Black-breasted Parrotbill Paradoxornis flavirostris


Justification of Red List Category
This tall grassland specialist is thought to be in rapid decline as a result of the extensive loss and degradation of its habitat. It therefore qualifies as Vulnerable. Should the population be found to be decreasing more rapidly than current predictions or the population be found to be smaller than the current estimate owing to severe habitat loss then it may warrant uplisting.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
A rapid and on-going population decline is suspected to be occurring, owing to the rapid loss and degradation of grassland habitats across the species's range.

Distribution and population

This species is endemic to the Indian subcontinent, where it is known from the plains and foothills of the Brahmaputra valley in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, north-east India (BirdLife International 2001). Historically, it was also recorded in Bangladesh and possibly eastern Nepal. Formerly described as locally common, survey work in 2015-2016 showed that the species is now confined to just five sites: one in Arunachal Pradesh, three in Assam and one in Manipur (A. Rahmani in litt. 2016). The healthiest population is thought to be at a site in the D'Ering Wildlife Sanctuary numbering a few hundred individuals (A. Rahmani in litt. 2016). Known populations are separated by distances of 50-300 km (A. Rahmani in litt. 2016).


It inhabits dense reed thickets and mixed tall grassland (Phragmites karka and Arundo donax grassland), predominantly on wet substrates, along lowland river floodplains and adjacent hills, where it also occurs in grassy forest clearings. It was formerly found up to at least 900 m however it is now restricted to the plains (Robson and de Juana 2016). Generally found in small flocks, except during the breeding season (April- July). It is presumably resident, although there is some indication that it makes local seasonal movements in response to the rainy season.


The rapid and extensive loss and modification of tall grasslands and reedswamp throughout its limited range is the main threat. This is occurring as a result of drainage, conversion to agriculture (primarily rice-paddy, mustard and tea plantations), overgrazing by domestic livestock, grass harvesting for thatch production and inappropriate grassland management within protected areas. Arundo donax and Phragmites karka grasses are used extensively by local people for thatch, furniture and fencing (Rahmani 2016). Burning of grassland in protected areas is also a major threat (Choudhury 2011). Extreme flooding events in the Brahmaputra valley, associated with rapid run-off from an increasingly denuded catchment, could damage grasslands, although some flooding may be beneficial to grassland quality. Similarly dam construction in the foothills of Arunachal Pradesh could negatively impact the species owing to changes in flow conditions (R. Das in litt. 2016).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
There are recent records from five protected areas in north-east India: Kaziranga, Manas (Choudhury 2007), Dibru-Saikhowa National Parks, D'Ering Wildlife Sanctuary and Keibul Lamjao National Park (A. Choudhury in litt. 2016).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys in remaining suitable habitat throughout its range to establish its current distribution and status. Implement a monitoring programme to derive population trends. Research habitat use and seasonal movements. Extend, upgrade and link, where possible, existing protected areas, and establish new ones, in order to adequately conserve remaining tracts of grassland. Promote regeneration of grasslands throughout its historic range. Strictly regulate burning of tall grassland in protected areas. Control livestock-grazing in protected areas to reduce rates of loss and degradation of tall grassland. Promote widespread conservation awareness initiatives focusing on sustainable management of grassland to maximise both thatch productivity for local people and available habitat for threatened grassland bird species.


19 cm. Large, thick-billed parrotbill with black patches on head-sides and throat. Extensive black area on upper breast and uniform rufous-buff remainder of underparts. Similar spp. Spot-breasted Parrotbill P. guttaticollis has arrow-shaped spotting on breast and pale buff underparts. Voice Gruff howh, jeehw and jahw notes, sometimes rhythmic series aw jahw jahw jahw and uhwi uhwi uhwi uhwi. Also higher-pitched series wi chi'chi'chi'chi'chi, wi yi'yi'yi'yi'yi; wi'uwi-uwi-uwi wi chu-chu-chu.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Gilroy, J., Taylor, J., Allinson, T, Ashpole, J

Rahmani, A., Choudhury, A., Das, K.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Paradoxornis flavirostris. Downloaded from on 17/02/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 17/02/2019.