Justification of Red List Category
This species qualifies as Endangered because it has a very small distribution across five very small islands, and appears to be undergoing an overall continuing slow decline owing to habitat loss and perhaps depredation by black rats.
The latest population estimates are 835 on Rimatara (Blanvillain et al. 2015), >100 on Atiu (G. McCormack in litt. 2016), >1,000 on Teraina, 50 on Tabuaeran and small numbers on Kiritimati; an overall population size of about 2000 individuals or perhaps 1500 mature individuals.
On Rimatara, the population was estimated at >905 birds in 1992 (McCormack and Künzle 1996), c.750 in 2000 (G. McCormack in litt. 2001), 650 in 2002 (Raust and Sanford 2002), 610 in 2004 (Gouni 2005), 1,079 in 2009 (Albar et al. 2009) and 835 in 2015 (Blanvillain et al. 2015). The last two surveys had different timings and methods; correcting for these differences suggests a decline of 40% between 2009 and 2015 (Blanvillain et al. 2015). In April 2007, twenty-seven birds were re-introduced to Atiu in the Cook Islands from Rimatara. The introduction appears to have been successful, with the population estimated at c.40 birds in 2009, 90 ± 19 birds in 2010 and more than 92 birds in 2011 (R. Malcolm in litt. 2010, 2012), and continues to increase (G. McCormack in litt. 2016). On Teraina, the population was estimated at >1,000 individuals, with 50 on Tabuaeran, possibly fewer, on a single islet in the atoll (Watling 1995). On Kiritimati, a few individuals were reported to survive in 1999 (D. Watling in litt. 1999), although the species was suggested to be 'common' in the plantations to the north of the village of London in 2008 (P. Fraser in litt. 2008). Overall, this suggests a slowly declining population.
Vini kuhlii is restricted to Rimatara in French Polynesia, and to Teraina (= Washington), Tabuaeran (= Fanning) and Kiritimati (= Christmas Island), Kiribati, where probably introduced by Polynesian people. Fossil and oral traditions indicate that the species was formerly on at least five of the Southern Cook Islands (Steadman 1989, McCormack and Künzle 1996). In April 2007, twenty-seven birds were re-introduced to Atiu in the Cook Islands from Rimatara. Atiu has similar vegetation to Rimatara and is free of black rat Rattus rattus, although Pacific rat R. exulans is abundant. The first breeding on Atiu was reported in 2008, with more than 92 birds in 2011 (R. Malcolm in litt. 2010, 2012). On Teraina, the population was estimated at 1,000 individuals (minimum), with 50 on Tabuaeran, possibly fewer, on a single islet in the atoll (Watling 1995). On Kiritimati, a few individuals were reported to survive in 1999 (D. Watling in litt. 1999), although the species was suggested to be 'common' in the plantations to the north of the village of London in 2008 (P. Fraser in litt. 2008).
On Rimatara, the most favoured habitat is mixed horticultural woodlands, including coconut and Paraserianthes falcataria plantations, and it seems to be less common in native makatea forest (McCormack and Künzle 1996). However, they might depend on native forest for nesting in Barringtonia asiatica trees (Blanvillain,2002). On Teraina and Tabuaeran, it is effectively confined to coconut plantations (Watling 1995). It feeds on nectar from a wide variety of flowering plants (nearly all recently introduced) (McCormack and Künzle 1996).
The main threat to the species is the potential colonisation by black rats Rattus rattus (Seitre and Seitre 1991, 1992. Gouni 2005, Blanvillain and Ghestemme 2015) which are absent from Rimatara (Gouni et al. 2007, Blanvillain et al. 2012, 2015b). Excessive exploitation for its red feathers is the most likely reason for the species's extinction from the Cook Islands (Watling 1995, McCormack and Künzle 1996). On Teraina, there is no evidence of the presence of R. rattus, although Pacific rat R. exulans is abundant while on Tabuaeran and Mitiaro, R. rattus occurs (Watling 1995, G. McCormack in litt. 2009). Cats may be a threat on Kiritimati. The Common Myna Acridotheres tristis is a threat to the introduced population on Atiu as it competes for nesting sites and has been reported to attack fledglings (Lieberman and McCormack 2008, Malcolm 2008, Heptonstall 2010). Since 2012, many large trees on Rimatara have been cleared for agriculture and to allow regeneration of coconut trees, and a large area of forest was cleared for the construction of the airport in 2006 (C. Blanvillain in litt. 2016).
Conservation Actions Underway
Biosecurity has been enhanced to prevent colonisation by black rats, including raising the awareness of local people and children through the creation of Site Support Groups (Blanvillain et al. 2014) and the importation of a sniffer dog (Blanvillain et al. 2015). Listed on CITES Appendix II. In Kiribati, the species is fully-protected. In French Polynesia the species is protected by national legislation since 1996, and on Rimatara it has been protected by a traditional tapu (taboo) since c.1900. 27 individuals were reintroduced to Atiu from Rimatara in May 2007 (Gouni et al. 2007). A Common Myna control programme began on Atiu in 2009 and is continuing (R. Malcolm in litt. 2012).
18 cm. Fast-flying parakeet with pointed tail. Mostly dark green above, crimson-red cheeks and underparts. Dark purple patch on nape (of young birds only). Orange-red bill. Dull orange feet. Voice Harsh screech. Hints Found in residential areas and flowering trees, usually in pairs or in small groups.
Text account compilers
Derhé, M., Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Shutes, S. & Stattersfield, A.
Albar, G., Blanvillain, C., Fraser, P., Gouni, A., Malcolm, R., McCormack, G., Raust, P. & Watling, D.
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Vini kuhlii. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/02/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/02/2021.