Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Critically Endangered because it only survives only on one small island, Ua Huka, where its habitat quality is decreasing.
The last surveys estimated 1,763-2,987 individuals (Ziembicki and Raust 2004) and 2,094 individuals on Ua Huka (T. Doukas in litt. 2010), although these may have overestimated the population as the species is much less common in the uninhabited part of the island (Blanvillain 2012), and so the total population is placed in the band 1,000-2,499 individuals.
On Ua Huka the population was c.200-250 pairs in the early 1970s, c.1,300 individuals in 1991 (Holyoak and Thibault 1984, Thibault 1988, Kuehler et al. 1997), 1,763-2,987 individuals in 2004 (Ziembicki and Raust 2004) and 2,094 individuals in 2009 (T. Doukas in litt. 2010). The population is therefore currently estimated to be stable (P. Roust in litt. 2017; T. Doukas in litt. 2017).
Vini ultramarina is endemic to the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia, where it probably only remains on one island, Ua Huka. On Ua Pou, it numbered 250-300 pairs in 1975, was rare in 1990 (Holyoak and Thibault 1984, Seitre and Seitre 1991) and despite some scattered records, was not found in 1998 or 2012 (C. Blanvillain in litt. 2016). On Nuku Hiva, it numbered 70 birds in 1972-1975 and despite some scattered records, could not be found in 1990 or in 2004 (Holyoak and Thibault 1984, Seitre and Seitre 1991, Ziembicki and Raust 2004). It was (re-)introduced to Fatu Hiva (29 birds) in the 1990s (Kuehler and Lieberman 1993), where 51 birds were counted in 1997 (Kuehler et al. 1997) but rats became established and it was considered extinct by 2007 (Ziembicki and Raust 2004, P. Raust in litt. 2007). It was (re-)introduced to Ua Huka in the 1940s, where the population was c.200-250 pairs in the early 1970s, c.1,300 individuals in 1991 (Holyoak and Thibault 1984, Thibault 1988, Kuehler et al. 1997), 1,763-2,987 individuals in 2004 (Ziembicki and Raust 2004) and 2,094 individuals in 2009 (T. Doukas in litt. 2010). However, the last surveys may have overestimated the population as the species is much less common in the uninhabited part of the island (Blanvillain 2012).
It feeds on a wide variety of flowering trees on nectar and pollen, preferring flowers of the coconut palm, banana and native Hibiscus tileaceus and fruit, especially mango; as well as on flowers, buds and insects (Holyoak and Thibault 1984, Pratt et al. 1987, Ziembicki and Raust 2004, Doukas et al. in litt. 2010). It nests in tree-cavities preferring Artocarpus altilis, Pometia pinnata, Pandanus tectorius and Hibiscus tileacus (Holyoak and Thibault 1984, Pratt et al. 1987, Ziembicki and Raust 2004).
It is likely that black rat Rattus rattus is responsible for its decline, being present on Tahuata, Hiva Oa and Nuku Hiva since c.1915, on Ua Pou (probably) since 1980, and confirmed, for the first time, on Fatu Hiva in February 2000 (Thibault and Meyer 2000) - the bird is now extinct on all of these islands. If black rats colonise Ua Huka, the lorikeet would probably decline almost to extinction within 20 years (Ziembicki and Raust 2004). A project to improve the size of the wharf in one village may increase the risk of introduction of rats (P. Raust in litt. 2017). All islands have been devastated by very high levels of grazing and fire, much of the original dry forest has been reduced to grassland, and extensive damage has been caused even to upland forests (WWF/IUCN 1994-1995). Ua Huka is probably the driest island, with many recent fires and a high density of wild goats and horses. Other invasive species established on Ua Huka that might be a threat include exotic bird species that may transmit diseases, an increasing number of feral cats, yellow crazy ant and Singapore ant (C. Blanvillain in litt. 2016). Additional threats including the clearing of some sections of habitat in order to plant crops and trees for food, and wood carvings for tourism (Doukas et al. in litt. 2010).
Conservation Actions UnderwayBiosecurity is being enhanced at Ua Huka, including building awareness of the economic cost of colonisation by black rats, an analysis of the biosecurity chain including vessels, wharves, planes and high-risk goods, on-ground preventative actions and an action plan in case of rat incursion. A sniffer dog detected and killed a rat in 2016 (Blanvillain et al. 2012a, 2012b, 2013a, 2013b, 2014, 2015a, 2015b).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Biosecurity on Ua Huka needs to be strengthened, including better biosecurity of boats and better resourced sniffer dogs. Research the impact of other invasive alien species such as exotic birds, diseases, invasive ants and cats have on lorikeets. Eradication projects on other islands (Eiao, Motane) may offer opportunities for reintroductions in the future (P. Raust in litt. 2017).
18 cm. Sharp-tailed parakeet. Light cerulean-blue upperparts and forehead, dark navy-blue nape and underparts. Cheeks, breast, and flanks heavily mottled with white. Red bill, eyes, and feet. Voice Very high-pitched whistle and harsh screech.
Text account compilers
Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Derhé, M., Shutes, S., Stattersfield, A., Wheatley, H., Dutson, G.
Gouni, A., Doukas, T., Thibault, J., Albar, G., Raust, P., Blanvillain, C.
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Vini ultramarina. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 09/03/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 09/03/2021.