41.
Jerdon’s Courser
(Rhinoptilus bitorquatus)
CR
Overview
Having eluded researchers for over 80 years, the Jerdon’s Courser was rediscovered in 1986. For this reason, very little is known about the bird’s ecology. It is known to be nocturnal and feed on insects, which it hunts by sight. The population is tentatively estimated at 50 to 249 adults, but further surveys are needed to determine range, numbers and threats. The number of people inhabiting important areas of habitat for the Jerdon’s Courser continues to grow. Settlers clear habitat for farmland. Illegal trapping of ground birds has also been recorded in the region where it is known to occur. A species recovery plan was published in 2010, detailing priority conservation actions for the Jerdon’s Courser. These plans need to be urgently implemented to save this critically endangered species from extinction.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Surveys are needed to investigate the species ecology, as is effective protection of all areas of habitat.
Distribution
Endemic to India found in Andra Pradesh.
Fact
For over 85 years, the Jerdon’s Courser was thought to be extinct until it was sensationally rediscovered in 1986.
Media from ARKive
Arkive image - Jerdon’s courser
Arkive image - Jerdon’s courser
Arkive image - Jerdon’s courser, low in grass
Arkive image - Jerdon's courser at night
Arkive image - Jerdon's courser walking
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Glareolidae

The Glareolidae is a small avian family that includes the coursers and pratincoles. Their defining characteristic is the arched bill with nostrils at its base. This feature separates the family from the rest of the Charadriifromes. There are five genera in the family, made up of 17 species. The genus Rhinoptilus is made up of four species: the double-banded courser, three-banded courser, bronze-winged courser and the Jerdon’s Courser.

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: 
27cm
This species is a slim courser with long wings. The crown and the back of the neck are dark brown. Cream eye stripes run across the face, joining in a V-shape on the back of the head. The back and upper breast are covered in brown, sandy plumage, which helps to camouflage the bird against its background. The lower part of the breast is white with banding. The belly is also white. There is a characteristic rufous patch on its neck. It has long thin legs, which are a light yellow colour. The flight feathers are black, with white tips and chestnut colouring on the bend of the wing.
Ecology
Jerdon’s Courser is active at night and dusk. It is insectivorous, hunting invertebrates by sight.
Habitat
It favours scrub forest of thorny and non-thorny plants, with bare patches of earth. Many observations of the courser have occurred in transition areas between primary forest and degraded habitat or farmland. The species has a particular preference for areas with a density of 300-700 large bushes and fewer than 1000 small bushes per hectare.
Distribution
The Jerdon’s Courser is endemic to India and found in the Eastern Ghats of Andra Pradesh. Although the historical records are from south of Madhya Pradesh there are no recent evidences to show that this species occurs there.
Population Estimate

50–249 adults

Population Trend

Decreasing

Status
Critically Endangered
Threats
The number of people living in important areas of habitat is continuously growing. Settlers put demands on local natural resources by collecting wood, introducing grazing mammals and clearing habitat for farmland. Birds also suffer from direct disturbance from people. Trapping is ongoing in certain areas and coursers may also be accidentally caught. Suitable areas of habitat are disappearing and those that exist are severely fragmented. Outside protected areas, habitat was under threat from the construction of the Telugu-Ganga canal. However, in 2008 a new route avoiding important scrub forest has been proposed and accepted. The threat to habitat from agriculture still remains.
Conservation Underway

A species recovery plan was published in 2010, detailing priority conservation actions for the Jerdon’s Courser. These include protection of known habitat, locating other areas of scrub-forest used by the species. Individual birds are to be radio-tagged and tracked. The most effective methods of tracking are currently being researched and could include camera trapping. Night-listening techniques are being employed to locate undiscovered populations. Forestry staff to be trained in survey methods. Awareness of the plight of the species needs to be raised amongst local people, the Yanaadi community has been involved in searching for remnant populations. Two wildlife sanctuaries have been created because of the presence of the courser. In 2008 a new route avoiding important scrub forest was approved for the Telugu-Ganga canal.

Conservation Proposed

Survey areas of potential habitat and determine range, numbers and threats. Monitor population and habitat degradation at known sites. Study species’ ecology by radio-tracking and analysing faeces to determine dietary habits. This information will help to inform conservation actions. Ensure effective protection of all habitat within the courser’s range and lobby against harmful activities such as mining. Extend the reach of awareness campaigns and encourage alternative livelihoods for those people using natural resources and trapping birds. Build capacity amongst forestry staff and local individuals in survey methods.

Links
References
Anon. 2006. Canal re-routing throws India's rarest bird a lifeline. World Birdwatch 28(1): 4.

BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Rhinoptilus bitorquatus. Downloaded from www.birdlife.org on 26/09/2013.

BirdLife International. (2008) Canal diverted to save Jerdon’s Courser. Available at: www.birdlife.org/news/news/2008/08/jerdons_courser.html.

Bhushan, B. (1986). Rediscovery of the Jerdon's or double-banded courser Cursorius bitorquatus. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. Bombay, 83(1), 1-14.

Chandrasekhar, A. and Jeganathan, P. (2008) A glimmer of hope for the critically endangered Jerdon’s Courser. Mistnet 9(4): 19

Jeganathan, P., Green, R. E., Bowden, C. G. R., Norris, K., Pain, D. and Rahmani, A. (2002) Use of tracking strips and automatic cameras for detecting critically endangered Jerdon’s Coursers Rhinoptilus bitorquatus in scrub jungle in Andhra Pradesh, India. Oryx 36:182–188

Jeganathan, P., Rahmani, A. R., Green, R.E., Norris, K., Bowder, C., Wotton, S. R. and Pain, D. (2004). Conservation of the critically endangered Jerdon’s Courser Rhinoptilus bitorquatus in India: final report. Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai.

Jeganathan, P., Green, R. E., Norris, K., Vogiatzakis, I. N., Bartsch, A., Wotton, S. R., and Rahmani, A. R. (2004). Modelling habitat selection and distribution of the critically endangered Jerdon’s Courser Rhinoptilus bitorquatus in scrub jungle: an application of a new tracking method. Journal of Applied Ecology, 41(2), 224-237.

Jeganathan, P., Rahmani, A. R., Green, R. E., Norris, K., Vogiatzakis, I. N., Bowden, C. and Pain, D. (2008). Quantification of threats and suggested ameliorative measures for the conservation of the critically endangered Jerdon’s Courser Rhinoptilus bitorquatus and its habitat. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 105(1): 73-83.

Piersma, Theunis (2008), Family Glareolidae (Coursers and Pratincoles), in del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew; Sargatal, Jordi, Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3, Hoatzins to Auks, Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, pp. 364–375.

Sibley, C. G. and Monroe, B. L. (1990) Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Acknowledgements
Text compiled by Michelle Harrison. Factchecked by Panchapakesan Jeganathan.

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