Decline of White-throated Bushchat Saxicola insignis Gray J.E. & J.R. Gray, 1847 (Aves: Passeriformes: Muscicapidae) in Nepal: Implications on its global status

Hem Sagar Baral, Tek Raj Bhatt, Bed Kumar Dhakal, Dhiraj Chaudhary, Hemanta Kumar Yadav, Laxman Prasad Poudyal, Hathan Chaudhary, Pradeep Raj Joshi, Carol Inskipp, Rajan Amin

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Abstract

The White-throated Bushchat, also known as Hodgson’s Bushchat, is a long-distance migratory and specialist grassland bird categorized as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. In Nepal, White-throated Bushchat winters in the lowlands, and has been primarily recorded in large Phantas (=open plains of grassland). We present the population status of the species in Shukla Phanta, the largest continuous lowland grassland in Nepal that is known to hold the largest wintering population of White-throated Bushchat in the Indian subcontinent. Our 2013–2014, 2016–2017, and 2017–2018 winter surveys for White-throated Bushchat followed the same method used in the 1997–1998 and 2007 surveys in Shukla Phanta for comparable assessment of the status of the species. Our study provided overwhelming evidence that the species has undergone a steep decline over the last two decades (probability of 92% for a decline greater than 5% per year). Shukla Phanta is dominated by the species’ preferred habitat of Imperata cylindrica, Narenga porphyrocoma, and Saccharum bengalensis. Grassland patches managed through controlled burning leaving enough reeds for perches, grazed at medium level of intensity by wildlife and within close distance to water were found to support higher numbers of White-throated Bushchat. Given the observed steep decline in the largest known wintering population of the species and similar declines observed in the wintering populations in India, its status warrants uplisting to Critically Endangered, and we recommend an urgent review of its global status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17847-17855
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Threatened Taxa
Volume13
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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