Justification of Red List category
This species is confined to a moderately small range in Peninsular Malaysia and (marginally) Peninsular Thailand, and probably has a small population size. Within its range it is suspected to be declining slowly due to habitat loss (especially for road infrastructure) and some localised hunting. Nonetheless it is buffered from the worst of these threats by its remote and largely inaccessible range. Consequently, it is considered Near Threatened.
The density of this species has not previously been estimated. Other Polyplectron have been recorded at densities of 3.74 birds/km2 (P. katsumatae; Gao 1998) and 4.33 calling males/km2 (P. germaini; Nguyen et al. 2018). Similar densities (spanning c.2.5-8.5 mature individuals/km2) are inferred for this species. In 2018, Savini et al. (2021) estimated the area of suitable habitat for this species as c.5,600 km2 using computation analysis of forest patches larger than 40 km2. Assuming approximately c.20-40% of suitable habitat is occupied, the population is inferred to number c.2,500-20,000 mature individuals, with a precautionary best estimate of 2,500-9,999.
Including only patches >40 km2 in their analysis, Savini et al. (2021) estimated a minor c.2% contraction in suitable habitat between 2000 and 2018, while Global Forest Watch (2022) indicates a similar reduction of c.3.1% forest loss over three generations (18 years; Bird et al. 2020) between 2003 and 2021. As a highly forest-dependent species, these losses are suspected of causing proportional population size impacts. The majority of these losses are at the species' lowest altitudinal limits, with higher elevation forest remaining intact. This species may be impacted by disturbances caused by roads linking hill stations and, more locally, by some moderate hunting pressures. It is suspected to be declining at an ongoing rate of 1-9% over three generation time periods.
Polyplectron inopinatum is currently only known from central Peninsular Malaysia and (very narrowly) adjacent extreme southern Thailand. In Malaysia it is found in the Main Range from the Cameron Highlands south to the Genting Highlands, in the Larut Range to the north-west, and on eastern outlying peaks Gunung Tahan and Gunung Benom. In Thailand, it is known from the peaks of Hala Bala.
It is sedentary in lower and upper montane evergreen forest, including elfin forest, from c.820 m to at least 1,600 m, and was once found at 1,800 m. It is usually found in steep areas or along ridges with exposed corestones, some bamboo and climbing palms. It is less vocal than other members of the genus, and is hence less easily detectable.
Conversion of forest for agriculture around its lower altitudinal limits may be causing some declines. Tourist developments continue to drive the fragmentation and degradation of forest in the Cameron Highlands, with additional disturbance caused by roads (J. Taylor pers. obs. 2011). Hunting is considered a smaller, more localised impact.
Conservation Actions Underway
It occurs in at least three protected areas, Taman Negara (which encompasses Gunung Tahan, and various other peaks where it could occur), Krau Wildlife Reserve (which incorporates one-third of the flanks of Gunung Benom) and the very small Fraser's Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.
Male 65 cm, female 46 cm. Dark peacock-pheasant with blackish underparts. Similar spp. From allopatric Malayan Peacock Pheasant P. malacense by much smaller, dark bluish ocelli on upperside, strong chestnut tinge to lower upperparts, darker tail with no obvious rings around dark green ocelli, dark greyish head and neck with whitish speckles and blackish underparts. Females have smaller black ocelli and shorter, less graduated tail with almost no ocelli. Voice Male territorial call is series of 1-4 fairly loud, harsh clucks or squawks.
Text account compilers
Aik, Y.C., Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Davison, G. & Taylor, J.
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Polyplectron inopinatum. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/mountain-peacock-pheasant-polyplectron-inopinatum on 25/02/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org on 25/02/2024.