Justification of Red List Category
This species is undoubtedly very rare, having been seen on very few occasions by ornithologists, and probably has a very small population which is suspected to be declining within its very restricted range. It is therefore classified as Endangered.
The population is estimated to number 250-999 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 375-1,499 individuals in total, rounded here to 350-1,500 individuals.
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to the clearance of forest mainly for agriculture, although the likely rate of decline has not been estimated.
Ploceus aureonucha is known from a small part of the Ituri Forest, between Mawambi, Irumu and Beni in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where it had not been seen since 1926 until encountered several times during 1986, including a flock of 60 at Epulu (M. C. Catsis in litt. 1989), where a pair feeding two young were also observed in 1993 (M. Languy in litt. 1994). There was a recent observation of a pair in Semliki National Park, Uganda, in August 2006, extending the species's known range 80 km to the east (M. Wilson in litt. 2006, Wilson et al. 2007). The paucity of records has led to the suggestion that it may possibly not be a valid species - records instead representing occasional hybrids (perhaps between Ploceus nigerrimus and P. tricolor), or perhaps more likely an undescribed subadult plumage of P. tricolor (Craig 2005) - however it is uncertain why hybrids, or an undescribed subadult plumage, should be known only from a tiny part of the easternmost fringe of the ranges of Ploceus nigerrimus and P. tricolor (L. D. C. Fishpool in litt. 2010). P. aureonucha may well prove to be a valid species which occurs at very low densities in a poorly-known region. This is supported by molecular data (Louette et al. 2012).
It is found in the canopy of lowland rainforest, with most records coming from dense primary forest, though it has been recorded from forest edge and old secondary growth with many tall trees remaining. It has been sighted in a flock of up to 60 birds, and it is possible that the species normally occurs in parties. It feeds on fruit and insects. An adult in breeding condition has been collected in September, though juveniles have also been found in the same month.
Its habitat is in serious danger from forest clearance (mainly for agriculture). It is likely that the rate of deforestation has increased in recent years as a result of warfare (Kanyamibwa 1995).
Conservation Actions Underway
Epulu lies within the Okapi Faunal Reserve (Blom 1990). Its status in Semliki National Park is unknown. Molecular research has been conducted to investigate the validity of the taxon, and it appears to support its listing as a valid species (Louett et al. 2012). It had been suggested that records may refer to occasional hybrids, perhaps between Ploceus nigerrimus and P. tricolor, or an undescribed subadult plumage of P. tricolor (Craig 2005)
13-14 cm. Strikingly coloured weaver. Adult male largely black above with deep reddish-brown crown, ruff of orange on nape which merges into a broad yellow collar, yellow stripe down middle of back. Greyish-green underparts with black throat and deep chestnut chest. Immature and possibly female has paler brown crown and golden-brown band on back of the neck. Similar spp. Similar in appearance and behaviour to Yellow-mantled Weaver P. tricolor. Both have yellow collar but only aureonucha has orange ruff and darker underparts. Voice Unknown.
Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Westrip, J.
Catsis, M., Languy, M., Wilson, M., Fishpool, L. & Oschadleus, H. D.
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Ploceus aureonucha. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/06/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/06/2021.