Justification of Red List Category
This colourful finch is listed as Vulnerable because it has a rapidly declining population, owing to widespread trapping for the cagebird trade, compounded by habitat loss and degradation through agricultural intensification.
The population size is preliminarily estimated to fall into the band 10,000-19,999 individuals. This equates to 6,667-13,333 mature individuals, rounded here to 6,000-15,000 mature individuals.
A rapid and on-going population decline is inferred to be occurring, as trappers have reported that it is increasingly difficult to find. In addition, increasing human encroachment and agricultural intensification are known to be having a negative impact on habitat availability.
Amandava formosa is endemic to central India, where it is known from southern Rajasthan (where its range is increasing as a result of the spread of new sugarcane fields [Sharma et al. 2012], central Uttar Pradesh, southern Bihar and West Bengal (historically), south to southern Maharashtra, southern Odisha (formerly Orissa) and northern Andhra Pradesh (BirdLife International 2001, H. Palei in litt. 2016). Records from Kerala, as well as isolated records from Delhi and Lahore, Pakistan, should be treated with caution, and may relate to escaped cage-birds (Praveen J. in litt. 2007). Formerly locally common, perhaps even abundant, its distribution has apparently always been patchy. However, it is now scarce, very local and erratic, although it remains common around Mt Abu, Rajastan (Mehra and Sharma 2004, Mehra et al. 2005, Tiwari and Tiwari 2005, Mehra 2011), and the eastern part of Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary (Palei 2012). Average counts at Mt Abu are 620 individuals in 2006, 682 individuals in 2007, 757 individuals in 2008, 820 individuals in 2009 and 832 individuals in 2010 (Mehra 2011). The species has been recently recorded in Kotagarh Wildlife Sanctuary, southern Odisha and Bargarh Forest Division, western Odisha (H. Palei in litt. 2016). Previously the species was reported from Koraput district, southern Odisha (Majumdar 1988). The recent occurrence of up to 2,000 birds in markets indicates that sizeable populations still occur locally in other areas, but are presumably rapidly declining, especially as trappers report that it is steadily becoming more difficult to find.
It inhabits grass and low bushes, sugarcane fields, open, shrubby forest and boulder-strewn scrub jungle, often near water, generally in lowlands and foothills. It has also been seen in sparsely vegetated, stony, arid wasteland and a mango orchard. It nests in small colonies between May and January.
It has been traded since the late 19th century, and was recently found to be one of the most popular cage-birds in domestic markets. An annual minimum of 2,000-3,000 birds have been smuggled out of India to Europe and America, however since the threat of bird flu the trade to these countries has somewhat curtailed (T. De Graaff in litt. 2014). It is susceptible to stress, and a high mortality has been noted in trapped birds. Trapping for trade has extirpated several populations and is almost certainly the greatest threat to the species. The species is still regularly traded in the months of June and July. According to field surveys by TRAFFIC India in 2011 more than 500 birds were recorded in Kolkata in West Bengal and Patna in Bihar, all thought to be coming from Orissa-Madhya Pradesh border. Similarly, in the year 2010 and 2009 a total of about 600 and 800 Green Avadavat were recorded at these markets. Unfortunately, most of the wild caught birds are smuggled out of India to the Middle East either via Bangladesh or Nepal and finally through Pakistan. On Mt Abu, Rajastan, individuals may also be trapped by local tribal communities for medicinal use (Mehra et al. 2005, Tiwari and Tiwari 2005), however, this is not confirmed. Widespread destruction and alteration of natural scrub and grassland habitats, through conversion for agriculture, is also likely to contribute to declines. Increased application of pesticides and insecticides is a potential threat, whilst increases in fire frequency may affect some populations (Tiwari and Tiwari 2005).
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. It is legally protected in India, and trapping and trade have been banned since 1981. The impact of trade was assessed between 1992 and 1994. There are recent records from four protected areas, the Desert National Park, Taal Chappar Wildlife Sanctuary, Mt Abu Wildlife Sanctuary, Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary and Sajjangarh Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan, Kahna National Park in Madhya Pradesh and Melghat Sanctuary in Maharashtra, Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary and Kotagarh Wildlife Sanctuary in Odisha. TRAFFIC India has worked extensively on bird trade in India, including Green Avadavat, and a trade report is in preparation. The species was bred by a special interest group in Australia until at least 2008 (Queensland Finch Society 2003).
10 cm. Distinctive green-and-yellow avadavat with black-barred flanks and reddish bill. Females are duller with indistinctly barred flanks. Similar spp. Female or juvenile Red Avadavat A. amandava lacks green coloration and dark flank bars and has pale tips to wing-coverts and tertials. Beware individuals dyed green by trappers. Voice Song is high-pitched warble, ending with prolonged trill. Calls include weak seee and swee notes.
Text account compilers
Taylor, J., Benstead, P., Allinson, T, Gilroy, J., Westrip, J., Khwaja, N.
Palei, H., De Graaff, T., Kumar, V., Bhargava, R., Mehra, S., Praveen, J.
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Amandava formosa. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/06/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/06/2019.