Dusky Friarbird Philemon fuscicapillus


Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Vulnerable because it has a small population which is likely to be experiencing on-going declines owing to forest loss. It may be endemic to a single island, but identification difficulties mean that it is difficult to determine its true distribution, abundance, and hence its status.

Population justification
The population is, very cautiously, estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
Owing to this species's preference for lowland forest, habitat loss is suspected to be driving a moderate decline in its population.

Distribution and population

Philemon fuscicapillus may be endemic to the island of Morotai (doubts have been raised over previous reports from Halmahera from where no specimens originate and no records can be traced to Bacan [see Besson 2012]) in North Maluku, Indonesia (BirdLife International 2001). It was considered very common on Morotai in 1945. Assessment of its true status on Halmahera is severely hampered owing to visual mimicry by O. phaeochromus, and the possibility that it is largely overlooked in the canopy of tall trees.


The species has been recorded in the canopy of primary and logged forest. It has also been found commonly in secondary vegetation (bush) and coconut plantations. Most records appear to be from the extreme lowlands (below 120 m), although it ascends rarely to 600 m.


Although it may be tolerant of quite severe habitat degradation, the primary threat is presumed to be forest loss, especially given its predilection for low elevations. It was reported in the 1990s that most of North Maluku, including around 90% of Halmahera and Bacan, remained forested. However, forest loss and fragmentation has accelerated greatly, through exploitation of economically valuable trees, and most remaining forest is now under timber concession. In addition, plans for agricultural development threaten further losses of original habitat.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
No direct measures are known. However, it may occur in the Lalobata and Ake Tajawe proposed protected area, which embraces c.3,550 km2 of all forest-types on the north-east peninsula of Halmahera, or the Gunung Sibela Strict Nature Reserve on Bacan, although this site is seriously threatened by agricultural encroachment and gold prospecting.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Identify and record its vocalisations to aid its detection (if they differ significantly from those of O. phaeochromus). Conduct extensive surveys (especially within proposed or established protected areas) to establish its distribution, status, ecological requirements and altitudinal limits. Support the establishment and management of a protected area at Lolobata-Ake Tajawi (Halmahera) and Gunung Sibela Strict Nature Reserve (Bacan), should the species be found to occur there. Initiate conservation awareness campaigns to solicit local support for forest conservation.


30 cm. Large, drab, forest-dwelling friarbird. Dark brown throughout, slightly paler below. Pink bare orbital skin. Heavy black bill with indistinct knob at base of culmen. Similar spp. Dusky-brown Oriole Oriolus phaeochromus almost identical, but smaller, with blunter bill, darker underparts and without bare pinkish skin around eye. Voice Probably gives variety of loud, coarse and nasal notes, although potentially mimicked by O. phaeochromus.


Text account compilers
Taylor, J., Tobias, J., Benstead, P., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Westrip, J.

Bishop, K.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Philemon fuscicapillus. Downloaded from on 03/07/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 03/07/2022.