Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Near Threatened, as it is suspected to have undergone a moderate decline over the past 3 generations and is expected to undergo a moderately rapid population decline owing to habitat loss to intensive agriculture. Further data may show that the species qualifies for a higher threat category.
The population is estimated to number 12,000-15,000 individuals in total, roughly equivalent to 8,000-10,000 mature individuals.
Surveys in the Eastern Karoo suggest the population has declined there since the 1980s (Shaw et al. 2016, J. Shaw in litt. 2016). Declines in its range have also been implied from Southern African Bird Atlas Project data, particularly in the north-east of its range (Hofmeyr 2012, Lee et al. 2017), though it has been suggested to be stable elsewhere, and the overall population may still be stable (Hofmeyr 2012). Ongoing habitat destruction may lead to future declines.
Eupodotis caerulescens is virtually endemic to South Africa, extending only marginally into western Lesotho. The total South African population has been estimated at 1,500-5,000 individuals, but this may be an underestimate as the population in the former Transvaal alone has been estimated to exceed 10,000 individuals, with between 1,000 and 3,000 in the proposed Grassland Biosphere Reserve centred around Volksrust and Wakkerstroom.
It is found on high grassveld, usually above 1,500 m (del Hoyo et al. 1996), where it inhabits open, fairly short grassland and a mixture of grassland and karoo dwarf-shrubland within 1km of water, with termite mounds and few or no trees (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor et al. 2015). It also inhabits old and fallow cropland, pastures and winter cultivation (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It feeds on insects, scorpions, small lizards and vegetable matter. It apparently benefits from small-scale agriculture, as it regularly forages in crop fields and planted pastures. Breeding occurs from August to April, mainly in October and November (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The nest is situated on bare open ground, often in short, thick grass or cropland (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The clutch-size ranges from one to three eggs, and the incubation period is 24-28 days (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The young stay with their parents for up to two years, in a breeding system that appears to involve group-territorialism (del Hoyo et al. 1996).
It does not appear to have decreased in the west of its range, but seems certain to have decreased to some extent in the east owing to dense human settlement, large-scale agriculture and afforestation (Taylor et al. 2015). Habitat loss looks set to continue throughout its range (Barnes 2000), with intensive agriculture appearing to be the main threat (del Hoyo et al. 1996).
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. It occurs in at least 15 nature reserves in South Africa, but these sites may protect only 100-500 individuals (Harrison et al. 1997a).
Text account compilers
Robertson, P., Symes, A., O'Brien, A., Westrip, J., Pilgrim, J., Taylor, J.
Shaw, J., Hofmeyr, S.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Eupodotis caerulescens. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/03/2023.