Improving Conservation Status of the near threatened – Cinereous Bunting

A training was held in Al Fekha within the project “Improving Conservation Status of the near threatened – Cinereous Bunting specie in the Hima Fakiha” support by the Hima Fund. The aim of the training was to raise awareness on the importance of conserving Cinereous Bunting and the principle of responsible hunting on Thursday 12 May 2016.

The event is part of SPNL’s celebration to mark World Migratory Bird Day 2016. This year’s World Migratory Bird Day theme “Stop the Illegal Killing, Taking and Trade!” relates to SPNL and its partners conservation efforts and projects that form a network of conservation across the Lebanon and the world.

The trainees were teachers and directors of eight different schools from Hima Al Fekha and the region. The training reached out to school directors and teachers since they are the ones that have an influential impact on students, the future generations of the community. The training promoted sustainable hunting in an attempt to conserve the birds of Lebanon; especially the endangered ones.


The session tackled the importance of birds, the techniques of bird watching and its basic tools and also served to raise their awareness on the necessary safety guidelines during hunting. The participants actively contributed and expressed their thoughts and opinion about responsible hunting. On the other hand, the lack of knowledge about the importance of the Cinereous Bunting was clear among most of the trainees but they were very eager to share the information with their students.

In conclusion, it was a fruitful training, especially because the participants were ready to assist in spreading awareness. The scope of the event was done as a contribution to the World Bird Migratory Day for year 2016 where the theme is ’Stop the Illegal Killing, Taking and Trade of Migratory Birds’’.

Cinereous Bunting Emberiza cineracea

Redlist IUCN Cinereous Bunting

This poorly known migratory species is classified as Near Threatened because its moderately small population is suspected to be declining as a result of the conversion and degradation of its habitats; it almost meets the requirements for listing as threatened under criterion C1. Improved information on its population size and trend may in due course lead to a reassessment of its status.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Distribution and population
This species breeds on the islands of Skyros (Hölzinger 1995), Lesbos and Chios, Greece (105-205 pairs [BirdLife International 2015]), and western Turkey (race cineracea), as well as in south-east Turkey, south-west Iran (fewer than 100 pairs in the Zagros mountains; race semenowi) (Cramp and Perrins 1994, Byers et al. 1995) and Iraq (minimum 1,000 pairs in Iraqi Kurdistan [R. Porter in litt. 2015]). Statements regarding potential breeding in northern Syria are of uncertain validity (Albayrak et al. 2003). The winter distribution remains poorly known, but includes Eritrea and Yemen, and potentially also Ethiopia, north-east Sudan and south-west Saudi Arabia (where records may solely relate to individuals on migration) (Walther et al. 2004, Walther 2006). In addition, there are passage records along the species’s two, well-separated migration routes: Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Palestinian Authority Territories and Egypt (predominantly race cineracea); and Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Oman (race semenowi). The Turkish breeding population – which at 3,100-5,500 pairs probably constitutes over 90% of the global population – was suspected to have declined by 0-19% during 1990-2000 (BirdLife International 2004) and in 1990-2013 (BirdLife International 2015).

By Ghassan Ramadan-Jaradi
By Ghassan Ramadan-Jaradi


By Ghassan Ramadan-Jaradi
By Ghassan Ramadan-Jaradi

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 6,400-11,400 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015) and there are thought to be less than 100 pairs in Iran and a minimum of 1,000 pairs in Iraq (R. Porter in litt. 2015). The global population is therefore estimated to number 8,600-13,600 mature individuals roughly equating to 12,900-20,400 individuals in total, here placed in the band 10,000-19,999 individuals.

Trend justification
A slow to moderate overall decline is suspected, based on reported declines in Turkey (which probably holds more than 90% of the global breeding population) of 1-19% during 1990-2013 (BirdLife International 2015).

The species breeds on dry rocky slopes and uplands with shrubby vegetation and sometimes conifers. It is migratory, wintering in dry open country with short grass, semi-desert, low rocky hills, bare cultivated land and dry scrub, often in coastal areas. Migrating birds are regularly recorded in lowland agricultural land and semi-deserts.

Changes in grazing pressure by sheep and goats could affect the population size. High grazing pressure could result in the trampling of nests, whereas too little grazing could reduce the area of open feeding sites (Albayrak et al. 2003). Remaining habitat in western Turkey is being developed rapidly for tourism (Tucker and Heath 1994). Suitable habitats in south-east Turkey have been flooded by dam construction, resulting both in direct habitat loss and the relocation of displaced villagers to new, currently unpopulated areas (Albayrak et al. 2003). Construction of wind farms and mining in the species’s habitats in Turkey are further threats (S. Isfendiyaroglu in litt. 2015).

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
The species is legally protected under Greek and Turkish law (Albayrak et al. 2003). One of the breeding sites on Lesbos is partially protected as a Natural Monument and Wildlife Refuge (Albayrak et al. 2003). An international action plan was published in 2003 (Albayrak et al. 2003). The species’s potential winter distribution has been modelled using GIS-based techniques (Walther et al. 2004). Surveys undertaken by Nature Iraq from 2005 to 2012 have revealed that Iraqi Kurdistan is an important area for the species with 23 of 53 potential Key Biodiversity Areas surveyed containing breeding individuals (R. Porter in litt. 2015).

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Survey suitable habitat within the putative wintering grounds (Walther et al. 2004; Walther 2006). Develop a Species Action Plan. Develop a monitoring programme to assess population trends. Assess threats to the species and develop appropriate responses.

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