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Populations of several long-distance migratory songbirds in Eurasia are in peril, drastically illustrated by the recent range-wide population collapse in the Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola . There are signals of a strong decline also in the Rustic Bunting E. rustica , but no range-wide assessment of population trends in this superabundant and widespread bunting species has yet been undertaken. The conservation status of Rustic Bunting is ‘Least Concern’ on the global IUCN Red List, but it has recently been upgraded to ‘Vulnerable’ on the European Red List. To assess the Rustic Bunting’s global conservation status we compiled, for the first time, population data across its breeding and wintering ranges. The analysis reveals a 75–87% decline in overall population size over the last 30 years and a 32–91% decline over the last 10 years. The trend estimates indicate that the long-term (30-year) range-wide population decline in the Rustic Bunting is of similar magnitude to two well-known examples of declining species within the same genus, the Yellow-breasted Bunting and the Ortolan Bunting E. hortulana . The magnitude of the range-wide population decline over the last 10 years suggests that the Rustic Bunting could be upgraded from ‘Least Concern’ to ‘Vulnerable’ or ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN global Red List. Agricultural intensification in the wintering range and intensified levels of disturbance, including logging and fire, in the breeding range could be important drivers of the range-wide population decline, and persecution could also contribute. Untangling threat factors and their interactions on Rustic Bunting is necessary for conservation, but hampered by our currently limited understanding of the relationships between population dynamics and different threats.
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The next common and widespread bunting to go? Global population decline in the
Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica
Bird Conservation International / FirstView Article / April 2016, pp 1 - 10
DOI: 10.1017/S0959270916000046, Published online: 18 April 2016
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How to cite this article:
JONG, KIYOAKI OZAKI and JEAN-MICHEL ROBERGE The next common and widespread
bunting to go? Global population decline in the Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica. Bird Conservation
International, Available on CJO 2016 doi:10.1017/S0959270916000046
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The next common and widespread bunting to go?
Global population decline in the Rustic Bunting
Emberiza rustica
Populations of several long-distance migratory songbirds in Eurasia are in peril, drastically
illustrated by the recent range-wide population collapse in the Yellow-breasted Bunting
Emberiza aureola . There are signals of a strong decline also in the Rustic Bunting E. rustica , but
no range-wide assessment of population trends in this superabundant and widespread bunting
species has yet been undertaken. The conservation status of Rustic Bunting is ‘Least Concern’
on the global IUCN Red List, but it has recently been upgraded to ‘Vulnerable’ on the European
Red List. To assess the Rustic Bunting’s global conservation status we compiled, for the first
time, population data across its breeding and wintering ranges. The analysis reveals a 7587%
decline in overall population size over the last 30 years and a 3291% decline over the last 10
years. The trend estimates indicate that the long-term (30-year) range-wide population decline
in the Rustic Bunting is of similar magnitude to two well-known examples of declining species
within the same genus, the Yellow-breasted Bunting and the Ortolan Bunting E. hortulana . The
magnitude of the range-wide population decline over the last 10 years suggests that the Rustic
Bunting could be upgraded from ‘Least Concern’ to ‘Vulnerable’ or ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN
global Red List. Agricultural intensification in the wintering range and intensified levels of
disturbance, including logging and fire, in the breeding range could be important drivers of the
range-wide population decline, and persecution could also contribute. Untangling threat factors
and their interactions on Rustic Bunting is necessary for conservation, but hampered by our
currently limited understanding of the relationships between population dynamics and different
A large number of long-distance migratory songbirds exhibit decreasing population trends in
Eurasia (Sanderson et al. 2006 , Laaksonen and Lehikoinen 2013 , Vickery et al. 2014 ). Amongst
the 170 long-distance migratory songbird species using the East Asian flyway, for example, one
third show declining trends and 12% are classified as threatened or near-threatened (Yong et al.
2015 ). Whilst the drivers of population declines are comparatively well studied in the Afro-
Palearctic migratory system (Vickery et al. 2014 ), such knowledge is scarce for the East Asian
flyway (Yong et al. 2015 ). Asia has seen a strong intensification in agriculture during recent
decades, and witnessed increasing urbanisation and industrialisation (Alauddin and Quiggin 2008 ).
Anthropogenic and climate-related stressors in the form of logging, draining, and forest fires
have also increased (Goldammer and Furyaev 1996 , Achard et al. 2006 ) as has trapping of songbirds
L. Edenius et al. 2
for consumption and religious merit release (Gilbert et al. 2012 , Townsend 2015 , Yong et al. 2015 ).
Stronger environmental pressures on breeding and wintering habitats and increased levels of
persecution have therefore emerged as serious threats to long-distance migratory songbird popu-
lations in East Asia.
