeum quadricolor) CR

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
PH068 Central Cebu (including Tabunan) Philippines
PH071 Nug-as and Mount Lantoy Philippines
PH072 Mount Kangbulagsing and Mount Lanaya Philippines

Threat and conservation

Cebu's relatively low profile (a central ridge reaching a maximum of 1,018 m on Mt Cabalasan) and the early development of Cebu City, the country's second largest conurbation, have contributed to the destruction of most of Cebu's natural forests to make way for sugar-cane plantations: c.99% of the original forest cover has totally gone and even the most degraded secondary habitats are now scarce. This almost complete deforestation has already caused a mass extinction of birds on the island: half of the forest bird species formerly resident on the island, have gone (39 species lost altogether, including four restricted-range species and a further five endemic subspecies) (Brooks et al. 1995b; see also Dutson et al. 1993).

Dicaeum quadricolor, considered extinct since 1906, was rediscovered in 1992 in a remnant patch of largely degraded forest, believed to be the largest remaining forest area (possibly less than 15 ha of closed-canopy habitat); the area lies to the west of the Mt Manunggal massif, near the village of Tabunan, within the Central Cebu National Park-although this affords it little, if any, protection. Observations in 1994 showed that the species also occurred in open-canopy forest and that interspecific competition with the very common and aggressive Red-striped Flowerpecker D. australe may also have contributed to its decline, although this must presumably be a significant problem only where habitat modification has begun to favour the commoner species.

Copsychus cebuensis is now known to survive in a considerable number of localities, but in rather small numbers at each, e.g. sightings are usually of one to five individuals.

The best sites for the threatened bird species (e.g. the forest patch critical for D. quadricolor) are under pressure from clearance and development (Dutson et al. 1993). If this habitat destruction is allowed to continue, it will ultimately contribute to the extinction of the remaining taxa which are endemic to Cebu (Magsalay 1993, Magsalay et al. 1995).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Cebu. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/01/2023.