Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Near Threatened because it has a small population. Although all mature individuals may occur as a single widespread population, it is thought to be experiencing moderate fluctuations at present, rather than an overall decline, and thus a higher level of threat category is not justified.
Its population is thought to number c.5,000 mature individuals, although this has little reliability. This equates to c.7,500 individuals in total.
Large-scale movements and sporadic appearances outside the western deserts make it difficult to determine whether there has been any change in distribution or numbers (Garnett and Crowley 2000). The decline in the numbers of records from the periphery of its range after 1950, however, suggests a contraction in range. This species has always been scarce, but an apparent reduction in sighting frequency from the eastern part of its range since the early 19th century suggests that there has been a decline in density over 50% of its range. The population is now considered to be fluctuating (Garnett and Crowley 2000).
Polytelis alexandrae is found in the central and western arid zone of Australia. At most sites, it appears at intervals of more than 20 years, but around Lake Tobin, Western Australia, birds were seen regularly through the 1990s, although less frequently since 2000. This may indicate that it is a core area from which birds move to other areas (possibly central highlands) during droughts in the western deserts. The Great Victoria Desert might contain a second core area. Large-scale movements, sporadic appearances outside the western deserts and the remoteness and vastness of the area make it difficult to determine whether there has been any change in distribution or numbers. The decline in the numbers of records from the periphery of its range after 1950, however, suggests a contraction in range. All recent records, except from near Lake Tobin, have been of small parties and there has only been restricted evidence of breeding. This species has always been scarce; however, an apparent reduction in sighting frequency from the eastern part of its range since the early 19th century suggests that there has been a decline in density over 50% of its range. Although its population is thought to number c.5,000 mature individuals, this is not a reliable estimate.
They are usually seen in swales between sand dunes, where they feed on a variety of seeds, as well as flowers, fruits and foliage of shrubs and trees. The species has been recorded eating on eleven plant species within the Haasts Bluff ALT (Pavey et al. 2014) and are closely associated with Marble Gums Eucalyptus gongylocarpa in the Great Victoria Desert (L. Joseph in litt. 2016). Pairs studied within the Haasts Bluff ALT were found to fledge one or two young, with a maximum of five recorded. The percentage of groups with three or more birds (assumed to be a pair with offspring) increased through September (14%), October (27%) and November (38%) (Pavey et al. 2014). Twenty-two active nests were recorded, all found in hollows of Marble Gums, with trees having an average height of 14.06 +/- 0.70 m and the mean height of nest entrances being 6.76 +/- 0.37 m (Pavey et al. 2014).
It may be affected by a wide range of habitat changes including increased water availability on the periphery of its range (possibly favouring water-dependent taxa), altered fire regimes, introduction of predators such as cats and red foxes Vulpes vulpes, and introduction of herbivores such as sheep, rabbits and camels. Altered fire regimes with a coarser mosaic of fire history and introduced herbivores may have degraded habitat and reduced the abundance of food.
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II.
Text account compilers
Taylor, J., Benstead, P., Garnett, S.
Burbidge, A.H., Joseph, L.
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Polytelis alexandrae. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/10/2021.