Avifauna in Myanmar

There are 47 Globally Threatened bird species in Myanmar with 7 listed as Critically Endangered. Two of these species are probably extinct in the country, of which one is possibly globally so. The formerly widespread White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni has not been seen in Myanmar since the 1940s (Birdlife International 2012). The Pink-headed Duck Rhodonessa caryophyllacea was the focus of several intensive searches in the early 2000s, which did not produce any reliable records despite visiting most of the remaining superficially suitable habitats (Tordoff et al. 2008).

In addition, the country holds six endemic species. These include Jerdon’s Minivet Pericrocotus albifrons, Hooded Treepie Crypsirina cucullata, Burmese Bushlark Mirafra microptera, Burmese Tit Aegithalos sharpie, White-throated Babbler Turdoides gularis, and White-browed Nuthatch Sitta victoriae.

The country still has important populations of five Critically Endangered species. This includes White-bellied Heron Ardea insignis a species formerly found through northern and western Myanmar but now restricted in the country to the most remote waterways in the eastern Himalayas. Myanmar hosts possibly the largest wintering population of Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus; this very unique and charismatic species is threatened by incidental hunting on its coastal wintering grounds as well as a series of other poorly understood threats along its long migration path (Pain et al. 2011). Myanmar is also still home to several populations of Critically Endangered vultures including White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis, Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris, and Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus, these species are all wide-ranging and heavily reliant on dead domestic animals to feed on. This reliance on livestock in human dominated landscapes highlights the need to consider conservation action beyond protected areas and consider threats and opportunities in the wider landscape to ensure these species can survive (Htin Hla et al. 2010).

There is a suite of rare but widespread species reliant on undisturbed forested streams, including White-winged Duck Cairina scutulata, Masked Finfoot Heliopais personatus, and Green Peafowl Pavo muticus. Each of these species is threatened by human disturbance and hunting. Their shy and retiring nature as well as their remaining distribution is primarily remote areas makes their true population status difficult to assess. White-winged Duck and Green Peafowl appear to be still widespread in the northwest of the country (Tordoff et al. 2007). But there are very few recent records of Masked Finfoot despite considerable searching in areas they were regularly found in only a few years ago (Tordoff et al. 2007; Birdlife International 2012).

Myanmar is home to the bulk of the world’s population of Gurney’s Pitta Pitta gurneyi. In the 1990s this species was known only from a very small population in southern Thailand but survey work in the past ten years has shown the bird to be relatively widespread in Taninthayi Region. This discovery resulted in the down listing of the species by Birdlife International from Critically Endangered to Endangered in 2008. Despite the larger population the species is still at great risk from the conversion of its forest habitat to oil palm and other land uses (Eames et al. 2005; Donald et al. 2009).

Of Myanmar’s six endemic birds, White-browed Nuthatch Sitta victoriae is considered the most threatened. It is found in oak woodland on the peak of Natmataung (Mount Victoria) and nearby peaks in the Chin Hills. Although this habitat is under limited threat, forest fire is a regularly occurring threat as it expands from nearby shifting cultivation plots and such a localized species may have only a very limited ability to adapt to climate change (Thet Zaw Naing 2003).

As elsewhere in the region large water birds have decreased greatly across the country and continue to be threatened by persecution and human disturbance to their nesting and feeding areas. This includes Greater Adjutant Leptoptilos dubius, Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus, and Sarus Crane Grus antigone. A fourth species Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus is not considered Globally Threatened but it has declined dramatically in all neighbouring countries. It is currently only listed as near threatened because of a large and relatively stable population in Australia and southern New Guinea. Important populations of most of these species still occur in Kachin State, Sagaing Region and in the Ayeyawady Delta, although the current status of Greater Adjutant in the country is unknown (Birdlife International 2012).

Two species restricted to large sandy rivers have also decreased dramatically in recent years. Indian Skimmer Rynchops albicollis and Black-bellied Tern Sterna acuticauda once nested on the Ayeyawady and its major tributaries but recent sightings have been few and decreasing. It is possible that both species have almost completely disappeared from their former range in Myanmar but more information is still needed. The Black-bellied Tern is still only listed as near threatened but it is likely to be uplisted in the near future since it is in continued decline in India and has almost totally been lost from Southeast Asia (Birdlife International 2012).

Two poorly known and difficult to find babbler species are also of conservation priority in the country. Rufous-rumped Grass-babbler Graminicola bengalensis was previously found in Taninthayi (Tennasserim) but has not been found in recent times. Jerdon’s Babbler Chrysomma altirostre was formerly found across the Ayeyawady and Sittaung Plains but has not been seen since the mid-1940s. It has been suggested that the race of Jerdon’s Babbler once found in Myanmar is extinct but no recent surveys have been undertaken to confirm this (Robson in litt). The Rufous-rumped Grass-babbler is included in the list, although only currently listed as near threatened, because it has not been found recently in Myanmar and its population in Thailand is thought to be extinct. Recent taxonomic research also suggests that the population in the country is taxonomically distinct from the taxon found in India and more closely linked to birds found in southern China (Leader et al. 2010).

By | 2017-05-19T09:58:12+00:00 December 3rd, 2015|Wildlife, Birds|0 Comments

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