NT
Chestnut-breasted Whiteface Aphelocephala pectoralis



Justification

Justification of Red List Category
This species has a restricted range and a small population which is thought to have undergone a decline approaching 30% within the last three generations principally as a result of overgrazing. It is therefore classified as Near Threatened.

Population justification
There have been no attempts to estimate the population size of Chestnut-breasted Whitefaces since 1990 when the population was estimated at <1,500 mature individuals between Lyndhurst and the Birdsville Track, <2,000 near Oodnadatta and <2,500 between Coober Pedy and Port Augusta (Pedler 1991, 1992) with no evidence of declines detected in a repeat survey in 1999 or part survey in 2007 (Pedler et al. 2007). However, there have been no records near Lyndhurst since July 2016 despite searching and no confirmed records along the Birdsville track for several decades. The population is therefore suspected to be in the range 1,500-6,000 individuals with a best estimate of 3,000 (Pedler and Garnett 2021).

Trend justification
Since the 1990 population estimate, there were no evidence of declines detected in a repeat survey in 1999 or part survey in 2007 (Pedler et al. 2007). In a good season, it occurred at densities of about 0.07 birds/ha at Lyndhurst (Pedler 1992) with c.70 in 1991, >27 in 1999 and >30 in 2007. Although numbers varied with rainfall (Pedler et al. 2007), they could always be found. However, there have been no records near Lyndhurst since July 2016 despite searching and no confirmed records along the Birdsville track for several decades, suggesting an overall decline approaching 30%. The current absence of records, despite searching, coincides with rainfall over the last four years in the lowest decile of four years rainfall totals (Bureau of Meteorology 2020).

Distribution and population

Chestnut-breasted Whitefaces occur only in central and northern South Australia, Australia from near Marla in the north-west, Lake Gardner in the south-west and Mount Lyndhurst Station in the south-east (Pedler 1992, Higgins and Peter 2002). Over the last decade, the species has been recorded primarily along the Stuart Highway between Bon Bon and Coober Pedy and around Oodnadatta and Marla. However, there have been no records near Lyndhurst since July 2016 despite searching and no confirmed records along the Birdsville track for several decades.

Ecology

Chestnut-breasted Whitefaces live in stony, open terrain, particularly hilly or similar stony environments such as tablelands and breakaways, usually with a patchy cover of perennial chenopod shrubs. They take seeds and arthropods from the ground and lay two eggs in a domed nest in built in shrubs (Pedler 1991, 1992).

Threats

The species disappeared from some sites as a result of over-grazing of chenopod shrub layer by sheep, cattle, feral goats Capra hircus and rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus in combination with drought (Pedler 1991, 1992). Fire may be a threat when there is sufficient vegetation to act as fuel, but fires are rare in chenopod shrubland. Opal mining has caused localised losses (Pedler 2000, Pedler et al. 2007). The impact of predation by foxes Vulpes vulpes and cats Felis catus is unknown (Pedler et al. 2007). Climate change may be a problem. Although drought intensity has been declining in northern South Australia (Rashid and Beecham 2019), mean monthly maximums in the hottest month (January) have increased by 2.6oC (Oodnadatta), 2.9oC (Marree) and 3.4oC (Coober Pedy) from 1940 to 2020 (Bureau of Meteorology 2020) and drought trends in the centre of the state may differ from those further north. The frequency, duration and severity of both droughts and heat waves are likely to increase (Evans et al. 2017, Herold et al. 2018).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Small areas of occupied habitat are being protected in private conservation areas. Listed as threatened under some appropriate legislation.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Determine trends in abundance, particularly in relation to land use. Monitor population every five years. Document demographic variables and trends at key accessible subpopulations. Determine trends or population persistence of rarely visited, less-accessible subpopulations. Assess the impact of grazing by domestic stock and feral herbivores and make recommendations on stocking density under different climatic conditions. Determine the effects of heat waves on mortality, and appropriate adaptation strategies. Assess the impacts of cats and foxes and develop appropriate, cost-effective management strategies if required. 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. Manage stocking densities as required. Implement feral predator control as required. Implement heat management strategy as required.

Acknowledgements

Text account compilers
Vine, J., Garnett, S.

Contributors
Benstead, P., Carpenter, G., Dahal, P.R., McClellan, R., Pedler, L. & Taylor, J.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Aphelocephala pectoralis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 06/12/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 06/12/2022.