85.
Crow Honeyeater
(Gymnomyza aubryana)
CR
Overview
As its name suggests, this honeyeater superficially resembles some species of crow, being similar in size with uniform black, glossy plumage. However, the honeyeaters and the crows are very distinct and not closely related. Unlike crows, the crow honeyeater has distinctive, bright orange facial wattles. This species is one of 22 birds that are endemic to the island of New Caledonia in the Pacific Ocean. The main threat to this species is introduced predators, primarily rats and possibly domestic cats, dogs and pigs. The loss and degradation of New Caledonia’s native forest also had an impact. The demand for timber and nickel has caused a huge amount of forest to be logged and mined, and the crow honeyeater appears to be absent from these degraded areas.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Further surveys are needed to establish population status, investigate breeding ecology and habitat requirements. Nationwide education and awareness programmes.
Distribution
Endemic to New Caledonia.
Fact
The bill is bicolored with the lower part yellow and the upper part black.
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Meliphagidae
The Meliphagidae, more commonly known as the honeyeaters, are a large diverse group of birds which are concentrated in Australia, New Guinea and many islands in the South Pacific. Traditionally the group has been affiliated with other nectarivorous taxa like the sunbirds of the family Nectariinidae. However, more recent DNA analyses suggest the Meliphagidae are more closely related to two other families, the Pardalotidae–Acanthizidae (Australasian warblers and allies), and Maluridae (Australasian fairy-wrens and grasswrens). The relationships within the honeyeater family are not clear. The crow honeyeater has previously been placed in the genera Leptornis and Leptomyza, both of which no longer exist. It now sits in the genus Gymnomyza with two other species: Mao (Gymnomyza samoensis) and the giant honeyeater (Gymnomyza viridis).
The tree below shows the evolutionary relationships between this species and all other birds. The colours of the tree indicate EDGE scores with the red shades indicating the higher priority species; the bright red leaves correspond to the top 100 EDGE bird species. Further information on every species can be found by zooming in to its leaf on the tree.
Description
Size: 
41cm
Weight: 200g
The species resembles the crow, with continuous glossy, black plumage. The upper part of the bill is grey, whilst the lower mandible is yellow. It has distinctive facial wattles and bare skin surrounding the eye, which vary from yellow to deep orange in colour. The legs are also yellow. It has a long tail and rounded wings.
Ecology
The crow honeyeater primarily feeds off nectar from the diverse variety of flowering plants found in the New Caledonian forest. This species also forages in the canopy or midstorey for invertebrates to supplement its diet. Protein from insects is particularly important for breeding honeyeaters. It is observed on its own or in pairs, occupying the same territories from one year to the next. The simple nests are not well camouflaged and chicks and eggs are often predated upon.
Habitat
The crow honeyeater occupies a matrix habitat of humid forest between 100m and 850m in altitude.
Distribution
Endemic to New Caledonia. It is restricted to small scattered populations mostly located in the south of the island.
Population Estimate
50-249 adults
Population Trend
Declining
Status

Critically Endangered

Threats
The main threat to this species is introduced predators, primarily rats and possibly domestic cats, dogs and pigs. The native New Caledonian crow and white-bellied goshawk may also prey on honeyeater young. However, chick mortality has occurred in areas that are intensively managed for invasive predators. So the success of breeding pairs may be affected by other unknown factors. The loss and degradation of New Caledonia’s native forest has almost certainly had an impact. The demand for timber and nickel has caused a huge amount of forest to be logged and mined and the crow honeyeater appears to be absent from such areas.
Conservation Underway
The species is protected by law and capture of individuals has been prohibited. Several projects have improved knowledge about the species, but there is still not enough evidence to give an accurate population status. In the Parc Provincial Rivière Bleue, adults were radio-tracked and nests were monitored from 2001 to 2005 to gather information on the species ecology. The Institut Agronomique néo-Calédonien undertook surveys of New Caledonian forest birds from 2003 – 2006. And in 2010 surveys of the 17 forested areas important for the crow honeyeater were conducted by Société Calédonienne d'Ornithologie. The results of this research are being analysed and will help inform conservation strategies. Crow honeyeaters have been observed in an area to the north of the island, where it has not been seen for many years.
Conservation Proposed
Further surveys are needed throughout the honeyeater’s range, as well as in unidentified areas where the species could potentially be present. The protected areas need to be extended to encompass all forest within the species range. Establish an accurate population estimate. Prioritise research on the bird’s habitat requirements and breeding ecology, and establish the impact of rat predation on reproductive success. Pest populations need to be controlled in areas inhabited by the honeyeater. The rate of dispersal between the isolated subpopulations needs to be investigated to ensure populations do not become inbred. A nationwide species action plan needs to be developed and implemented, alongside national awareness-raising programmes.
Links
References
BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Gymnomyza aubryana. Downloaded from www.birdlife.org on 07/05/2013.

Chartendrault, V. and Barré, N. (2006). Etude du statut et de la distribution des oiseaux des forêts humides de la province Sud de Nouvelle-Calédonie. Institut agronomique néo-calédonien, Port Laguerre, Nouvelle-Calédonie.

Driskell, A. C., and Christidis, L. (2004). Phylogeny and evolution of the Australo-Papuan honeyeaters (Passeriformes, Meliphagidae). Molecular phylogenetics and evolution, 31(3), 943-960.

Dutson, G. (2011). Birds of Melanesia: Bismarcks, Solomons, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Christopher Helm, London.

Ekstrom, J. M. M., Jones, J. P. G.,Willis, J. and Isherwood, I. (2000). The humid forests of New Caledonia: biological research and conservation recommendations for the vertebrate fauna of Grande Terre. CSB Conservation Publications, Cambridge, U.K

Ekstrom, J. M. M., Jones, J. P. G., Willis, J., Tobias, J., Dutson, G. and Barre, N. (2002). New information on the distribution, status and conservation of terrestrial bird species in Grande Terre, New Caledonia. Emu 102:197-207.

Létocart, Y. (2006). Synthèse des observations sur la nidification du Méliphage noir (Gymnomyza aubryana) dans le Parc Provincial de la Rivière Bleue (De 1980 à 2005).

Vuilleumier, F. and Gochfeld, M. (1976). Notes sur l'avifauna de Nouvelle-Calédonie. Alauda 44: 237-273.
Acknowledgements
Text compiled by Michelle Harrison. Factchecked by Guy Dutson.

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