VU
White-browed Bushchat Saxicola macrorhynchus



Justification

Justification of Red List Category
This semi-arid desert specialist is poorly known, but is thought to have a small, declining population as a result of agricultural intensification and encroachment, which qualifies it as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
Despite the scarcity of information on population trends, a moderate and continuing decline is suspected to be occurring, owing to the conversion and degradation of semi-arid habitats across the range.

Distribution and population

Saxicola macrorhynchus is endemic to the north-west Indian subcontinent. Its historical distribution included Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat, India, adjacent parts of Punjab and Sind, Pakistan (possibly now extinct) and Afghanistan (now extinct). Formerly locally distributed but sometimes common or extremely abundant, it appears to have declined. Recent records are from parts of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan and neighbouring Gujarat (Rahmani 1996), in many areas of the Great and Little Rann of Kutch (N. Devasar pers. comm. 2009 per Rahmani 2012, N. Devasar in litt. 2016), as well as numerous records from the Naliya grasslands in Kutch (Rahmani 2012), Hissar District, Haryana (Harvey 2002, Sharma and Sangwan 2005) and two records from Maharashtra (Deshmukh 2006, Rao 2007). In 1993-1994, four intensive surveys located c.86 birds in 18 localities, including 25 over a 45 km stretch on one day, suggesting that it remains common at certain localities (Rahmani 1996). There are recent regular and maybe breeding records of this species from Tal Chhapar in Churu district (Rahmani 2012).

Ecology

It inhabits dry, sandy semi-deserts and desert plains with low herbs and scattered shrubs, where ground-cover ranges between 25% and 50%. It may be highly territorial and has been observed to spend almost all of the winter in a 25 m x 25 m patch of arid scrub forest, heavily grazed by sheep (S. S. Poonia in litt. 2016)In Pakistan, it also inhabited arid subtropical thorn-scrub and perhaps irrigated cultivation and tall grass, though these are thought to be suboptimal habitats. Its movements are poorly understood, although they may make a local migration as individuals search for suitable territories (S. S. Poonia in litt. 2016). Most records are from the winter period (November-March), and it is thought likely that birds move to the deserts of central and western Rajasthan to breed with the onset of the rains in June.

Threats

The key threat is agricultural intensification and encroachment, primarily through the introduction of irrigation schemes to semi-arid areas and their subsequent conversion into croplands. Overgrazing by livestock may also reduce the extent of suitable habitat. Intensive use of chemical pesticides in cotton crops may negatively affect this species in Kutch (J. Tiwari in litt. 2006). These trends are expected to continue with the development of the Rajasthan Canal and widespread application of modern agricultural techniques.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. Its occurrence has been reported from various protected areas, including the Desert National Park (breeding likely), Tal Chhaper Wildlife Sanctuary (probably breeding as juveniles have been seen [S. S. Poonia in litt. 2016, A. Rahmani in litt. 2016]), Keoladeo National Park and Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, and Velavadar National Park in Gujarat, and Banni Grasslands Reserve (S. S. Poonia in litt. 2016) and Lala Bustard Sanctuary in Kutch. Extensive surveys have been conducted throughout its Indian range.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to monitor its distribution, population status and seasonal movements. Conduct further detailed investigations into its ecology, and identify significant breeding populations. Investigate the impact threats, including canal irrigation, on the species and its habitat. Develop a conservation strategy for the species based on these surveys, including the gazetting of strictly protected areas, perhaps in combination with areas designated for the conservation of the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps. Raise awareness of this species (S. S. Poonia in litt. 2016).

Identification

17 cm. Large, nondescript chat. Breeding males dark above with mostly blackish mask and wings, broad white supercilium and band along inner wing-coverts and mostly white primary coverts. Non-breeding male has broad buffish fringing above and buffish-fringed remiges with less white. Female resembles non-breeding male but lacks dark mask and white on tail. Wings duller. Juvenile is darker brown above than female, with buff streaks and spots and whitish below, indistinctly brown-mottled throat and breast. Similar spp. Female Common Stonechat S. torquata has shorter bill and tail, less pronounced supercilium, and narrower buff fringes to tail feathers. Voice Song a low musical twitch-chhe chee chee.

Acknowledgements

Text account compilers
Derhé, M., Benstead, P., Gilroy, J., Martin, R, Westrip, J.

Contributors
Devasar, N., Harvey, B., Rahmani, A., Sangwan, P., Poonia, S., Deshmukh, A., Tiwari, J., Sharma, S.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Saxicola macrorhynchus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/06/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/06/2022.