Cebu Flowerpecker already extinct?

(The Freeman) - October 6, 2016 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Is one of the two endemic bird species in Cebu already extinct?

While the Cebu Black Shama (Copsychus Cebuensis) conservation has yielded positive results in the Nug-as forest of southern Cebu, the "critically endangered" Cebu Flowerpecker, on the other hand, could no longer be found.

According to biologist Rainier Manlegro of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-7's enforcement division, the Cebu Flowerpecker or Dicaeum quadricolor has not been sighted in the Tabunan forests of upland Cebu City since 2001.

Manlegro, however, is hopeful that the Cebu Flowerpecker species may not be extinct yet even if the last recorded sighting was still 15 years ago. He said there are species which are thought to be extinct and yet found 20 or 50 years later.

He said they will not stop trying to look for the Cebu Flowerpecker as they have assigned some forest observers to stay within Tabunan for several days to try to catch a glimpse of the 11 to 12-centimeter bird.

"Wala na 'ta nakit-an. Gamay na lang siguro, mga biyente na lang kabuok. Pero naa pa ta'y ongoing assessments didto," (We have not seen any Flowerpecker. Maybe there are only 20 of them there although there are still assessments ongoing)," said Manlegro.

Observations in the Tabunan last about two weeks, said the DENR biologist.

The Black Shama in the Nug-as forest in Alcoy town, on the other hand, may be luckier as several forest wardens have been able to hear the distinct sounds of the bird in various areas of the pocket forests there.

The community in Nug-as, according to Manlegro, has been in the forefront of the awareness campaign and the protection of the Black Shama locally known as Siloy.

"Unlike before, wala na ka'y madunggan na Siloy. Pero karon maglakaw ka sa trail, naa na ka'y madunggan kay saba man kaayo ni sila nga mga langgam," (Before you could not hear anymore the bird's tweets. Now if you walk on the forest trails, you can readily hear it," explained Manlegro.

An annual Siloy Festival parade is being sponsored by the municipality of Alcoy as a way to raise awareness of the Black Shama, classified as an endangered species.

On the other hand, the Cebu Flowerpecker may only have a population of at least 20, estimates Manlegro.

He, however, said that there is no way yet to specifically determine the exact number of the Cebu Flowerpecker, classified as critically endangered or about the same level as that of the Philippine Eagle.

Manlegro said that the two bird species found nowhere else in the world require tropical forest as their natural habitat. The dwindling population of these birds only shows the diminishing forest covers of Cebu.

According to conservation group Birdlife International, the Cebu Flowerpecker was considered extinct in 1906 until it was discovered in the patches or pocket forests between Cebu City and Balamban town, near Mount Manunggal in 1992.

Manunggal is a famous landmark where the late president Ramon Magsaysay's plane crashed.

Massive deforestation is being blamed for the increasing decline of the rare bird species.

"Observations in 1994 showed that the species also occurred in open-canopy forest and that interspecific competition with the very common and aggressive more common Red-striped Flowerpecker may also have contributed to its decline," according to the research of Birdlife International.

In its 2005 data, the conservation group estimated only around 85 mature individuals remaining for the Cebu Flowerpecker. Aside from Tabunan in Cebu City, the group also believes that the Flowerpecker also strives in the same pocket forest of Nug-as in Alcoy.

About 39 species of birds found only in Cebu were lost after decades of deforestation, says the Birdlife International. At present, only two remaining endemic birds are believed to still exist although they have already become endangered. (FREEMAN)

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