Habitat loss and persecution are considered as threats to rare and range-restricted species,
but the scale of these factors may now have reached levels whereby even superabundant and
wide-ranging species are becoming threatened. For example, data for Yellow-breasted Bunting
Emberiza aureola , compiled across its distribution in Eurasia, showed that the global popula-
tion of this once very abundant species, virtually collapsed over a time period of only 25 years
(Kamp et al. 2015 ). The Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica shares many ecological traits with
the Yellow-breasted Bunting. For example, both have very large and almost overlapping
breeding ranges, being superabundant long-distance migrants, and use similar migration
routes (Byers et al. 2013 ). There are some signals of a strong population decline also in the
Rustic Bunting (BirdLife International 2015a ), but the details and causes of the decline remain
The distribution of the Rustic Bunting spans roughly 170 degrees of longitude, across Eurasia
from Fennoscandia in the west to the Kamchatka peninsula in the east (Cramp and Perrins 1994 ).
The breeding range, which is estimated at 218 Mha (BirdLife International 2015a ), is intimately
linked to the boreal forest, wherein the typical breeding habitat is wet coniferous forest with birch
Betula spp. and willow Salix spp. growth along slow-flowing water (Öhrn 1963 , Pulliainen and
Saari 1989 , Kretchmar 2000 ). Current evidence suggests that the winter range of the Rustic
Bunting is confined to East Asia comprising Japan, the Korean Peninsula, and eastern and central
mainland China north of the tropic of Cancer (Byers et al. 2013 ). For the bulk of the population,
autumn migration follows forested regions eastwards, turning south in Asia east of Mongolia
(Cramp and Perrins 1994 , Byers et al. 2013 ). While just a few birds migrate through or winter in
Kazakhstan (Berezovikov and Levinskiy 2008 ), the Rustic Bunting is one of the most common
species during migration in the Russian Far East (Averin et al. 2012 , Heim et al. 2012 , Heim and
Smirenski 2013 ). Birds from Kamchatka (sometimes regarded as a separate subspecies latifascia )
are believed to migrate south-west across the Sea of Okhotsk or south to Japan across the Sea
of Japan (Valchuk et al. 2005 ). The spring migration in the Rustic Bunting appears to mirror the
autumn migration, but the details of its migratory patterns including stopover sites are inade-
quately known.
During the breeding season, the diet of Rustic Bunting mostly consists of invertebrates,
whereas it shifts to seeds, grasses, and other vegetable food in other seasons (Cramp and Perrins
1994 ). A variety of semi-open habitats are used during stopovers and in the winter range, including
woodlands, willow thickets, clearings, rice stubble, reed beds and riverbanks (Cramp and Perrins
1994 , Fujioka et al. 2010 , Yoo et al. 2011 , Schäfer et al. in prep ). At its winter feeding sites, the
Rustic Bunting prefers wet grassy places with plenty of seeds and presence of dense shrubs or
trees (Iijima 1973 , Maeda 2001 ). Maeda ( 1973 ) observed spatially segregated habitat use in the
Rustic Bunting during winter, with flocks of several hundred birds feeding in rice paddies during
daytime and roosting in loosely dispersed groups in shrubby or grassy patches in woodland areas
up to 1 km from the feeding sites.
The Rustic Bunting is classified as a species of ‘Least Concern’ (LC) on the IUCN Red List,
i.e. it is not considered globally threatened (BirdlLife International 2012 ). However, it has recently
been upgraded to ‘Vulnerable’ (VU) on the European Red List (BirdLife International 2015b ).
Population trends have been estimated for Fennoscandia (Dale and Hansen 2013 ) and Europe
(BirdLife International 2015a ) but not for the whole distribution range. Trend assessments and
expert opinions suggest that the European breeding population of Rustic Bunting has declined by
3049% over the last 10 years in Europe, but only around one-fifth of the species’ global breeding
range is within Europe (Symes 2015 ). For large parts of the breeding range, population trends
remain unknown. While earlier population assessments have focused on restricted parts of the
distribution range and included a limited amount of time series data, we here present the first
Rustic Bunting population trends 3
range-wide assessment of population trends in the Rustic Bunting based on several short and long
term time series.
We compiled Rustic Bunting data from different countries to determine the range-wide rates
of population change and hence assess the species’s global status. We also present an overview of
possible drivers underlying the decline and propose key research activities to help overcome the
current lack of knowledge about the bunting’s ecology which hampers effective conservation
Material and methods
Data collection
We collated time series data on the Rustic Bunting from countries in the breeding range (Norway,
Sweden and Finland) and from stop-over sites during migration (Japan and north-eastern China).
