Justification of Red List Category
This species has not been directly recorded by western scientists since 1953 despite recent surveys lasting several weeks. However local hunters and villagers report the species as extant but very rare. The already small population is likely to have declined further as a result of depredation by introduced mammalian predators. Any remaining population is likely to be tiny, and for these reasons it is treated as Critically Endangered.
Any surviving population assumed to be tiny (numbering fewer than 50 individuals and mature individuals), with no confirmed recent reports, despite several weeks of surveys.
Pareudiastes silvestris is known to western science only from the type-specimen collected in 1929, and a subsequent observation of one in 1953 on Makira (= San Cristobal), Solomon Islands. The 1929 collectors failed to secure more specimens and concluded that the species was already rare (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). In 1953, it was reported to be well-known to guides from Ghoghe village and to be not uncommon (Cain and Galbraith 1956). Some hunters and residents of hill villages and coastal villages on the southern weather coast report encountering this species very rarely, usually when caught or treed by dogs (J. M. Diamond in litt. 1987, Lees 1991, Buckingham et al. 1995, J. Waihuru verbally 1998, R. James in litt. 2003, 2011, C. Collins in litt. 2008, Danielsen et al. 2010). Six months of regular bird surveys across different land use types in the Wainoni districts (Jan-Jul 2012) did not record this species (Davies et al. 2015), nor did camera traps situated in forest areas away from villages. Additionally, specific surveys for this species in 2015-2016, including >1000 days of camera-trapping, gathered more reports of the species persisting in very small numbers, but no direct evidence (Dutson 2016, Mittermeier et al. in prep.).
The specimen was taken at 600 m and the 1953 sighting was at c.450 m in the central ranges of Makira. Hunters reported that it was flightless but climbed into bushes to escape dogs. These records are from rainforest on steep, rocky hills with many small rivers but no standing water (Cain and Galbraith 1956, Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Subsequent local reports have been from similar habitat, but there are also some reports from lowland forest (Dutson 2016, Mittermeier et al. in prep.). It has been suggested that it may also inhabit the largely unexplored swamps of north Makira (Buckingham et al. 1995), but no evidence of it was found there in a very brief survey in 1998 and this is not consistent with local reports that it is a forest species (G. Dutson pers. obs. 1998).
It is likely to have declined owing to depredation by introduced mammalian predators, which are prevalent across the island. A recent camera-trapping survey for the species recorded feral cats at most camera locations in remote undisturbed forest (Dutson 2016). Birds were also caught by village hunting dogs but this was probably an uncommon and unplanned result of hunting for pigs (Cain and Galbraith 1956, Taylor and van Perlo 1998, J. Waihuru verbally 1998). Although most of the lowlands of Makira have been logged or are under logging concessions, forests on steep, rocky slopes are likely to be safe from commercial logging (Danielsen et al. 2010). Introduced fire ants Wasmannia auropunctata, known to attack the eyes of ground-dwelling birds, are likely to have impacted the species (Danielsen et al. 2010).
Conservation Actions Underway
Discussions with local people and interviews with local hunters between 400 m and 1,000 m elevation around Hauta in the central mountain ranges in 2006 failed to find evidence of this species (C. Filardi in litt. 2007); and discussions with local people in the Wainoni districts (conducted by T. Davies in 2012) revealed that while most people knew of the bird, none had seen it for themselves (T. Davies in litt. 2016). In 2015 a team coordinated by the Solomon Islands Community Conservation Partnership gathered possible records from local hunters. A local bird book (Manu i Makira) that includes an illustration of the species was distributed to all schools in Makira-Ulawa Province (T. Davies in litt. 2016).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct further surveys of uninhabited inland mountains with camera traps and acoustic monitoring to try to find the species. Encourage tighter controls of commercial logging. Improve local awareness of endemic bird fauna. Support the continuation and extension of community-based sustainable use programmes in the mountains. Establish community-based protected areas on Makira.
27 cm. Medium-sized, almost tail-less, flightless rail. Black plumage with bluish gloss on head and neck and brown wash to mantle and wings. Red legs and bill. Blue-grey frontal shield. Similar spp. Spotless Crake Porzana tabuensis much smaller and has black bill. Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio has white undertail-coverts and frontal shield concolorous with bill. Rufous-tailed Water-hen Amaurornis moluccanus has dull greenish bare parts and rusty vent. Voice Unknown. In 2004, calls thought possibly to belong to this species were reported. They were of a cat-like meowing sound mealowl, high in pitch, reptitive, continuous and dropping at the end. Hints Search remote areas with the aid of local hunters.
Text account compilers
Stattersfield, A., Martin, R., Ashpole, J, Westrip, J., Derhé, M., Butchart, S., Dutson, G., Bird, J., Pilgrim, J.
Collins, C., Diamond, J.M., Dutson, G., Filardi, C., Harker, C., James, R., Waihuru, J., Wilson, T. & Davies, T.
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Pareudiastes silvestris. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 20/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 20/10/2021.