Justification of Red List Category
This species qualifies as Critically Endangered because the lack of recent records, despite considerable survey effort, suggests it has a tiny population which is presumably continuing to decline as a result of predation from introduced rats and loss of habitat.
Four detailed surveys between 2001 and 2012 plus additional search efforts failed to find any birds at all, so the remaining population is likely to be very small (plausibly with fewer than 50 mature individuals), with potential extirpation from its stronghold in Viti Levu (Watling 2013).
Ongoing logging and road construction causes habitat loss and is likely to increase rat populations, both of which may lead to population declines. The species is apparently harder to find now than it was formerly.
Charmosyna amabilis occured on the islands of Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Ovalau, Fiji. It has always been regarded as a rare species although 10 specimens were collected during a one-month visit in 1925 (Swinnerton and Maljkovic 2002b). There are unconfirmed records from the 1980s and 1990s from lowland areas of Ovalau, upland Taveuni and from the Natewa peninsula on Vanua Levu, but no confirmed records (specimens, photographs or observations by those familiar with the species) exist from Taveuni or Ovalau since 1965 (Watling 2013). The last record by observers familiar with this species was in 1993, but one sighting at Mt Tomaniivi (=Mt Victoria) on Viti Levu in 2002 is supported by detailed field notes (P. Hayman in litt. 2004). Nearly all recent records on Viti Levu have been in the Mt Tomaniivi area (Watling 2000), but two birds were reported in the Nausori Highlands in 1998 (G. Allport in litt. 2000). Between 2001 and 2012, experienced ornithologists undertook 2096 hours of either focused searches for the species or general forest bird surveys, without a successful sighting (Watling 2013). This included 373 man-hours of observations on Taveuni and in the central Monasavu highlands (Swinnerton and Maljkovic 2002b), 498 hours of targeted forest surveys on all four islands between 2002-2005 (Masibaluvu & Dutson 2006), 91 hours of dedicated surveys over 10 days in 2008 in the Monasavu and Mt Tomaniivi areas (Masibalavu & Mucklow 2008), and over 810 hours of searching in the upland Nadarivatu-Nadrau-Monasavu area of central Viti Levu, and in the Wainavadu catchment, one of the least disturbed catchments in Viti Levu (Watling 2013). All surveys failed to find birds. While the species could be overlooked even by experienced observers, the failure of further surveys to detect this species in recent years indicates that it is extremely rare, and serious consideration should be given to its extirpation from Viti Levu. No conclusion on the species's status on Taveuni, Vanua Levu and Ovalau can be reached due to insufficient surveys on those islands (Watling 2013).
It is found in mature forests and may be reliant on old-growth forest above 500 m (Swinnerton and Maljkovic 2002a). However, any altitudinal restriction is probably artificial, reflecting the absence of 'good' forest, except at higher elevations (Watling 2013). All observations on Ovalau have been at low altitudes, including one in mangroves (J. S. Kretzschmar in litt. 2000). It is usually found in small flocks high in the canopy feeding on nectar and pollen from flowering trees, and is probably seasonally nomadic in search of this food supply (Watling 1982, Clunie 1984). Its breeding ecology is unknown (Watling 1982).
Lowland and hill forest is slowly being cleared in much of Fiji. However, the rarity and assumed decline of this species is probably largely the result of predation by introduced mammals, especially Black Rat Rattus rattus, as is the case with the closely-related New Caledonian Lorikeet C. diadema, which could be extinct owing to predation by rats. Ongoing increases in logging, expansion of the road network, especially around the high-altitude areas of Monasavu and Serua in Viti Levu, are likely to be increasing rat density (Watling 2000, G. Dutson in litt. 2005). The introduced Small Indian Mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus and feral cats are also present in the species's range and may pose a threat (V. Masibalavu in litt. 2012, Watling 2013). Agricultural expansion is encroaching on primary forest in Taveuni. Having a montane distribution that is close to the maximum altitude within its range, this species is also potentially susceptible to climate change (BirdLife International unpublished data).
Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. It is protected under Fijian law. On Viti Levu, it occurs within the Tomaniivi Nature Reserve, but this is not large enough to maintain a resident population and, although the establishment of the proposed Wabu extension would make a reserve of appropriate size, it would not provide any better protection against rats if the reserve remains unmanaged (D. Watling in litt. 2000). On Taveuni, the combination of the Ravilevu Nature Reserve and the Bouma National Heritage Park provides an area of adequate size for its conservation but the lorikeet remains very rare (D. Watling in litt. 2000). Between 2010 and 2012, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti implemented a community awareness program for the lorikeet to train community members of NFMV’s Tomaniivi Nature Club to search for the lorikeet and increase the potential for community sightings. This work included an updated species recovery plan for 2013-2017 (Watling 2013).
Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
The Red-throated Lorikeet Species Recovery Plan (2013-2017) identifies the following actions. (1) Confirm the lorikeet’s continued existence: prioritize surveys in Viti Levu and Taveuni; target surveys in forests on Taveuni for at least a full annual cycle; focus surveys on peak flowering periods of vuga (Metrosideros collina) and other foraging plants; better understand the vuga flowering cycle. (2) If a population is located: undertake captive husbandry in Fiji; attain a good understanding of the species's ecology and behaviour; ensure good public and corporate awareness of the species throughout Fiji (full details of recovery actions in Watling 2013).
18 cm. Green lorikeet with fluttering flight. Entirely green but for red cheeks, throat and thighs. Red throat bordered with yellow. Mustard-yellow undertail and tail tips. Sexes similar, immature birds duller. Similar spp. Easily confused with Collared Lory Phigys solitarius which is considerably larger and has black cap and red on the back. Voice High-pitched squeaks uttered whilst feeding or in flight. Hints Search any flowering tree in remote forest areas, such as Mt Tomaniivi on Viti Levu.
Text account compilers
Bird, J., Shutes, S., Stattersfield, A., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Benstead, P., Temple, H., Butchart, S., Derhé, M., O'Brien, A.
Allport, G., Dutson, G., Hayman, P., Kretzschmar, J.P., Masibalavu, V., O'Brien, M., Swinnerton, K. & Watling, D.
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Charmosyna amabilis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/09/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/09/2020.