Standardised breeding survey data were preferentially used, but since such data are scarce we also
included ringing data. In case of ringing data we only included standardised time series data,
i.e. data controlled for capture effort. We used nationwide breeding survey data from Sweden and
Finland and breeding territory count data for the very small Norwegian population (Green and
Lindström 2015a , Hansen 2015 , Aleksi Lehikoinen pers. comm.). In Sweden, breeding survey
counts have been carried out on fixed routes systematically distributed across Sweden since 1998
(Green and Lindström 2015a ). However, the number of surveyed fixed routes within the Rustic
Bunting’s breeding range in northern Sweden was low during the first years. Therefore, we used
Swedish breeding bird data only from the last 10 years (20052014). To increase the length of the
overall time series we complemented the Swedish breeding survey data with Rustic Bunting data
from ringing stations. The Japanese and Chinese data consisted of the number of Rustic Buntings
ringed during autumn migration at ringing stations. In total, we compiled seven time series of
data of up to 30 years in length, see Table 1 and Appendix S1 in the online supplementary materials
for details.
Statistical analysis
For the Swedish and Finnish breeding bird survey data, we used TRIM-estimated (Pannekoek and
van Strien 2013 ) yearly population indices and linear trends provided to us by the national pro-
gramme organisers. To make the ringing data comparable with these breeding survey data, we
also used TRIM (ver. 3.54) to calculate indices and trends. In the case of the Norwegian breeding
survey data we applied TRIM to the numbers of occupied territories 20082014 (Hansen 2015 ;
Table 1 , Figure 1b ). The widespread TRIM (TRends and Indices for Monitoring data) software
uses log-linear models with a Poisson error distribution and allows for missing counts. Yearly
population indices were scaled (indexed) to 1 for the starting year. We employed models that
controlled for over-dispersion and serial correlation, and used trend estimates based on the
imputed population indices (to account for missing values) as recommended by Pannekoek
Table 1. TRIM-estimated annual decline rates for national data sets 19852014. P -levels denote significance
of deviation of slope values from 1 (= no change).
Country Time period Annual change, % P -level
Norway 20052014 -30 < 0.05
Sweden 19852014 -6.0< 0.01
Sweden 20052014 -5.3< 0.001
Finland 19852014 -6.1< 0.001
Japan 19852014 -4.5< 0.01
China 20052014 -20 < 0.05
L. Edenius et al. 4
and van Strien ( 2013 ). Rangewide trends were estimated by averaging the national time-series
trends. Trends were estimated for 30 years (19852014, long-term) and 10 years (20052014,
short-term), respectively. Missing values amounted to 2% ( n = 2) and 7% ( n = 5) of the data
points in the long- and short-term datasets, respectively. The small population in Norway, where
the Rustic Bunting is dwindling and is estimated currently at less than 10 pairs (Hansen 2015 ),
may have a disproportionate impact on the range-wide trend estimates. Therefore, we analysed
the time-series data also without the Norwegian data.
Figure 1. TRIM estimated yearly indices of Rustic Bunting numbers in long-term (a) and short-term
(b) data series.
Rustic Bunting population trends 5
The TRIM-estimated yearly indices of the national data series revealed consistent population
declines across the range ( Table 1 , Figure 1 ). For the long-term data (19852014), the average
range-wide annual decline rate was estimated at 5.5% (± 1.0% 95% CI), which corresponds to an
82% (7587%) reduction in population size over 30 years. The short-term (20052014) annual
decline rate was 12.4% (± 8.6% 95% CI), corresponding to a 73% (3291%) reduction over
10 years ( Figure 1b ). When we re-ran the analyses after excluding the Norwegian data, it yielded
a 10-year annual decline rate of 8.9% (± 6.3% 95% CI), i.e. a 60% (2381%) overall decline.
Our analysis provides compelling evidence for a strong range-wide decline in Rustic Bunting
populations in recent times. To put the magnitude of the population decline into perspective,
we can compare it with two better-known examples of dramatic range-wide population declines
within the same genus: the Yellow-breasted Bunting and the Ortolan Bunting E. hortulana . The
decline in the Yellow-breasted Bunting was estimated at 8495% over 34 years (Kamp et al.
2015 ). An extrapolation of our 82% (7587%) long-term (30 year) trend in the Rustic Bunting
yields an 85% range-wide decline over 34 years. For the Ortolan Bunting, Vickery et al. ( 2014 )
reported an 84% decline over 30 years (19802009), which was the strongest population decline
of all long-distance migratory species in the Afro-Palearctic migratory system they studied. In
the case of the Yellow-breasted Bunting, the population collapse was accompanied by a strong
eastward range contraction. Although such a dramatic global range contraction has not yet been
observed in the Rustic Bunting, the range contraction towards north-east within Fennoscandia
has been dramatic. On the western edge of the global distribution huge areas of habitat on the
former Rustic Bunting distribution are now more or less empty of the species (Valkama et al.
2011 , Dale and Hansen 2013 , Green and Lindström 2015b ).
