Justification of Red List Category
The popularity of this finch as a cagebird has resulted in intense trapping activity, which is inferred to be causing drastic declines in the population. Unless stringent regulations are enforced, these declines are likely to continue. While the population size meets the threshold for Endangered, there are no exact values for the rate of decline currently available. However, it is feared that these rates might be much higher than assumed. Therefore, the species is now precautionarily listed as Endangered, but might warrant further uplisting as data on the rate of decline become available.
The number of individuals has been estimated for about half of the global distribution in central and eastern Java. There, the population numbers 299-889 individuals, most likely not exceeding 1,000 individuals (Yuda 2008). Even though the potentially larger subpopulations on Bali are not included in this estimate, it is very likely that the global population does not exceed 1,500-3,750 individuals in total. The population size is therefore placed in the band of 1,000-2,499 mature individuals. Throughout its range, the population is highly fragmented.
A rapid and on-going population decline is inferred on the basis of trapping pressure from the Asian songbird trade.
This species is a native endemic of the islands of Java, Bali, and probably Madura, Indonesia, although it has been widely introduced, with feral populations now established in many parts of the world. It was formerly widespread and abundant in its native range, but numbers have crashed disastrously. It can now be difficult to find, particularly on Java (N. Brickle in litt. 2012); a recent survey looked at 64 former locations and located only 109 individuals at 17 sites (Muchtar and Nurwatha 2001). The majority of documented recent records derive from east Java and Bali. However, the species still persists in several locations across Bali and Java (e.g. in the Bali Barat National Park), though it is not as common as it was several decades ago (B. van Balen in litt. 2016). Feral populations (in Indonesia at least) have apparently declined precipitously. Information from elsewhere is insufficient to estimate its status as a feral species, and all conservation efforts should focus on its original native range.
It is usually a lowland species, chiefly found below 500 m but occurring locally up to 1,500 m. It has been recorded in many habitats, including towns and villages (where it was formerly one of the most common species), cultivated land (particularly rice-growing areas), grassland, open woodland, tree savanna, beach forest and even mangroves. It is gregarious, especially outside the breeding season. Post-breeding flocks appear to make substantial short-distance movements in response to local food supplies.
Trapping for the domestic and international cagebird trade has probably been occurring for centuries, peaking in the 1960s and 1970s, and is the main cause of the decline. In central and eastern Java, a survey suggested that up to 38% of adults were trapped each year in 2004-2005, which might rapidly drive these populations to extinction (Yuda 2008). However, there are no estimates of trapping rates over a longer period or for the population on Bali. Overall, the species is traded in large quantities, especially for the markets in Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia (Gilbert et al. 2012, S. Chng in litt. 2016). Its flocking tendency, particularly at roost sites, renders it especially susceptible to mass trapping. Ironically, even feral populations, originally introduced through trade, have subsequently been decimated for the same reason. Historically, it was regarded as a rice crop-pest, and consequently persecuted. Hunting for local consumption, possibly increased use of pesticides, and competition with the ecologically similar Tree Sparrow Passer montanus, are additional threats. The ongoing severe population decline has led to a very low genetic diversity, which renders the species vulnerable to stochastic events and adverse genetic effects (Yuda 2008). The species is prone to parasite infections, especially avian malaria (Yuda 2008).
Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. An embargo was placed on the capture quota for Java and Bali in 1995. The species is bred widely in captivity but is heavily trapped, almost to extinction within the natural range. It occurs in only very few protected areas, with recent records from only four: Cikepuh Wildlife Reserve, Baluran and Meru Betiri National Parks on Java, and Bali Barat National Park on Bali.
14-15 cm. Contrastingly patterned, open-country finch. Pearl-grey, becoming pinkish on belly and whitish towards vent, with a black head and conspicuous white cheeks. Black rump and tail. Massive pink bill. Voice Song begins with bell-like single notes, accelerating into a continuous trilling and clucking interspersed with high-pitched and deeper notes, sometimes ending with a drawn-out whistle. Also short, hard tup, chirrups and trills.
Text account compilers
Khwaja, N., Benstead, P., Gilroy, J., Hermes, C., Martin, R., Symes, A., Taylor, J.
van Balen, B.S., Chng, S., Brickle, N.
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Lonchura oryzivora. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/02/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/02/2021.