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Status of the volcanically threatened Montserrat Oriole Icterus oberi and other forest birds in Montserrat, West Indies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 May 2010

W. J. Arendt
USDA Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Sabana Field Research Station, PO Box 490, Palmer, Puerto Rico 00721 E-mail:
D. W. Gibbons
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2DL, U.K. E-mail:
G. Gray
Ministry of Agriculture, Trade and Environment/WWF-UK, Montserrat, West Indies E-mail:
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The Montserrat Oriole Icterus oberi is endemic to the Caribbean island of Montserrat where, prior to 1995, it was widely distributed across the island's three main interior mountain ranges: the Centre, Soufriere and South Soufriere Hills. In July 1995, a long-dormant volcano on Chances Peak in the Soufriere Hills began to erupt. Since then the forest habitat of the oriole on the Soufriere and South Soufriere Hills has been devastated by pyroclastic flows and surges, heavy ash eruptions and rock falls. The Montserrat Oriole populations that inhabited these two mountain ranges have probably been lost. In December 1997, a census of the remaining Centre Hills population was undertaken to assess its status in the face of the heavy ash fall that occurred earlier the same year. To do this, a systematic grid of 140 sample points was overlaid on an area of 1,437.5 n a encompassing the Centre Hills, and a 10-minute count of all bird species was undertaken at 137 of these points during an eight-day survey period. The distance from the point to each oriole detected was measured and records of all other species were allocated to one of five distance bands radiating out from the point. Distance sampling was used to model densities, and thus to estimate population sizes, of eight bird species in the study area. It was estimated that 4,000 (95% CIs 1,500–7,800) Montserrat Orioles remain in the Centre Hills and thus the world. Although the probability of pyroclastic flows and surges overrunning the Centre Hills is considered rerrtote, it is recommended that the Montserrat Oriole be classified as Globally Threatened (Endangered) under the revised IUCN threat categories because of its loss of breeding habitat since 1995.

Research Article
Copyright © Birdlife International 1999


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