The decline rate estimates have strong relevance for the ongoing discussion about the conser-
vation status of the Rustic Bunting on the IUCN global Red List where it is currently listed in the
‘Least Concern’ (LC) category. Our range-wide estimate of a 61% (73% with the Norwegian
data) population decline for 20052014 (a time span roughly corresponding to three generations
in the Rustic Bunting; Symes 2015 ) indicates a decline well over the 30% threshold required for
classification as ‘Vulnerable’ (VU). Moreover, the observed population reduction exceeds the 50%
threshold for the category ‘Endangered’ (EN) on the global Red List.
Our data samples are biased towards Fennoscandia. This is an unavoidable consequence of the
fact that more data series are available from that part of the distribution range. From Russia,
which holds the bulk of the breeding population, we found only scattered information on breed-
ing densities (e.g. Rogacheva 1992 – Central Siberia, Kretchmar 2000 – noth-east Siberia), but no
standardised data on long-term population development. However, numbers of Rustic Buntings
captured during standardised ringing at Muraviovka Park in the Amur region of Russia show a
decrease of > 90% in recent years (20122015) (Wieland Heim pers. obs.). The Gaofeng Bird
Ringing Station located on the Chinese side of the Amur River also reports a strong recent decline
( Table 1 , Figure 1b ). This suggests that the decline in numbers of Rustic Buntings passing through
this part of East Asia during migration has been particularly strong. The negative trend expressed
by the Fukushimagata Ringing Station data in Japan ( Figure 1a ) is also seen in the non-standardised
national ringing sums of Rustic Bunting in that country for the same time period (Kiyoaki Ozaki
pers. obs.). In South Korea no long-term standardised data series exist, but non-standardised
short-term ringing data show that capture rates of Rustic Bunting (measured as the proportion of
total ringing sums) are now about 10 times lower than they were in the mid-1960s (Chang-Yong
Choi pers. obs.). Also in China there is a shortage of standardised ringing data (Bo Pettersson pers.
comm.). We included the most comprehensive data series from China, from the Gaofeng Bird
Ringing Station, Heilongjiang Province (Appendix S1) in our analysis, and it showed a strong
L. Edenius et al. 6
Table 2. Changes in land use practices, natural processes and persecution, and their potential impacts on Rustic
Bunting populations.
Practice/process Effect on Rustic Bunting
habitat or populations
strength of
Trend Reference
Breeding range
Draining to
enhance forest
Habitat loss/degradation.
Decreasing in the western
range but may be increasing
Moderate Increasing? Skogsstyrelsen
( 2014 ), Metla
( 2015 )
Forest logging Habitat loss. Increasing intensity
in parts of the range
Increasing Skogsstyrelsen
( 2014 ), Achard
et al. ( 2006 )
Wild fires Habitat loss. Increasing,
particularly in central and
eastern parts in response to
climate change and increased
anthropogenic disturbance
Strong Increasing Achard et al.
( 2006 ),
Flannigan et al.
( 2009 )
Habitat loss/degradation. Drying
up of wet forests related to
climate change. Large areas
in the eastern range potentially
Strong Increasing Soja et al. ( 2007 )
Habitat loss. Central and eastern
parts of the range
Moderate Unknown Achard et al.
( 2006 )
Wintering range
Use of pesticides Reduced food resources, potential
poisoning. High application
rates in China, Japan and the
Republic of Korea
Strong Increasing Bright et al.
( 2008 )
Multiple crop
Habitat loss and/or degradation
due to reduction in winter
stubbles which are important
feeding habitats
Strong Increasing Round and
Gardner ( 2008 )
in grassland
Habitat loss. Grasslands important
as feeding habitat. Significant
reduction in grassland area in
China 1990-2000
Strong Increasing Maeda ( 2001 ), Shi
et al. ( 2012 )
Changes in area
of fallow land
Habitat loss/degradation when
fallow land becomes actively
managed, vice versa when use
ceases. Variable trends reported
across the range
Strong Diverging Round and
Gardner ( 2008 ),
Amano (
2009 ),
Long et al.
( 2009 )
Transformation of
farmland and
woody areas to
other land uses
Habitat loss in case of urban and
rural settlement expansion,
potential habitat enrichment
after abandonment of
Strong Diverging Long et al. ( 2009 ),
Wu et al.
( 2009 )
Planting of trees
and other
Unknown; improved habitat
conditions due creation of
woody patches in rural
residential areas, but potential
habitat loss when food-rich
farmland is turned into
large-scale tree plantations
Moderate Increasing? Wu et al. ( 2009 )
Rustic Bunting population trends 7
decline in number of Rustic Buntings over the last 10 years ( Table 1 , Figure 1b ). To conclude, both
available standardised data and anecdotal information give unequivocal support for a strong
range-wide population decline in Rustic Bunting over the last decades.
