Black Partridge Melanoperdix niger


Justification of Red List Category
The continuing rapid reduction in the extent and quality of its habitats across much of this partridge's range is suspected to be causing a rapid population decline, qualifying it as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The population size is preliminarily estimated to fall into the band 10,000-19,999 mature individuals. This equates to 15,000-29,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 15,000-30,000 individuals.

Trend justification
Rates of forest loss in the Sundaic lowlands have been extremely rapid (Kalimantan lost nearly 25% of its evergreen forest during 1985-1997, and Sumatra lost almost 30% of its 1985 cover, exacerbated by forest fires in 1997-1998). This rate of deforestation is suspected to have driven a rapid population decline in this species, which is probably continuing.

Distribution and population

Melanoperdix niger is known from Peninsular and East Malaysia (including both Sabah and Sarawak), and Kalimantan and south Sumatra, Indonesia. It is described as local and sparse to uncommon in Peninsular Malaysia, and there are recent records from at least three sites in Kalimantan and one in Sumatra. It seems scarce and patchy in distribution, although it is easily overlooked owing to a previous lack of information on vocalisations and its elusive behaviour (B. van Balen in litt. 2012). As a result, its distribution and population status are generally very poorly known across its entire range. It is presumably declining because of rapid on-going reductions in its habitat.


In Peninsular Malaysia, it is judged to be a lowland specialist, where it has a proclivity for primary or mature, regenerated, closed-canopy evergreen forest on alluvial soils. In Indonesia, it has been recorded in peatswamp forest, and historically was described as inhabiting brushwood and high bamboo-jungle. Recent evidence from Borneo suggests that it probably extends up to at least 900 m, perhaps 1,200 m.


The overriding threats are habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation as a result of large-scale commercial logging, which targets all remaining stands of valuable timber, even within protected areas, and the widespread clearance for plantations of rubber and oil-palm. Rates of forest loss in the Sundaic lowlands have been extremely rapid (Kalimantan lost nearly 25% of its evergreen forest during 1985-1997, and Sumatra lost almost 30% of its 1985 cover). Furthermore, the full impact of the major fires of 1997-1998 has still to be fully assessed, but drought fires appear to be increasing in frequency and severity on Sumatra and Borneo. Hunting for food may pose an additional, more localised, threat.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is known to occur in at least six protected areas: Taman Negara and Krau Wildlife Reserve (Peninsular Malaysia), Kinabalu National Park (Sabah), Gunung Mulu National Park (Sarawak), Tanjung Puting National Park and Gunung Palung Nature Reserve (Kalimantan), and Berbak Game Reserve (Sumatra). It also occurs in Pasoh Reserve Forest in Peninsular Malaysia.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Afford the species full protection under Indonesian and Malaysian law. Conduct research into its ecology and habitat requirements. Identify and record its vocalisations to aid field surveys. Identify remaining suitable habitat tracts, and conduct extensive field surveys and village interviews within these areas to clarify its current distribution and population status. Following surveys, review whether key populations are adequately represented within the existing protected areas network, and advocate protection of further areas if necessary. Develop support mechanisms for key Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Peninsular Malaysia.


c.24-27 cm. Black (male) or chestnut-brown (female) partridge with distinctive short, stout bill. Male wholly black, female rich chestnut-brown with variably paler (creamy) throat and belly/vent, and blackish bars across inner secondaries. Both have grey legs and feet. Similar spp. Male Roulroul Rollulus rouloul has white crown-band, red crest and red legs. Ferruginous Wood Partridge (Caloperdix oculea) has brighter rufous plumage than female with bold black-and-white markings on upperparts and flanks. Arborophila partridges are duller with less uniform body plumage. Voice Poorly known, but reportedly utters double whistle similar to R. rouloul, and low creaking sound. Hints Shy, typically sits tight until approaching human within few metres, then runs away.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Keane, A., Taylor, J.

van Balen, B., Wells, D.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Melanoperdix niger. Downloaded from on 13/12/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 13/12/2019.