Malaita Fantail Rhipidura malaitae


Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Vulnerable on the basis of a very small estimated population and recent records from just two locations. If judged to be declining, it may be uplisted to Endangered.

Population justification
The total population is placed in the band 250-999 mature individuals (G. Dutson in litt. 2000), equating to 375-1,499 individuals in total, rounded here to 350-1,500 individuals.

Trend justification
There are no data on population trends; however, although it appears to be recorded less frequently than in the past, it is not thought to be declining.

Distribution and population

Rhipidura malaitae is endemic to the high mountains of Malaita, Solomon Islands. It must have been locally common as the Whitney expedition collected a total of 37 specimens from each of the three mountains visited in 1930 (Mayr 1931b). Subsequently, few ornithologists have visited these mountains but it appears to be very localised and rare. In 1990, one was seen at 750 m on the slopes of Mt Ire (P. Scofield in litt. 1992, 1994), in 1994, a single bird was seen at 1,100 m above Arullange village (Gibbs 1996), and in 1997, a pair was seen at 1,160 m above Arullange (G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997). None were seen in 1997 on the 940 m summit of Mt Alsa'an (G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997). It remains uncertain whether this species has declined or whether it remains locally common on mountains unvisited in recent years.


The 1930 specimens were recorded as taken at 600-1,200 m but searches in 1994 and 1997 only found it above 1,100 m, the highest altitudes reached. All the recent records have been of singles or pairs in mixed-species feeding flocks in montane forest. It appears to be a typical fantail in all respects except its rarity (Mayr 1931b, P. Scofield in litt. 1992, 1994, Gibbs 1996, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997)..


It occurs at altitudes where the only human disturbance is from hunters and other people using cross-island trails. Other possible threats are introduced disease, mammalian predators and natural causes.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
None is known.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey other mountains in the vicinity. Re-survey the two known locations. Colour-ring birds at these sites to help assess population sizes and longevity. Survey all montane sites for introduced mammalian predators. Assess human impact on forests above 600 m. Discuss the species's status and distribution with local villagers. Negotiate regular access to Arullange with landowners. Use as a figurehead in discussion of island endemism in public awareness programmes.


16 cm. Rather plain, washed-out dull orange fantail. Black eye is prominent in bland face. Underparts, especially throat, are paler. Similar spp. Rufous Fantail R. rufifrons has black and white throat and tail. Voice Quiet see-seep contact calls; song unknown. Hints Very difficult to see, it is often complicated to arrange permission to search along the few cross-island trails which reach suitable altitudes.


Text account compilers
Derhé, M., Dutson, G., Ekstrom, J., Mahood, S., Stattersfield, A.

Scofield, P., Dutson, G.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Rhipidura malaitae. Downloaded from on 15/11/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 15/11/2019.