Possible drivers and knowledge gaps
Little is known about the magnitude of the impact of different threat factors and their interactions
with regard to the population decline of long-distance migratory songbirds in the East Asian
Flyway (Yong et al. 2015 ). In Table 2 we have compiled threat factors related to changes in land
use practices, natural processes and persecution that may affect population dynamics in the Rustic
Bunting. To untangle the effects of different threats we need better data on population demo-
graphics. For example, using data modelling Kamp et al. ( 2015 ) concluded that an initial harvest
rate of 2% followed by a 0.2% annual increase was sufficient to produce a population collapse in
the Yellow-breasted Bunting over a time period of 34 years. Currently we do not know to what
extent survival in the Rustic Bunting is affected by habitat change and persecution. Similarly, our
knowledge about the effects of habitat change on Rustic Bunting productivity is limited. Poor
nesting success coupled to habitat loss and degradation could be a population limiting factor, as
has been suggested in case of Jankowski’s Bunting E. jankowskii (Jiang et al. 2008 ) .
Assessment of the impacts of different threat factors is also hampered by our limited under-
standing of the connectivity between breeding and wintering ranges in the Rustic Bunting.
Lightweight, light-level geolocators and stable isotope analysis provide new tools for studying
such questions, but to date they have not been used to any larger degree on migratory songbirds
in Asia (Yong et al. 2015 ). Knowledge about the migration routes and the wintering areas of the
Rustic Bunting will be vital for prioritizing sites for new monitoring schemes in the Far East and
for planning international conservation efforts.
Supplementary Material
The supplementary materials for this article can be found at
Jesper Hornskov, Aleksi Lehikoinen, Åke Lindström, Bo Pettersson, Philip Round, Sergei M.
Smirenski, and Terry Townsend kindly responded to personal inquiries and provided population
data. We appreciate the comments from two anonymous reviewers and the associate editor.
Funding was received from Göran Gustafsson Foundation (to LE), the Finnish Cultural Foundation
(to TJ) and the Kempe Foundation (to JMR).
Practice/process Effect on Rustic Bunting
habitat or populations
strength of
Trend Reference
Climate change
and unfavorable
Drought and lowered ground
water table; may change
vegetation structures in
natural grasslands and shrub
Moderate Increasing Tamada et al.
( 2014 )
Trapping for the
trade market,
private use or
merit release
Communal roosting habits
increase susceptibility to
Maeda ( 1973 ),
Kamp et al.
( 2015 ), Yong
et al. ( 2015 )
Table 2. Continued.
L. Edenius et al. 8
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... An illustration of such a major decline is the decrease in bunting species, such as Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana (Jiguet et al. 2019),Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella (Bradbury et al. 2000), Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus (Evans 1992) and Jankowski's Bunting (Han et al. 2018). Other buntings such as Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica (Edenius et al. 2017) and Yellow-Breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola (Kamp et al. 2015), although not breeding in grasslands, have also suffered similar population collapse in the past decades due to human activities (Choi et al. 2020). ...
... If so, given the sensitivity of population growth rate to survival, it would be important to identify what threats exist that could reduce survival. Different threat factors related to changes in land use practices (e.g., habitat loss, pesticide use), natural processes (e.g., disease, drought, wildfire), and persecution (e.g., hunting, intensifying harvest) could affect population dynamics, as have been suggested in the cases of Rustic Bunting (Edenius et al. 2017), Ortolan Bunting (Jiguet et al. 2019) and Yellow-breasted Bunting (Kamp et al. 2015). Currently, we do not know to what extent the survival of Jankowski's Bunting is affected by these potential threats and their interactions. ...
Jankowski’s Bunting Emberiza jankowskii is one of several grassland birds that have suffered major population declines across their ranges, and the cause of these declines remains largely unknown. To determine what demographic drivers are responsible for their decline, we combined specific annual female productivity from a local Jankowski’s Bunting population and survival probabilities from the Ortolan Bunting, an ecologically similar species. We used an age-structured matrix population model to examine the population dynamics of Jankowski’s Bunting and showed that they may not be capable of sustaining a stable population, even without environmental stochasticity and density dependence. Compared to other Emberiza buntings with similar population trends, our results indicate that the population decline in Jankowski’s Bunting is largely caused by a particularly low reproductive success, and in particular a very low survival of eggs and nestlings. Despite the relatively low elasticity of the population dynamics to breeding parameters, our analysis suggests that increasing the number of fledglings to levels similar to those of closely related species would result in a growing population. Given that the reproductive success is highly influenced by nest predation or human disturbance, we suggest that initial conservation actions reducing interference from human activities are meaningful to improve the reproductive success of remaining Jankowski’s Bunting populations and allow the species to persist in the long term.
... Rapid forest conversion, land use change, coastal reclamation, and urbanization in EAAF countries pose significant challenges to biodiversity (Sodhi et al., 2004). While population declines of certain groups of migratory species are documented (e.g., buntings and shorebirds; Choi et al., 2020;Clemens et al., 2016;Edenius et al., 2017;Kamp et al., 2015;Studds et al., 2017), status and trends of migratory populations at regional or continental scales have scarcely been evaluated (but see Kim et al., 2021). Fundamental ecological questions such as the amount and timing of bird migration remain to be answered along most of the EAAF (Dingle, 2008;Yong et al., 2021). ...
