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Population trend and conservation status of the Capricorn Yellow Chat Epthianura crocea macgregori
journal contributionposted on 26.03.2019, 00:00 by Wayne Houston, R Elder, R Black
Copyright © BirdLife International 2017. Summary The average population size of Capricorn Yellow Chat Epthianura crocea macgregori was estimated at 251 +/-31 (SE) by repeated surveys over seven years (2004-2010) using consistent search effort at known occupied sites. Because the survey period coincided with a mixture of dry and wet years (drought from 2004 to 2007 followed by flood rainfall in early 2008 and 2010), it is particularly valuable as a preliminary benchmark upon which to base management decisions. Most of the population (74.5%) was in the Broad Sound area in the north, with lower numbers in the Fitzroy River delta area in the south (22%) and at Curtis Island (3.5%). Sites on Torilla Plain in Broad Sound accounted for two-thirds of the estimated population, making it a priority for conservation efforts. Depending on habitat configuration, some Capricorn Yellow Chats showed a seasonal pattern of habitat use, moving from flooded breeding habitats as they dried to refuge sites such as salt fields or upper marine plains in the dry season; distances moved being < 10 km. Standard surveys from Torilla Plain showed that the chat count during a sequence of above-average rainfall years was almost double that of the average for drought years: 162 +/-28 (2008-2015) compared with 85 +/-15 (2004-2007) respectively. Low population size, large annual fluctuations in population with prior rainfall, rapid declines in low rainfall years, a fragmented distribution and almost half the population concentrated at one site point to a subspecies vulnerable to chance events. Increased climatic extremes predicted by climate change such as higher temperatures, evaporation rates, extended droughts and more intense rainfall events add to its vulnerability.