EN
Superb Pitta Pitta superba



Justification

Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Endangered on the basis that it has a very small population which is inferred to be in decline based on known threats to the species's habitat and apparent population declines in some locations.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 250-999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied.

Trend justification
During eight visits to Manus between 2002 and 2005, the species was found to be absent from areas close to where it had previously been recorded and at most sites individuals were either absent or present at very low densities (A. Mack in litt. 2012). Interviews with local people during these visits also found that many were unfamiliar with the species (A. Mack in litt. 2012), although such interviews should be interpreted with caution. About 2% of forest on Manus was lost plus 7% logged between 2002-2014 (Bryan and Shearman 2015). However, the number of individuals around Rossun village may be fairly stable (A. Mack in litt. 2012, G. Dutson in litt. 2013). On the basis of this information, the species is suspected to be undergoing a moderate population decline.

Distribution and population

Pitta superba is endemic to Manus in the Admiralty Islands of Papua New Guinea. It has an enigmatic and patchy distribution and probably occurs at low population densities. Four pairs have been found in recent years around Rossun village, whilst in 2002 three birds were heard within a small area of forest 10 km inland from the north-western coast (Williams in litt. 2002). Although most of Manus remains unsurveyed and this bird may be largely silent and thus overlooked, it is absent from several seemingly suitable areas (Dutson and Newman 1991, D. Gibbs in litt. 1994, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997, A. Mack in litt. 2012). During eight visits to Manus between 2002 and 2005, birds were found to be absent from areas close to where they had previously been recorded and at most sites this species was either absent or present at very low densities (A. Mack in litt. 2012). Interviews with local people during these visits also found that many were unfamiliar with the species (A. Mack in litt. 2012), although such interviews should be interpreted with caution. A total of 29 specimens were collected in two months in 1913 (Rothschild and Hartert 1914), suggesting either that this species's favoured haunts have not been rediscovered or that it has undergone a steep decline.

Ecology

Virtually all recent records of this very shy species are of calling birds. Records are from primary forest and patchy forest with areas of secondary forest and garden regrowth at 100-200 m. It has not been recorded on steep slopes or in the slightly submontane forest of interior Manus. Possible habitat preferences that have been suggested include bamboo thickets or open hilltop forest near a reasonably large river with stones, which are used as anvils to break mollusc shells (Dutson and Newman 1991, D. Gibbs in litt. 1994, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997).

Threats

The species's habitat is suffering intense pressure from a growing human population (A. Mack in litt. 2012).  Large areas of Manus have been logged or are under logging concessions. However, its exact habitat requirements are unclear, so it is not known whether this species is threatened by habitat degradation (Dutson and Newman 1991, D. Gibbs in litt. 1994). About 2% of forest on Manus was lost plus 7% logged between 2002-2014 (Bryan and Shearman 2015). It is possibly threatened by introduced species such as cats and dogs, but the brown tree snake Boiga irregularis, which has decimated birds on Guam, is thought to be native to Manus (Dutson and Newman 1991, R. E. Beck in litt. 1992)

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
No targeted conservation actions are known for this species.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys for the species elsewhere on Manus, and carry out further interviews with local villagers regarding this species's distribution and population trends. Investigate feeding and breeding ecology around Rossun, including the mapping of territories in relation to habitat types. Investigate the impact of introduced predatory species. Monitor numbers of birds calling around Rossun. Encourage the designation of large community-based conservation areas. Use the species as a flagship for encouraging ecotourism initiatives with local landowners. Use the species as a flagship in general provincial conservation awareness programmes.

Identification

22 cm. A truly superb pitta. Glossy black with sky-blue wing-coverts and bright scarlet lower belly and undertail. Female and especially immature is duller overall. Similar spp. Flushed birds may be confused with all-black Metallic Starling Aplonis metallica and calls may be confused with Mackinlay's Cuckoo-dove Macropygia mackinlayi. Voice Loud ku-ku; wing-coverts flashing with each note Hints Residents just inland of the island capital can attract this species into view by imitating its call. Unless calling from a low branch or higher in the canopy, this species is very secretive and hardly ever seen.

Acknowledgements

Text account compilers
Derhé, M., Dutson, G., Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Stattersfield, A. & Taylor, J.

Contributors
Beck, R., Burrows, I., Dutson, G., Gibbs, D., Gregory, P., Williams, A. & Mack, A.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Pitta superba. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 06/12/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 06/12/2022.