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Each year, billions of birds migrate across the globe, and interpretation of weather radar signals is increasingly being used to document the spatial and temporal migration patterns in Europe and America. Such approaches are yet to be applied in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF), one of the most species-rich and threatened flyways in the world. Logistical challenges limit direct on-ground monitoring of migratory birds in many parts of the EAAF, resulting in knowledge gaps on population status and site use that limit evidence-based conservation planning. Weather radar data have great potential for achieving comprehensive migratory bird monitoring along the EAAF. In this study, we discuss the feasibility and challenges of using weather radar to complement on-ground bird migration surveys in the flyway. We summarize the location, capacity and data availability of weather radars across EAAF countries, as well as the spatial coverage of the radars with respect to migrants' geographic distribution and migration hotspots along the flyway, with an exemplar analysis of biological movement patterns extracted from Chinese weather radars. There are more than 430 weather radars in EAAF countries, covering on average half of bird species' passage and non-breeding distributions, as well as 70% of internationally important sites for migratory shorebirds. We conclude that the weather radar network could be a powerful resource for monitoring bird movements over the full annual cycle throughout much of the EAAF, providing estimates of migration traffic rates, site use, and long-term population trends, especially in remote and less-surveyed regions. Analyses of weather radar data would complement existing ornithological surveys and help understand the past and present status of the avian community in a highly threatened flyway.
... The first scientific report of its population trends, however, was only available after rapid decline of the species has raised global concern (Kamp et al., 2015). Recent studies have also found that other species share similar fates, such as the Rustic Bunting (Emberiza rustica) (Edenius et al., 2017). The late discovery of population declines hinders proactive conservation, making it more expensive and less efficient for resource distribution for conservation interventions (Donlan, 2015). ...
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Migratory landbird population trends and threats in the East Asian‐Australasian Flyway (EAAF) are poorly understood. To fill this knowledge gap, we investigated the effect of breeding habitat loss on the population trend for the Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha), a migratory forest‐breeding bird in the EAAF categorized as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. It has been assumed that this species is declining rapidly due to deforestation in its breeding range in Taiwan. We analyzed the change in Fairy Pitta population density across Taiwan from 2001 to 2017, and tested the effect of forest cover change on the species' abundance. We detected an average of 4.32 (95% CI: 1.96–6.68) individuals per km2 in 2001, which has declined at an average annual rate of −8.31% (95% CI: −15.50%–−1.16%) during the study, and a minor change in forest cover (−0.22%) in Taiwan during this period. We found no significant effect of the forest cover trend on the population trend of the Fairy Pitta. This suggests that the drivers of population decline may not be related to deforestation in the breeding range, but potentially to breeding habitat degradation, habitat loss in the non‐breeding range, or factors unrelated to habitat loss. Further studies are required to assess the major threats to this globally threatened species. East Asian‐Australasian Flyway (EAAF) migratory landbirds are under threat and lacks population status assessment to aid conservation decisions. This is the first regional‐scale population trend study of a globally endangered migratory landbird in the EAAF. The findings stresses that the shortage of population monitoring has resulted in an outdated threat identification on migratory forest species in this region under ongoing deforestation.
In the late 20th–early 21st centuries, the Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica population declined worldwide, including Karelia, NW Russia, the northern periphery of its breeding range. At the onset of the 21st century the Rustic Bunting disappeared from the southern parts of Karelia and turned from common to rare species in its northern parts. However, surveys carried out in 2015–2021 in the Kostomuksha Nature Reserve and Kalevala National Park – large neighbouring protected areas in NW Karelia – revealed a quite steady, although relatively low, breeding densities of the species (2.9–5.6 ind./km2). Such stable parameters of the abundance make this species common in the area in question. Furthermore, the species occurrence along survey routes seems to be slightly rising over the said time period, giving us hopes for a recovery of Rustic Bunting numbers, at least in protected areas containing extensive pristine boreal forests with habitats favourable for the species. Keywords: Rustic Bunting, Emberiza rustica, abundance, population dynamics, northern taiga, pristine forests, red-listed species, nature protection
The work reveals possible reasons why in recent years the Rustic Bunting Ocyris rusticus – the species, which had previously been considered numerous within its habitat, began to be treated by a number of experts as a decreasing one, up to their offers to include this species in the Red Data Book of Russia.
