Black Shama Kittacincla cebuensis


Justification of Red List Category
This species qualifies as Endangered as it has a very small range and population, both of which are continuing to decline. In addition, it suffers severe fragmentation owing to extreme pressure on the few remaining, already highly degraded, tracts of forest that still support subpopulations.

Population justification
A population estimate of 1,000-5,000 individuals is based on surveys at Nug-as Forest in 2004 (Jakosalem et al. 2005). Distance sampling was used to estimate densities of 17.5 individuals / ha in valley bottom forest (300 ha in total) and 3.5 individuals / ha in ridge-top forest (400 ha in total), giving an overall population estimate of 6,650 individuals. This was precautionarily scaled to 2,500 individuals. Numbers at the 15 other sites are much lower, in the range of 5-50 individuals. In terms of mature individuals, the estimate equates to 670-3,300.

Trend justification
Ongoing population declines are suspected as the area of remaining habitat suitable for this species is small, and continues to suffer from degradation and clearance.

Distribution and population

Copsychus cebuensis is endemic to the island of Cebu in the Philippines. It has always been considered rare, but intensive fieldwork in 2004 has revealed it to be significantly more widespread than was previously known. There are post-1990 records from at least 28 sites, including six records within highly urbanised areas such as Cebu City (L. M. Paguntalan in litt. 2012), although very small numbers were recorded at most of these, with observations usually totalling one to five individuals at each. However, in 2004, work at Nug-as Forest, the largest remaining tract of mature secondary forest (700ha), discovered a much larger population, with 85 individuals sighted across 7 km of transects. Extrapolations based on these sightings suggest that up to 2,500 individuals could be present at Nug-as (Jakosalem et al. 2005). Further survey work from 2012 onwards has targeted 10 upland districts, including Mount Lantoy and found a similar pattern of relatively widespread occurrence, with patches of higher density in valley bottom areas in districts with relatively high remaining timber stocks, even if regenerating (A.B. Malaki in litt. 2016). However in a coal mining region virtually none were recorded, attributed to the lack of small understorey trees and high levels of human disturbance (A.B. Malaki in litt. 2016).


It inhabits primary forest and the dense undergrowth of secondary habitats (e.g. along steep ravines), particularly along valley-bottoms with a high percentage of canopy cover where the highest densities have consistently been reported (Jakosalem et al. 2005, A.B. Malaki in litt. 2016). Previous studies have also reported the species in scrub and cut-over forests, plantations, and bamboo groves, although Jakosalem et al. (2005) report that the species prefers forest habitats and may only tolerate degraded habitats as there are very few remaining forest patches in Cebu. An ongoing radio-tracking study found that the breeding territory in forest-edge habitats was 0.2-0.5 km2 (n=3 [L. M. Paguntalan in litt. 2012]). There are also reports of the species being observed within highly urbanised areas, including Cebu City (L. M. Paguntalan in litt. 2012).


As early as the 1890s, the small amount of forest remaining on Cebu was being rapidly cleared. A century later, Cebu retained barely 0.03% (or 15 km2) of its original vegetative cover, and even highly degraded secondary habitats are scarce and under considerable pressure. The only remaining tall forest (at Tabunan) covers just 3 km2, of which just 0.3 km2 is closed-canopy. All forests are threatened by illegal settlement, shifting cultivation and illicit logging, habitat clearance for mine timber and the removal of small trees for charcoal (A. Malaki in litt. 2016). The population near Casili is threatened by a nearby housing development.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
During the 1980s, the species was the subject of an intensive population survey and an awareness campaign in the local press. It occurs at Tabunan within the Central Cebu National Park, which was declared a Strict Protection Zone in 1996. The felling of trees is prohibited in the reserve, but this confers little or no effective protection. In 1997, a three-year management plan was produced for the site, aiming to ensure long-term sustainability. In 2004-07, detailed surveys and public outreach campaigns were carried out by Cebu Biodiveristy Conservation Foundation Inc. (Jakosalem et al. 2007). On-going detailed ecological research is being conducted to determine population density, distribution of breeding habitat, breeding habitat requirements and breeding behaviour. Intensive survey work has been conducted to quantify the population size, with preliminary results presented in the 2008 governance meeting with relevant stakeholders in Cebu. An action plan has been developed to facilitate planning and management. Both Nug-as and Dalaguete are managed by organized local communities supported by the municipal government. Forest wardening schemes are in placed in Nug-as, Dalaguete and Argao forest patches. The local government of Carmen in the northern part of Cebu is directly involved in protecting existing patches of secondary forests.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct detailed ecological research to determine threats and their level of impact. Disseminate information on detailed ecological research conducted to facilitate conservation planning and management. Continue monitoring  populations in all forest patches on Cebu to quantify all existing subpopulations and disseminate findings. Prevent habitat destruction at key sites. Ensure the long-term protection of remaining forests at Nug-as, Dalaguete, Argao, Alegria-Badian, Catmon-Carmen and Tuburanas, well as Tabunan and Consolacion. Initiate management programmes involving wardening, education and tourist development at Alegria-Badian and  Carmen-Tuburan Forests, including resolving the issues of land claims with illegal settlers.


c.20 cm. Distinctive medium-sized, all-black chat with longish tail. Entirely black plumage with dark bluish gloss, duller on wings (can show slight brownish tones), male tending to be brighter than female. Voice Rich, varied and melodious song, sometimes mimicking other species. Hints Can be rather skulking and unobtrusive if not singing. Often cocks tail.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Derhé, M., Gilroy, J.

Wilkinson, R., Paguntalan, L.M.J., Malaki, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Kittacincla cebuensis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 30/11/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 30/11/2022.