Black Shama

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Copsychus cebuensis 1992 stamp of the Philippines.jpg

The Black Shama or locally known as Siloy (Copsychus cebuensis) is a species of bird that can only be found in the Philippines. Endemic to the island of Cebu, it thrives in the forest and dense thickets close to the ground. Its diet is believed to be composed of beetles, and it is doubtless that no migration patterns exist.

The IUCN qualifies it as critically endangered on account of its declining small range and population in the wild. Its major threat includes forest degradation or habitat loss, especially on the island of Cebu, where deforestation is almost total. Conservation measures for the species have been proposed in the 1980s through radio and newspapers, and currently, the protection of Tabunan, where the bird inhabits, is being addressed.

Identification

  • c.20 cm. Distinctive medium-sized, all-black chat with a longish tail. Entirely black plumage with dark bluish gloss, duller on wings (can show slight brownish tones), males tending to be brighter than female*Voice: Rich, varied and melodious song, sometimes mimicking other species.
  • Hints: Can be rather skulking and unobtrusive if not singing. Often cocks tail.

Habitat

The Black Shama is assumed originally to have inhabited primary forest. In the late nineteenth century, it was constantly found in the forest and in dense thickets close to the ground. Today, except for the tiny fragment of the forest at Tabunan, only the thickets appear to remain: it occupies a variety of secondary habitats such as scrub and cut-over forests, plantations, undergrowth of secondary tracts along steep ravines, and bamboo groves, generally characterized as dense second-growth mixed with thickets.

Ecology

It inhabits primary forest and the dense undergrowth of secondary habitats (e.g., along steep ravines), particularly along ridge-top and valley-bottoms with a high percentage of canopy cover. Previous studies have also reported the species in scrub and cut-over forests, plantations, and bamboo groves, although the species prefers forest habitats and may only tolerate degraded habitats as there are very few remaining forest patches in Cebu. There are also reports of the species being observed within highly urbanized areas, including Cebu City.

Threats

As early as the 1890s, the small amount of forest remaining on Cebu was being rapidly cleared. A century later, Cebu retained barely 0.03% (or 15 km2) of its original vegetative cover, and even highly degraded secondary habitats are scarce and under considerable pressure. The only remaining tall forest (at Tabunan) covers just 3 km2, of which just 0.3 km2 is closed-canopy. All forests are threatened by illegal settlement, shifting cultivation and illicit logging by up to 24 families, and habitat clearance for mining. The population near Casili is threatened by a nearby housing development.

Conservation Actions Underway

During the 1980s, the species was the subject of an intensive population survey and awareness campaign in the local press. It was kept within the Central Cebu National Park, which was declared a Strict Protection Zone in 1996. Tree cutting was prohibited in the reserve but this conferred little or no effective protection.

In 1997, a three-year management plan was produced for the site to ensure long-term sustainability.

From 2004 to 2007, the Cebu Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. carried out detailed surveys and public outreach campaigns.

Today, on-going detailed ecological research is being conducted to quantify the population size. Preliminary results were presented in the 2008 governance meeting in Cebu.

Nug-as and Dalaguete are managed by organized local communities and supported by the municipal government. Forest wardening schemes are placed in Nug-as, Dalaguete, and Argao forest patches. The local government of Carmen is directly involved in protecting existing patches of secondary forests.

Conservation Actions Proposed Conduct detailed ecological research to determine threats and their level of impact. To continue caring for the species, the following must be observed:

  • Dissemination of information on detailed ecological research
  • Continuation of monitoring populations in all forest patches on Cebu to quantify all existing subpopulations and disseminate findings
  • Prevention of habitat destruction
  • Ensurance of the long-term protection of remaining forests at Nug-as, Dalaguete, Argao, Alegria-Badian, Catmon-Carmen, and Tuburanas, and Tabunan and Consolacion
  • Initiation of management programs like wardening, education, and tourist development at Alegria-Badian and Carmen-Tuburan Forests
  • Resolving issues of land claims with illegal settlers

References

Citation

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