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As a precious resource, wetlands support human life in various profound ways, either explicitly or implicitly. However, the values of wetlands have not been sufficiently recognized and greatly appreciated. Their management approaches are often sectoral, and wise use of wetlands is still more of a catchphrase than a well-used management practice. This paper presents a cross-sectoral case study for the evaluation of the primary management practices in a Ramsar-registered wetland in Japan. It employed a literature review, field and laboratory experiments, and a questionnaire survey as well for assessing the wetland conditions and identifying management problems. It revealed that the management of the wetland is still flood regulation–oriented, without sufficient consideration of bird habitats, and the water level drawdown operation for Lake Yanaka inside the wetland may lead to mass fish deaths. Furthermore, the reed burning practice is effective in maintaining the plant structure in the wetland but controversial from different perspectives. Moreover, the questionnaire survey results indicated that the public were not well informed of the wetland conditions and not convinced of the appropriateness of reed burning. Based on these findings, it was concluded that the registration under the Ramsar Convention did not lead to new strategies for the conservation and wise use of the wetland.
Bird banding is a survey method of attaching uniquely marked rings on a bird’s leg. Recaptured or resighted data of marked individuals enable researchers to study the ecology of birds, such as the migration and life history. The first bird banding survey took place in Denmark in 1899, and now many researchers and organizations around the world carry out such surveys. In Japan, Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce (the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry at present) started the bird banding scheme in 1924. The scheme was interrupted during and after World War II, but was resumed in 1961. During 59 years from 1961 to 2019, a total of 6,108,529 individuals (499 species) were marked and released, of which 40,607 individuals (262 species) were recovered. The numbers of marked and recovered individuals in the latest year (2019) were 126,907 individuals (282 species) and 1,254 individuals (88 species), respectively. Based on this comprehensive database, numerous findings and knowledge were obtained, including migration routes and life spans of many species, population trends of endangered species, avifaunal data of a certain region, birds’ response to climate change, contribution to the measure for avian influenza, and so on. The bird banding survey has contributed to the conservation of biodiversity, one of the most critical global issues today. We believe it is important to conduct and continue the survey with a sense of purpose and mission for greater good in mind.
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Natural history and ecology of the birds of Thailand's Lower Central Plain
One of the first priority areas among joint East/West research programs is the rational use of natural resources and sustainable development of regions. In the boreal zone of North America and Eurasia forests are economically very important and, at the same time highly vulnerable to disturbances. Because of its size and ecological functions the boreal forest zone and its most dynamic disturbance factor - fire - play an important role in ecosystem processes on global scale. Interest within the global change research community in Northern Eurasia (Fennoscandia, European Russia, Siberia, and the Far East of Russia) has grown dramatically in the last few years. It is a vast area about which very little is known. It is a region where temperature rise due to anthropogenic climate forcing is predicted to be the greatest, and where the consequent feedbacks to the atmosphere are potentially large. In addition, it is poised to undergo rapid economic development, which may lead to large and significant changes to its land cover. Much of this interest in Northern Eurasia, as in the high latitude regions in general, is centerd on its role in the global carbon cycle, which is likely to be significantly affected under global change. New research initiatives between Western and Eastern countries have been designed to address a series of phenomena, problems and management solutions.
1. The ecology of four species of Emberiza wintering along the basin of Chikuma River in Nagano, was studied comparatively with road-side census method during February to April, 1969 (four times) and November, 1969 to April, 1970 (seven times), taking a fixed route of 6km.2. Analyses of census data were made by dividing the winter season into 4 periods, dividing census route by 500m sections and classifying the habitat into 15 environments.3. The numerical dominance among four species were: E. rustica 65.1%, E. cioides 31.1% E. schoeniclus 3.4% and E. spodocephala 0.4%4, E. cioides was widely distributed with no particular concentration with the occurrence rate 83.3-100% (Av. 97.4%) and dominance 5-14%; E. rustica had local concentrations, with occurrence rate 41.7-91.6% (Av. 71.2%) and dominance 0.7-46%; E. schoeniclus was restricted in particular habitat and E. spodocephala was very few in number and was found extremely localized.5. The flock size of E. cioides ranged 1-20 birds and that of E. rustica 1-300 birds, and the latter was unstable (reflecting its migratory habit) in relation to the grassy area of the habitat, while E. cioides was well dispersed and stable (reflecting its sedentary nature), 6. E. cioides gathered at less grassy elevated spots, while E. rustica formed large flock at lower wet grassy places. E. schoeniclus occurred singly or in small parties selecting the reeds or long grass areas. E. spodocephala was also found by singles or in small groups in reeds or bank sides.7. In summary, each species requires a set of habitat. E. cioides seeks a patch of dry ground with fallen grass seeds, with some nearby bushes to escape in; E. rustica prefers wetter part with plenty of grass seeds and some dense bushes or trees to escape on; E. schoeniclus restricts itself to reeds, and other tall water vegetations and E. spodocephala is partial to grassy bushes with nearby feeding ground where grass seeds are to be found.
