Hainan Partridge Arborophila ardens


Justification of Red List category
This species is listed as Vulnerable because it has a small population, a small, severely fragmented range, and it is continuing to decline because of on-going habitat loss. In addition, it is thought to have undergone a rapid population reduction. However, recent surveys have identified additional populations and a number of new forest areas that hold the species have been designated as protected areas, providing hope that its status may improve in the future.

Population justification
A population estimate of 3,900-5,200 individuals has been derived from analyses of records and surveys by BirdLife International (2001). This is roughly equivalent to 2,600-3,500 mature individuals. However, following surveys in 2002-2005 which located a number of new populations, which have been incorporated within newly established protected areas, this figure may be an underestimate.

Trend justification
This species's population is suspected to have rapidly declined, in line with habitat loss and degradation within its range. However, the discovery of a number of new populations since 2002 and the subsequent protection of more forest where the species occurs suggests that this rate of decline may have slowed or even ceased in recent years.

Distribution and population

Arborophila ardens is thought to be endemic to Hainan Island, off the south coast of China; reports from the mainland province of Guangxi in the late 1970s were never substantiated (He Fenqi in litt. 2012).  In 1997, a preliminary survey of the core area of Bawangling Nature Reserve tentatively estimated a population density of 6-8 birds per km2. The total area of suitable habitat on Hainan is estimated at c.660 km2, and extrapolating this density estimate to the extent of remaining forest gives a possible population of 3,900-5,200 birds. Further surveys between November 2002 and July 2005 identified a number of new localities; importantly Yinggeling in central-west Hainan has a strong population of this species and primary forest in good condition (Wei et al. 2006).


It may be mainly restricted to primary, tropical evergreen forest, both broadleaved and mixed coniferous-broadleaved, usually between 600 m and 1,600 m (Wei Liang in litt. 2004). It is also found in some evergreen forests which have been previously logged, but are now well recovered.


Forest-cover has been lost and fragmented very rapidly on Hainan in the past 50 years. In the 1940s, the area of natural forest was estimated at up to 17,000 km2, but this had declined to below 3,000 km2 by the 1990s, mainly as a result of excessive timber extraction, the replacement of forest by rubber plantations, shifting agriculture and the unrestricted cutting of wood. Clearance has occurred despite the fact that few local people benefit. Illegal hunting carried out for the market trade rather than local consumption is also a threat (Wei et al. 2006). The effect of projected climate change on the extent and distribution of habitats is a potential long-term threat.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is a nationally-protected species in China. Suitable forest habitat is estimated to cover a total of c.660 km2, of which c.410 km2 is in reserves. There are populations in Bawangling, Jianfengling, Wuzhishan, Diaoluoshan Limushan and Nanweiling Nature Reserves (Wei Liang in litt. 2004). Recommendations to protect the forests holding the recently discovered partridge populations have been adopted by the Forestry Department of Hainan Province in their entirety, and the Yinggeling Nature Reserve has now become the largest nature reserve on Hainan (Wei et al. 2006). The Hainan government has enforced a ban on the logging of primary forest since January 1994, which should have lessened the pressure on its habitats.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct public awareness programmes on the plight of the threatened and endemic forest wildlife of Hainan, and attempt to reduce hunting through public education and the enforcement of relevant legislation. Assess the ability of the protected area system to safeguard the species in the long term, and add new forests where necessary. Enhance the protection status of existing protected areas (e.g. from county to provincial level) wherever possible, and establish corridors between blocks of suitable habitat.


c.28 cm. Typical, generally grey-brown, partridge with distinctive head pattern. Distinctive, mostly blackish, head with boldly contrasting white ear-covert spot, narrow whitish supercilium and striking rufous-orange necklace separating black throat from grey breast. Similar spp. Chinese Francolin Francolinus pintadeanus, which occurs in more open or scrubby habitats, has chiefly white-spotted, blackish (in male, duller in female) plumage, white throat and larger white cheek patch, rufous supercilium, and rufous undertail-coverts. Voice Pairs give far-carrying territorial duet comprising two-note (falling then rising) whistles, often repeated.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Keane, A., Taylor, J., Khwaja, N.

He, F., Wei, L.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Arborophila ardens. Downloaded from on 03/10/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 03/10/2023.