Justification of Red List Category
This species qualifies as Endangered because its very small and rapidly declining population is predicted to undergo a very rapid decline in the near future as pressure on remaining grasslands intensifies, and areas of its habitat are lost and degraded.
The species's population was estimated at c.2,200 birds in the mid-1990s (Sankaran 1994b, 1995c), and based on this the number of mature individuals is put at c.1,500.
The species is suspected to be declining rapidly owing to the on-going loss and conversion of grassland habitats. The rate of decline is expected to become very rapid over the next three generations.
Sypheotides indicus breeds in India in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra (25-30 breeding pairs in Akola District [P. Patil in litt. 2012]), Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh (Raha and Prakash 2001, Kasambe and Gahale 2010, Bharadwaj et al. 2011, Anon. 2014, P. Patil in litt. 2016), with some dispersal to south-east India in the non-breeding season. It is a very rare summer visitor (<10 birds) to the terai of Nepal, and was formerly recorded more frequently, but may have only been an non-breeding visitor, dependent on monsoon rains (Inskipp et al. 2016, C. Inskipp and H. S. Baral in litt. 2012). Formerly widespread and common, it has been declining since at least the 1870s. From 1982-1989, its population declined by nearly 60% (4,374-1,672 birds). However, by 1994, it had increased by 32% to 2,206 birds. These population fluctuations are directly correlated with breeding season rainfall patterns, indicating that it is susceptible to extinction in the event of severe, prolonged drought. A survey conducted in August 2010 (coinciding with a peak in male displays) in north-western India (Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh) (Bhardwaj et al. 2011), which followed methodology similar to that of a survey in 1999 (Sankaran 2000), recorded a decline of 65% in the sightings of S. indicus since 1999. A total of 84 birds (including one female) were recorded during the 2010 survey, down from 238 in 1999. The species was recorded in only 24 of the 91 grasslands surveyed, compared to its presence in 37 grasslands in 1999 (Bhardwaj et al. 2011). However, it has been indicated that the methodology of the 2010 surveys may not be comparable with that of the 1999 surveys (S. Dutta and Y. Jhala in litt. 2012). It is also possible that the 2010 survey results were affected by severe drought conditions that occurred in many parts of India in 2009, when the monsoon rains were delayed, and it is unclear whether the 2010 data indicate a genuine reduction in the population, or movement to other areas.
It occurs in productive dry grasslands, in lowland areas (below 250 m), particularly dominated by Sehima nervosum and Chrysopogon fulvus, with scattered bushes and scrub; with breeding areas coinciding with areas of black cotton soil (H. Yahya in litt. 2016). It has also been recorded in cotton and millet crops. Non-breeding season movements are poorly understood.
Severe hunting pressure, particularly of males for sport and also food (e.g. Kasambe and Gahale 2010), precipitated its decline. More recently, declines have been caused by rapid reductions in the area of grassland owing to conversion to agriculture (with associated use of insecticides and fertilisers [H. Yahya in litt. 2016]) and overgrazing. This along with a lack of coordination between different implementing agencies, lack of participatory planning, rapid industrialisation and spread of mining and quarry activities are key growing threats to species (Dutta et.al. 2013, Narwade et al. 2015). In many areas, 40-80% of grasslands have been encroached and converted to intensive agriculture (Sankaran 1995, Joshua 2011, Dutta and Jhala 2012) within the last 2-3 decades. In addition, the rapid spread of the non-native Prosopis glandulosa threatens habitat quality. Over the last two decades, unreliable monsoon rains have caused significant population fluctuations. In Nepal, the species suffers from disturbance and insufficient protection resulting in overgrazing and subsequent grassland degradation (Inskipp et al. 2016, C. Inskipp and H. S. Baral in litt. 2012). It is also seriously threatened by inappropriate management, such as ploughing in protected areas, leading to a loss of suitable habitat. Pressure on lowland grasslands in Nepal continues to increase, and now very small areas of suitable habitat remain, and these are almost entirely within protected areas (Inskipp et al. 2016). In addition, the invasive plant Mikania micrantha has had serious impacts on Chitwan National Park and Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. The species also continues to be threatened by hunting in Nepal (C. Inskipp and H. S. Baral in litt. 2012), and eggs and females may also be collected within its range (H. Yahya and P. Patil in litt. 2016).
