Justification of Red List Category
This species has been downlisted to Near Threatened based on a slightly larger population size than previously considered that is suspected to be undergoing a slower population decline. This is due to habitat loss and degradation across the species's limited range, in which it also incurs narrow habitat requirements.
The population size has not been directly quantified. Density estimates range from one pair every 100-200 m (Kennedy et al. 2000) to one pair every 300 m on Mt. Polis. Assuming that the species is present through suitable habitat in the Cordillera Central as well as the Sierra Madre, the population size likely exceeds 2,500 mature individuals. Therefore, it is here placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals.
The population is believed to be undergoing a suspected decline of 10-20% over three generations (10 years; Bird et al. 2020) due to habitat loss and degradation affecting the upland streams required by the species. These forests appear to be highly sensitive to the impacts of logging, including siltation, and pollution from mining.
This species is endemic to the Philippines, where it occurs principally in the Cordillera Central and also the Sierra Madre mountains on Luzon, typically above 300 m. There are two records from central Mindoro dating from the 1960s, but there is very little habitat remaining here and no recent records (Clement and Rose 2015, Collar 2019). Overall, the species is uncommon and likely declining, owing to its restricted habitat use within a limited range. Nevertheless, it appears to be locally common, with pairs separated by intervals of only 200-300 m along suitable streams on Mt Polis, and there are reports of it being common in Kalinga (D. Allen in litt. 2012). Yet, evidence suggests that in some places its occurrence may be spatially and temporally patchy.
It inhabits the margins of clear, undisturbed, fast-flowing and rocky-sided mountain streams and rivers, above 300 m. Adjacent habitat includes tropical montane forest, pine forest or just scrub and scattered trees. Records from Dalton Pass between August and December indicate that some birds wander post-breeding. Its primary diet includes small invertebrates (Collar 2020).
Stream pollution and siltation caused by mining and logging are significant threats, as is the increasing use of agro-chemicals, all of which negatively affect water quality and prey abundance. Many streams are at risk from toxic pollution due to gold mining, which uses mercury in the refining process and is largely unregulated (D. Allen in litt. 2007). Watercourses may also have been polluted by past mining operations (D. Allen in litt. 2012). Within Mt Pulog National Park, cultivation and clearing of forest are common, both of which are likely to cause erosion and siltation in due course. There is also increasing use of fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides by local farmers. Very few suitable, forest-flanked watercourses remain in Mt Iglit-Baco National Park (Mindoro), and there are no recent records of the species from the island, whilst Mt Data (Luzon) is almost devoid of forest, although some trees were preserved along streams to limit erosion. Much of Benguet province is now under intense cultivation (D. Allen in litt. 2007), and road access has improved in recent years potentially impacting previously undisturbed streams within the species's range.
Conservation Actions Underway
It occurs in Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park in Kalinga, Mt Pulog National Park and the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park on Luzon, and there are records from the 1960s from Mt Iglit-Baco National Park on Mindoro (Collar et al. 1999). There are recent records from the Maria Aurora Memorial National Park (J. K. Panopio in litt. 2019), which receives nominal protection.
Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct comprehensive surveys of suitable mountain streams to clarify its range, distribution, population status and the influence of pollution and siltation on population persistence. Research its ecological requirements and seasonal movements to facilitate conservation planning. Propose further known key sites, including Mts Cetaceo and Polis for establishment as formal protected areas. Promote stricter enforcement of legislation controlling river pollution through logging, agricultural intensification and especially ore mining. Monitor water quality and habitat conditions in areas downstream of mining operations. Campaign for a ban on mining in key areas for this species.
15 cm. Small, blue-and-orange chat restricted to riparian habitats. Male has dark slaty-blue upperparts, tinged brown on wings. Deep orange-chestnut uppertail-coverts, tail, belly and vent. Dark bare parts. Female similar though duller with brownish uppertail-coverts and tail. Voice Shrill high-pitched whistles.
Text account compilers
Martin, R., Fernando, E.
Allen, D., Benstead, P., Derhé, M., Elliott, N., Gilroy, J. & Panopio, J.
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Phoenicurus bicolor. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/06/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/06/2021.