Since the expansion of the Rustic Bunting (Emberiza rustica) westwards in northern Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries, declines have been reported in Fennoscandia. The Norwegian population was 100-500 breeding pairs in 1994. We carried out censuses to detect Rustic Buntings in Norway during 2008-12, and compared these results with previous records to evaluate recent population changes. Transect censuses made along 15 km of optimal habitat (swamp forest along rivers) yielded 18 territories during 1972-78, but in 2008 we found only 5 territories, and none since 2011. We also detected Rustic Buntings in 21 of 74 previously-occupied sites (one or more records during 1963-2007). During the study period 2008-12, we recorded Rustic Buntings in 41 sites, with a maximum of 47 territories in 2008. However, from 2008 to 2012 we detected a decline of 82% (yearly decline of 34% ± 9%; 95% CI). Local extinctions occurred in at least 31 sites. The current known population size is 13 territories in 9 sites, and the true population size may be only slightly larger. About half of all territories were associated with beaver dams, but the rate of decline during 2008-12 did not depend on dams. Extinctions could be attributed to habitat loss or change in 9/53 sites (1 logging, 1 cultivation, and 7 loss of a beaver dam). We suggest that the population decline of Norwegian Rustic Buntings is due to factors operating during migration or in wintering areas.
The circumpolar belt of the boreal zone stretches in two broad trans-continental bands across North America and Eurasia. The northern boundary of the zone corresponds to the July 13°C isotherm, while the southern boundary is limited by the July 18°C isotherm (Kuusela 1990). The boreal zone has been classified into three sub-zones, the maritime, continental and high-continental sub-zones. The maritime sub-zone has mean summer temperatures of 10–15°C, winter temperatures of 2–3°C, and annual precipitation of 400 to 800 mm. The continental sub-zone has long, cold winters with mean temperatures from -20 to -40°C, and summer mean temperatures from 10 to 20°C. The growing season is between 100 and 150 days, and annual precipitation ranges between 400 and 600 mm. The high continental sub-zone covers the largest portion of the boreal zone and is characterized by more extreme winters and milder summers. In Europe, the influence of maritime airmasses decreases from west to east, reaching West Siberia as far as the Yenisei river. East Siberia and the Far East are characterized by high-continental climate.
Persecution and overexploitation by humans are major causes of species extinctions. Rare species, often confined to small geographic ranges, are usually at highest risk, whereas extinctions of superabundant species with very large ranges are rare. The Yellow-breasted Bunting (Emberiza aureola) used to be one of the most abundant songbirds of the Palearctic, with a very large breeding range stretching from Scandinavia to the Russian Far East. Anecdotal information about rapid population declines across the range caused concern about unsustainable trapping along the species' migration routes. We conducted a literature review and used long-term monitoring data from across the species' range to model population trend and geographical patterns of extinction. The population declined by 84.3-94.7% between 1980 and 2013, and the species' range contracted by 5000 km. Quantitative evidence from police raids suggested rampant illegal trapping of the species along its East Asian flyway in China. A population model simulating an initial harvest level of 2% of the population, and an annual increase of 0.2% during the monitoring period produced a population trajectory that matched the observed decline. We suggest that trapping strongly contributed to the decline because the consumption of Yellow-breasted Bunting and other songbirds has increased as a result of economic growth and prosperity in East Asia. The magnitude and speed of the decline is unprecedented among birds with a comparable range size, with the exception of the Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), which went extinct in 1914 due to industrial-scale hunting. Our results demonstrate the urgent need for an improved monitoring of common and widespread species' populations, and consumption levels throughout East Asia. © 2015 Society for Conservation Biology.
To examine the population trends of grassland and shrub birds in Hokkaido, we conducted line transect censuses in 2002 and 2003, in area where avifaunal studies had been performed in the 1970s and 1980s. To document the decline in the Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola, birdwatching data were also analysed. The Yellow-breasted Bunting population has decreased drastically both in density and in distribution over the intervening thirty years. The decline in occupied breeding sites and in the population is continuing. Densities of Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis and Lanceolated Grasshopper Warbler Locustella lanceolata have also declined, although their range contractions are not yet severe. The ranges of Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus and Chestnut-eared Bunting E. fucata appear to have contracted. In contrast, data analysis revealed that the breeding range of Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava has expanded in northern Hokkaido, but it is possible that the range had expanded in the past but had been overlooked. The present study suggests that the ranges of Bull-headed Shrike L. bucephalus and Gray's Grasshopper Warbler L. fasciolata had expanded, although some previous studies do not support this trend. In this study we were not able to clarify the reason why the population trends of these species have changed. Further research is necessary focussing on: breeding habitat analysis, breeding biology in relation to population trends, population trends in wintering and migration areas and clarification of migration routes. The population decline in the Yellow-breasted Bunting is both dramatic and very severe. This migratory species in particular requires immediate international conservation measures to avoid national and regional extinction.