Chestnut-breasted Whiteface Aphelocephala pectoralis


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a small population, which is thought to be stable, and in which all mature individuals are restricted to one subpopulation. It is therefore classed as Near Threatened. If the population was found to be in decline, it might qualify for uplisting to a higher threat category.

Population justification
A survey in 1999 revealled that abundance was similar to that found in a survey in 1991, from which a population of c.6,000 mature individuals was estimated based on the frequency of observation over northern South Australia. This estimate is still thought to be appropriate (L. Pedler in litt. 2007), and roughly equates to 9,000 individuals in total.

Trend justification
No decline was detected when survey results from 1991 and 1999 were compared, and the population was regarded as stable (Garnett and Crowley 2000). A survey of Mt Lyndhurst in March 2007 indicated that the population there remains stable (Pedler et al. 2007).

Distribution and population

Aphelocephala pectoralis is widely but patchily distributed in central and northern South Australia, Australia. A survey in 1990 estimated a population of 6,000 mature individuals, and indicated a loss of suitable habitat and the associated extirpation of birds from a number of locations. Birds were recorded at 14 locations, including only 7 out of 33 historical sites. Despite evidence of these past declines, abundances on a repeat survey in 1999 showed no significant change. A survey of Mt Lyndhurst in March 2007 indicated that the population there remains stable (Pedler et al. 2007).


The species's preferred habitat is open terrain in hilly areas such as tablelands, with a stony landscape and a patchy cover of perennial chenopod shrubs. The species is most frequently seen in areas where the topographic relief gives rise to creek lines, in which there tends to be denser shrubby vegetation. It feeds on the ground and takes seeds and arthropods.


Grazing by livestock and rabbits is the primary long-term threat as it reduces the recruitment of perennial shrubs, particularly low bluebush Maireana astrotricha, upon which the species depends. Heavy grazing of the chenopod shrubland has almost certainly caused the species to vacate previously used sites. Ironically, a recent reduction in rabbit numbers may have allowed a sufficient build up of fuel for fire to be a threat, particularly if occurring over a large area simultaneously. Some patches of habitat are threatened by opal mining. There has been a large increase in mining activity in South Australia in recent years, some of which is known to have directly impacted areas that have supported relatively high densities of the species.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
No targeted conservation action is known for this species.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Determine trends in abundance, particularly in relation to land use. Monitor population every five years. Draw up a management agreement with pastoral managers and traditional owners to keep the habitat in good condition. Work with land managers to implement fire control measures.


Text account compilers
McClellan, R., Garnett, S., Benstead, P., Taylor, J.

Pedler, L., Carpenter, G.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Aphelocephala pectoralis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/09/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/09/2020.