Obscure Berrypecker Melanocharis arfakiana


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
This is a poorly known species and no population estimates are available.

Trend justification
Given the paucity of sightings and uncertainty over its abundance, the population trend is not known. The species' apparent tolerance of degraded forest may indicate that the population trend is stable, but more information is required.

Distribution and population

Melanocharis arfakiana is known from two historical specimens and a series of more recent records from New Guinea (Papua, formerly Irian Jaya, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea). The specimens were collected in 1867 in the Arfak Mts and in 1933 from 950 m near the upper Angabunga River (Coates 1990). In 1994, B. M. Whitney tape-recorded and collected two specimens above Tabubil, which are deposited in the United States National Museum, but need be compared directly to the type specimen (B. Whitney in litt. 2016). Recent sightings have been from 640-1,100 m in the Tabubil area, where it is not uncommon at four locations, Boana on the Huon Peninsula, where it is common in degraded forest, Keki Lodge near Madang, and the Kokoda Trail including Varirata National Park and two other locations (Beehler and Pratt 2016). Specimens from Tabubil and Boana differ slightly in plumage but are probably both of this species (P. Gregory in litt. 1999, B. Whitney in litt. 2000). It may be a genuinely extremely rare species, perhaps compressed into a narrow altitudinal belt between ecologically similar congeners (Coates 1990, P. Gregory in litt. 1994); however, although existing records suggest that the species is patchy and localised in occurrence, it could have been overlooked in many areas owing to its cryptic nature, and may in fact be widespread (del Hoyo et al. 2008, P. Gregory in litt. 2011, 2017). Operating under the assumption that the three latter collected specimens do, in fact, represent M. arfakiana, the species would be known from at least three widely separated points in the Arfak Mountains, on the north-slope Huon Peninsula, and on the south slope of the main mountain chain in Western Province, Papua New Guinea, above Tabubil. There is a vast amount of forest in the 800-1100 meter elevational range in not only these regions, but throughout the island of New Guinea, which suggests that the species is not threatened (B. Whitney in litt. 2016). It appears to be tolerant of degraded forest, at least at Tabubil (G. Dutson in litt. 2016).


It is a montane forest species, ranging from 640-1,100 m, and appears to be tolerant of secondary habitat. It feeds on berries and probably arthropods. It is thought to breed between May and October (del Hoyo et al. 2008).


Forests in these geographical and altitudinal ranges are under some threat from logging and clearance for agriculture. Habitat at Tabubil is being heavily degraded (P. Gregory in litt. 2011). Consequently, the species may be undergoing a slow decline (G. Dutson in litt. 2011). However, its tolerance of degraded forest and recent discovery in widely scattered sites suggest that it is not threatened (B. Whitney in litt. 2000).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
No targeted actions are known. The species has been recorded in Varirata National Park (P. Gregory in litt. 2011).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey historical sites and potentially suitable habitat. Study its ecological requirements, tolerance of habitat degradation and threats.


Text account compilers
Dutson, G., Khwaja, N., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Dutson, G., Gregory, P., Hornbuckle, J. & Whitney, B.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Melanocharis arfakiana. Downloaded from on 22/01/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/01/2019.