Long-legged Thicketbird Megalurulus rufus


Justification of Red List Category
This species was recently rediscovered and has been listed as Endangered because it is estimated to have a very small population. It does not appear to be in decline, and further surveys may show it to be commoner and hence warrant downlisting to a lower category of threat.

Population justification
The species is currently known from six sites, and may occur in more. Based on extrapolations from density estimates produced by fieldwork, the population size is estimated to number 50-249 mature individuals, although it could potentially be greater than this. This equates to 75-374 individuals in total, rounded here to 70-400 individuals.

Trend justification
Although the species is known from only very few sites, almost all are on steep terrain unsuitable for logging or cultivation, and no specific threats have been identified, so the population is suspected to be stable.

Distribution and population

Megalurulus rufus is endemic to Viti Levu and Vanua Levu on Fiji, where it is known historically from four old specimens and a handful of unconfirmed sightings on Viti Levu, and one specimen in 1974 from Vanua Levu (Kinsky 1975). During surveys in 2002-2005 and in February 2012, the species was reported at several sites: Wabu Forest Reserve (12 territories in 2003, 16 in 2012); Sovi Basin (three pairs at Wainasa Creek in 2005, 20 territories in 2012); Monasavu (two sites each comprising c.2 pairs in 2002-2005, 25 territories in 2012); Namosi (two territories in 2012); Mt Korobaba (heard on three occasions in 2003, one territory in 2012); and Tomaniivi (no records in 2002-2005, two territories in 2012) (Dutson and Masibalavu 2004, Masibalavu and Dutson 2006, G. Dutson and V. Masibalavu in litt. 2006, V. Masibalavu in litt. 2007, 2012). At these locations, it was locally common in ideal habitat but very patchy and absent from most forest. On Vanua Levu, 22 days were spent surveying five sites in the same mountain range as the type locality of T. r. clunei, but none was recorded although its call was described by local villagers at Valovoni (Dutson and Masibalavu 2004, G. Dutson and V. Masibalavu in litt. 2006). This subspecies remains known only from the type-specimen and another individual seen at the same time. The total population is thought to be very small, although there is no evidence that the species has declined. It is easily overlooked unless singing. Territories have been reported to comprise of anything from several pairs with  juveniles to lone pairs or a singing bird (Dutson and Masibalavu 2004, G. Dutson and V. Masibalavu in litt. 2006).


All recent records have been from old-growth forest close to small streams or creeks between 80 and 800 m. Most locations were on steep slopes with unstable land-slide areas where pioneer vegetation, including herbs, Piper spp. and tree-ferns, created a dense understorey. The Wabu birds were on flatter terrain but the climatic and edaphic effects of the altitude may lead to similar habitat on gentle terrain at 800 m as on very steep slopes at 300 m (BirdLife International 2006). The species was reported at its lowest elevation at Sovi Basin (80 m and 110 m). Pairs and family groups forage unobtrusively close to the ground and are best located by their song (BirdLife International 2006).


As a ground-dwelling bird it is suspected to be at a high risk of predation by introduced small Indian mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus and black rats Rattus rattus on both islands, however birds were found breeding successfully in Wabu alongside these predators. Montane forest is being logged in some areas which leads to increased numbers of these alien species, but probably does not affect its preferred habitat (BirdLife International 2006).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is protected by Fijian law. It occurs in the Sovi Basin, a proposed protected area (D. Watling in litt. 2007), and also in Wabu Forest Reserve (BirdLife International 2006).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue surveys at likely sites, especially on Vanua Levu. Investigate breeding success at Wabu and a more disturbed area such as the Monasavu roadside to identify any threats and necessary conservation actions. Most important is active long-term conservation of the key sites, notably Wabu Forest Reserve, the Rairaimatuku Highlands and Sovi Basin (BirdLife International 2006). Consider control of introduced predators.


17 cm. A long-tailed secretive warbler of the forest floor. Upperparts rather warm brown with a distinct long fine silvery supercilium. White throat contrasts with buffy-rufous breast-sides and flanks, fading into an off-white belly. Fairly long bluish legs, and medium-short black bill. Similar spp. Similar to Fiji Bush-warbler Cettia ruficapilla but is larger with a longer tail, more contrasting supercilium and throat, but lacks a rufous cap, and has different behaviour. Voice Repeated short phrases of loud melodic notes; variable and can be similar to Fiji Bush-warbler. Distinctive bubbling alarm call.


Text account compilers
Dutson, G., O'Brien, A., Derhé, M., Temple, H.

Masibalavu, V., Watling, D., Dutson, G., Holyoak, D.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Megalurulus rufus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 30/05/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 30/05/2020.