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II, Convention on Migratory Species, Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act (Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India 2003) has listed the species in Schedule 1 (Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2002). Guidelines for a state Action Plan for bustards has been set up in India (Dutta et al. 2013) and Madhya Pradesh State Forest Department in collaboration with Bombay Natural History Society and Wildlife Institute of India have prepared a conservation plan for Florican in Madhya Pradesh (Anon 2014). In 1983, Rajasthan declared a ban on hunting this species, effective for 10 years, and local people were employed in a scheme to prevent hunting in Madhya Pradesh. In Nepal, the species is protected at the national level (C. Inskipp and H. S. Baral in litt. 2012). In 1994, a conservation strategy was published, which proposed management recommendations for fodder-producing grasslands and increased protection for natural grasslands. In 1996, several sites in Rajasthan were identified for intensive conservation action. Two Lesser Florican sanctuaries exist: Sailana and Sardarpur, both in Madhya Pradesh (Rahmani 2006), and the Government of Madhya Pradesh has instigated as reward scheme for farmers who help to protect this species (V. Jain in litt. 2008). The species occurs in a number of other protected areas. In Maharashtra, a local NGO, Samvedana, has worked to involve local poachers in conservation actions for the protection of the species and its habitats (P. Patil in litt. 2012). Under BirdLife International’s Preventing Extinctions Programme a workshop was organised for Forest Department officials in Madhya Pradesh for Lesser Florican conservation. Rajasthan Forest Department has initiated measures to protect habitat for Florican in Sonkhaliya Florican area (P. Patil in litt. 2016). One male bird was tagged with PTT in Rajasthan by State Forest Department, although this data in still unpublished (P. Patil in litt. 2016).Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor population size and trends, possibly using satellite telemetry (Dutta et al. 2013). Ensure effective and appropriate management and protection of Protected Areas where the species occurs (Dutta et al. 2013). Map and delimit remaining grassland habitats supporting populations for establishment as protected areas with sustainable grassland management regimes (Sankaran 2006). Implement proposals to ensure sustainable use of a network of fodder-producing grasslands (Sankaran 2006, Anon. 2009, P. Patil in litt. 2012). Form a Liaison Authority committee at the district level to help make decision on managing florican habitats (Dutta et al. 2013). Using policy and awareness campaigns promote local participation in grassland restoration and continue to employ local people as guardians of floricans and their habitats; and work with local communities to develop and implement favourable grassland management practices to help conserve threatened species, such delayed grass-cutting, leaving areas uncut or the promotion of pesticide-free florican-friendly crops (Dutta et al. 2013, Anon. 2014, P. Patil in litt. 2012, C. Inskipp and H. S. Baral in litt. 2016). Try to limit the expansion of activities requiring heavy infrastructure in currently unprotected areas (Dutta et al. 2013). Try to assess the impact of free-ranging dogs and cats on this species and consider methods to remove this potential threat (Anon. 2014). Implement 'Project Bustards', the conservation strategy for Indian bustards. Initiate a conservation breeding programme (Dutta et al. 2013). In Nepal, conduct further surveys on the southern lowland focused in protected areas as well as outside to find out if the species is also using cultivated lands/other habitats (H. S. Baral in litt. 2016).
46-51 cm. Small, slender bustard with longish bill and legs. Male has spatulate-tipped head plumes, black head, neck and underparts. White collar across upper mantle, white wing-coverts. Female and immature are sandy or cinamon-buff. Similar spp. Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis is larger and shorter-necked, with no head plumes and no white collar. Voice Frog-like croaks during display and short whistle when flushed. Hints Search grasslands in July-September when displaying males are conspicuous.
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Taylor, J., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Tobias, J., Martin, R, Westrip, J., Peet, N.
Yahya, H., Dutta, S., Jhala, Y., Baral, H., Patil, P., Jain, V., Inskipp, C.
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Sypheotides indicus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/11/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/11/2019.