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Manipur Bush-quail Perdicula manipurensis



Justification

Justification of Red List Category
This poorly known species's specialised habitat is severely fragmented and is undergoing continuing rapid loss and degradation, pressures that are assumed to be causing a rapid population decline. In addition, it went unrecorded from 1932-2006, and has not been seen since despite follow-up surveys, indicating that its population is now likely to be very small. Recent estimates suggest the species's population is likely to be smaller than previously thought, and any remaining subpopulations are likely to be very small, and it is therefore listed as Endangered.

Population justification
Based on the lack of recent records and restricted known range, within which habitat loss and degradation has been extensive, the population is now precautionarily estimated to lie within the band 1,000-2,499 mature individuals (1,500-3,700 individuals).

Trend justification
The species is suspected to be in rapid decline owing to the on-going loss and degradation of grassland.

Distribution and population

Perdicula manipurensis is known historically from northern West Bengal, Assam and Manipur in north-eastern India, with unconfirmed historical records from Nagaland and Meghalaya in India and Chittagong, Chittagong Hill Tracts and Sylhet districts, Bangladesh. The nominate race occurs in Manipur and neighbouring Assam south of the Brahmaputra, while race inglisi occurs from West Bengal to Assam north of the Brahmaputra (BirdLife International 2001). It was described historically as local, but not very rare, although even by the 1930s it was documented as declining in Manipur. There was a gap in records after 1932 punctuated by just one unconfirmed report, from Dibru-Saikhowa Wildlife Sanctuary, India, in March 1998, until it was rediscovered in Manas National Park, Assam, where one bird was seen in 2006 (Anon. 2006, Choudhury 2006a). Given the lack of recent records, and the lack of remaining suitable grassland habitat, any remaining populations must be very small and fragmented.

Ecology

A probable resident, it inhabits damp grassland, particularly stands of tall grass, and sometimes bogs and swamps, and is recorded in vegetation up to 3 m (but potentially up to 5 m) tall (A. Choudhury in litt. 2006), from the foothills up to c.1,000 m. Historical records indicate that it was generally encountered in small groups of 4-12, and was shy, reluctant to fly and extremely difficult to observe, although coveys were occasionally seen feeding in the open on recently burnt ground. The little available data indicate that it breeds between January and May.

Threats

Drainage and destruction of tall grasslands to meet the demands of an expanding human population have been extensive in Manipur and Bangladesh at least, presumably greatly reducing and fragmenting available habitat. Any extensive patches of tall grass that might remain in Bangladesh are inundated for two-thirds of the year and are thus unlikely to support significant populations. Livestock grazing poses a threat throughout its range. An inappropriate fire regime coincides with the species's breeding season (A. Rahmani in litt. 2012); grass in the protected areas of Assam and northern W Bengal is burnt annually as part of management, potentially restricting available habitat for grassland specialist birds and increasing the risk of predation (A. Choudhury in litt. 2016). Its habit of running in tightly-knit groups when fleeing disturbance made it easy to kill several birds with a single shot, a factor likely to have contributed to its decline, in conjunction with a dramatic rise in hunting levels across its range (particularly in Bangladesh) during the 20th century. Its habitat at Mornoi, Assam, which was a major site of specimen collection in the past, has now been replaced by tea plantations (A. Choudhury in litt. 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It occurs in Manas National Park, Assam (Anon. 2006, Choudhury 2006b). Surveys for it in the border regions of Manipur, Nagaland and the Chittagong Hill Tracts have been delayed by security problems. Some survey work, including using mist nets, was conducted in the area in 2009-2010, but the species was not found (Choudhury 2010, A. Choudhury in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Thoroughly assess its status in Manas National Park and other possible sites, including in northern West Bengal. Determine the threats to this species and develop management strategies to minimise them rapidly and effectively. Identify and survey (particularly listening for its distinctive call) any remaining suitable habitat in or near known localities in the eastern hills of Manipur, the south Manipur Basin, areas around Palel and Imphal in Manipur and potential areas in Assam. Afford protection to any areas of grassland found to support populations at the earliest opportunity. Investigate its occurrence in Bangladesh. Study the pressure exerted by hunting on the species. Upgrade its protection status in India. Ascertain whether the species is traded or trapped for food in Assam and Manipur (Rahmani 2012).

Identification

20 cm. Distinctive, dark bush-quail with rich buff belly and vent. Mostly dark greyish, with whitish loral patch, faint eyebrow, and golden-buff belly and vent with heavy, blackish markings. Male has chestnut forehead and throat. Voice Clear, whistled whit-it-it-t-t, with notes becoming higher and running together.

Acknowledgements

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Keane, A., Taylor, J., Khwaja, N. & Symes, A.

Contributors
Choudhury, A., Rahmani, A., Mahood, S. & Singh, R.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Perdicula manipurensis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 07/12/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 07/12/2019.