VU
Golden Masked-owl Tyto aurantia



Justification

Justification of Red List Category
This very poorly known species is classified as Vulnerable because there has been extensive deforestation within its range. This is thought to have caused its already small population to decline. However more observations are needed to confirm these trends and this species's habitat requirements.

Population justification
The population is estimated to be in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals, equating to 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
Buchanan et al. (2008) calculated the rate of forest loss within the species's range on New Britain as 16.5% over three generations. Less detailed analysis is available for later years but about 2.2% of forest was lost plus 5.2% degraded across New Britain between 2002 and 2014 (Bryan and Shearman 2015). It is inferred that forest loss and degradation has slowed but the species’ rate of decline is precautionary retained at the rate measured by Buchanan et al. (2008) pending better data.

Distribution and population

Tyto aurantia is endemic to the island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea. It has long been known from only a very few specimens and three field sightings (Gilliard and LeCroy 1967, Coates 1985, K. D. Bishop in litt. 1987). There have been regular sightings of single birds in and around oil palm plantations at Walindi since 2013 when a dead bird was found (e.g. Strycker 2015). The call is still unknown, as is its relative status in old-growth forest, logged  forest, oil palm plantations with forest remnants and oil palm with no forest. Tyto owls have become prehistorically extinct through unknown causes on the adjacent islands of Mussau and New Ireland (Gilliard and LeCroy 1967).

Ecology

It appears to be a lowland forest species but one specimen was taken at 1,000 m and one bird believed to be this species was heard at 2,000 m (Gilliard and LeCroy 1967). recent records have been in oil palm plantations , so it may tolerate degraded forest. A sighting in 2015 was made in an oil palm plantation (e.g. Strycker 2015) where it is probably attracted by the relatively high numbers of rats. Its tolerance of oil palm and degraded forest habitats is otherwise unknown, but it is likely that, like other Tyto owls, it is still dependent on remnant old hollow-bearing trees for nesting.

Threats

If this is a lowland species dependent on hollow-bearing trees for nesting, then it may be threatened by logging and deforestation. On New Britain, much of the flat lowland forest has been cleared oil palm plantations. The major oil palm companies have committed to no further forest clearance but there is a risk that smaller companies will clear forest for oil palm. Industrial logging continues, as does clearance for subsistence gardens by the growing local populations. About 15% of habitat thought to be suitable for this species was cleared in 15 years or three generations (Buchanan et al. 2008). Less detailed analysis is available for later years but about 2.2% of forest was lost plus 5.2% degraded across New Britain between 2002 and 2014 (Bryan and Shearman 2015). It is inferred that forest loss and degradation has slowed but the species’ rate of decline is precautionary retained at the rate measured by Buchanan et al. (2008) pending better data.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Identify and effectively protect a network of reserves, including some containing large areas of unlogged lowland forest and some large community based conservation areas. Continue to monitor trends in forest loss. Research its tolerance of degraded forest, oil palm plantations without remnant forest, and oil palm plantations with remnants. Research the risks and benefits of establishing a network of nest-boxes in and near oil palm plantations.

Acknowledgements

Text account compilers
North, A., Derhé, M., Mahood, S., Dutson, G.

Contributors
Bishop, K.D.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Tyto aurantia. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 15/12/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 15/12/2019.