Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Vulnerable as it is suspected to be undergoing a rapid population decline over three generations (27 years) owing to hunting for feathers. Should the species be found to be declining at a more moderate rate, this species will warrant downlisting to a lower category of threat.
The only population estimate is based on two pairs inhabiting 14 km2 at Crater Mountain. Extrapolation suggests a total population of 21,000 pairs (Mack and Wright 1998), which may be placed in the range 20,000-49,999 mature individuals. However, this may have been an overestimate as the Crater Mountain birds sometimes foraged elsewhere, the species is atypically common at this site and is absent from many hunted areas (Mack and Wright 1998). Conversely, it may be an underestimate by not accounting for substantial populations at lower altitudes (B. Beehler in litt. 2000).
While this species is under significant hunting pressure for feathers, and to a lesser extent trade and meat, this varies geographically and much of its range is away from human populations. Hunting for feathers has increased with population growth. It has been extirpated from large areas, especially in Papua New Guinea (Coates 1985, Beehler et al. 1986, K. D. Bishop in litt. 1994, Mack and Wright 1998). However, in Papua New Guinea these declines appear to have been largely historical and localised to centres of population such as around Tabubil, where it rapidly declined after development of a large mine and town (K. D. Bishop in litt. 1994, Gregory 1995). The species has probably been extirpated from the Karimui Plateau, where hunting pressure has been intense for at least 50 years but remains uncommon on the slopes of Mt Karimui (Freeman and Freeman 2014). Current rates of decline due to hunting are uncertain but could be relatively minor, and the species appears secure in large areas of suitable habitat in central and western mainland Papua New Guinea, much of which occurs in rugged terrain in areas with a low human population density (I. Woxvold per G. Dutson in litt. 2016). Across mainland Papua New Guinea, 1.2% of forest was lost plus 2.4% logged between 2002-2014 (Bryan and Shearman 2015) but encounter rates for the species are often similar in logged forest (I. Woxvold per G. Dutson in litt. 2016). The population trend is tentatively assessed to be a moderately rapid decline (within the range of 30-49% over 3 generations [27 years]), though further information could suggest that it is lower than this.
Psittrichas fulgidus is patchily distributed across New Guinea (Papua, formerly Irian Jaya, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea). It has been historically and recently extirpated from large areas, especially in Papua New Guinea (Coates 1985, Beehler et al. 1986, K. D. Bishop in litt. 1994, Mack and Wright 1998). It is generally rare and seen in small numbers (birds are wide-ranging) (B. Beehler in litt. 2007), and has shown rapid declines in some areas such as Ok Tedi (K. D. Bishop in litt. 1994, Gregory 1995). While it has been reported as frequently seen near villages in the Finisterre Mountains, Huon Peninsula (T. Mark in litt. 2017), in other areas, such as Kiunga and Tabubil, it is considered difficult to find (P. Gregory in litt. 2017). Thought to be absent from Fakfak, Kumawa and Cyclops mountains, it has been suggested to be one of the most vulnerable species in New Guinea (Beehler and Pratt 2016).
It is restricted to hill and lower montane forest, and adjacent lowland forest from 20-2,420 m (Mack and Wright 1998, Beehler and Pratt 2016, I. Woxvold per G. Dutson in litt. 2016). It is widespread and fairly commonly encountered. In areas of relatively intact forest with low hunting pressure, this species is commonly seen as singles or pairs and sometimes in groups of up to ten in fruiting trees and up to 14 at roost (I. Woxvold per G. Dutson in litt. 2016). Recorded daily at 600–2,420 m in the YUS conservation area (Freeman et al. 2013). Encounter rates are often similar in logged forest (I. Woxvold per G. Dutson in litt. 2016). It is an extremely specialised frugivore, feeding only on a very few species of fig, and is probably seasonally nomadic. It nests in large, hollow trees, lays one or two eggs (Richards and Whitmore 2015, Pratt and Beehler 2015) and may have a lifespan of 20-40 years (Mack and Wright 1998).
The major threat is hunting for feathers (Coates 1985, Beehler et al. 1986, Mack and Wright 1998), which are used for ornamentation, particularly in ceremonial head-dresses, in much of the Papua New Guinea Highlands and, in some areas, for skins, which are used as bride prices (Schmid 1993). Demand may increase as the population grows, however, the plumes of this species are not worn as commonly as those of other birds (M. Supuma in litt. 2012) and many feathers may be decades old as they tend to be carefully stored when not being used (B. Beehler in litt. 2012). In addition, hunting levels potentially have decreased since the introduction of a law preventing the killing of birds with non-traditional means (i.e. shotguns) (G. Dutson in litt. 2016). Tourist shows and cultural events have however increased in recent years, which may increase demand for plumes, and birds or feathers are occasionally sold to tourists (van den Bergh 2009) although it is illegal to take them out of the country. Despite demand being generally lower in Papua, birds are also hunted for the cage-bird trade and meat (Nash 1992, K. D. Bishop in litt. 1994). Nestlings are captured by felling trees or enlarging nest-cavities, and the scarcity of suitable nest-sites could become a limiting factor. Deforestation is a less major threat to the species since loggers usually leave fig trees (B. Beehler in litt. 2007) and encounter rates for the species are often similar in logged forest (I. Woxvold per G. Dutson in litt. 2016).
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. The Crater Mountain study have published conservation recommendations (Mack and Wright 1998).
46 cm. Red-and-black parrot. Bright crimson belly, inner wings and uppertail-coverts, breast scaled with grey. Alternative name Vulturine Parrot derives from naked head and long, hooked bill. Similar spp. Palm Cockatoo Probosciger aterrimus uniformly blackish-grey with small pink face patch and very heavy bill. Female Eclectus Parrot Eclectus roratus has bright red head and blue body. Crows Corvus spp. are all-black with straighter bills. Voice Rather like a cockatoo but quieter and softer. Hints Usually seen flying over roads and other vantage points, generally as singles or pairs but flocks of up to 20 have been recorded.
Text account compilers
Dutson, G., O'Brien, A., Bird, J., Stattersfield, A., Derhé, M., Wheatley, H., Mahood, S., Westrip, J.
Supuma, M., Beehler, B., Woxvold, I., Mark, T., Dutson, G., Gregory, P., Bishop, K.D.
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Psittrichas fulgidus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/08/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/08/2022.