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Population status of the endemic Pitcairn Reed Warbler Acrocephalus vaughani on Pitcairn Island, South Pacific

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 January 2024

Steffen Oppel*
RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, David Attenborough Building, Cambridge, UK Swiss Ornithological Institute, 6204 Sempach, Switzerland
Robert Eisler
RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, David Attenborough Building, Cambridge, UK
Nik Aspey
RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, David Attenborough Building, Cambridge, UK
Corresponding author: Steffen Oppel; Email:


Reed warblers are widespread throughout Eurasia, Africa, and Australasia, and many species undertake long seasonal migrations. By contrast, other species of the genus Acrocephalus are sedentary and endemic to single oceanic islands. The Pitcairn Reed Warbler Acrocephalus vaughani is confined to the small volcanic island of Pitcairn in the South Pacific Ocean, and no population assessments have ever been conducted for this species. Due to its restricted range, the presence of invasive species, and the loss of natural habitat, the species is considered as globally “Endangered”, but its actual conservation status is entirely speculative. We conducted transect surveys and nest monitoring in the austral summer of 2022/23 and present abundance estimates for the species. We counted between 51 and 158 reed warblers along 54 transects that were each 100 m long and covered all habitats and roughly 13% of the vegetated island area. Using binomial mixture models accounting for imperfect detection and habitat variation in abundance, we estimated that Pitcairn may hold 1,568 (95% confidence interval 812–3,237) Pitcairn Reed Warblers, and that the species appeared to be most abundant in introduced Rose Apple Syzygium jambos stands. Based on the monitoring of 49 nests, of which only four failed to fledge any young, we estimated that Mayfield nest survival rate was 0.69 and estimated productivity was 1.07 (± 0.39 standard deviation) fledglings per nest. Assuming that Pitcairn Reed Warblers have similar annual survival probabilities as other island reed warblers, the productivity appears sufficient to maintain the population and there is no indication that the species has decreased significantly over the past three generations. Given the limited extent of occurrence, and the stable current population size between 442 and 2,774 mature individuals, we recommend that the global conservation status of the Pitcairn Reed Warbler be classified as “Vulnerable”.

Research Article
© Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of BirdLife International

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