Sangkar White-eye Zosterops melanurus

Panji G. Akbar and Bas van Balen
Version: 2.0 — Published June 18, 2020

Conservation and Management

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Conservation Status

Vulnurable (15). Once thought to be the among the most common birds throughout low to mid elevations forest (including secondary), plantations, and mature gardens (16), but this species now faces huge pressure from trapping due to the sudden increase of demand and price in Java's huge cage-bird trade post 2010. Considered a pest locally; reported as causing damage to ripe mangoes (Mangifera) and guavas (Psidium) by piercing holes in order to reach the juice (BvB).

Effects of Human Activity

Shooting and Trapping

While there are no publications about when or why the demand for white-eyes species suddenly increased, it is believed that the boom started around 2010 (I. Taufiqurrahman, personal communication). However, some records show high numbers of white-eyes being traded pre-2010, including 202 individuals in Garut and Tasikmalaya in 2008 (39) and up to 2,324 individuals in Medan, Sumatera between 1997-2001 (40). It is possible that the demand was shifted towards this species and other more abundant taxa as the result of the decline or disappearance of more popular songbirds (e.g., Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus) (41). Its popularity is boosted by the emergence of its own (pre-split) species category at bird singing competitions across Java (42), which can greatly increase a winning bird's value in the market in addition to the cash prize.

The entire Zosterops genus is now listed as the 7th most common bird owned by bird-keepers in Java, with up to 1,859,000 ± 427,000 individuals estimated to be kept in households on the whole island (43). The newly split Sangkar White-eye is also described as "the most heavily traded bird species on earth" (9) and was always present in the top 10 heavily traded species in a series of 4 snapshot survey in bird markets throughout Java and Bali in 2014-2018—with total number of 6,884 individuals (42, 44, 45, 46), of which 2,339 were observed in Jakarta's bird market over only a three days period (42).

Habitat Loss and Degradation

While described to be resilient towards some degree of modified habitat, the large amount of habitat change in Java may contribute to some portion of the decline. It is estimated that less than 12,000 km2 of forest remains in Java (47), and only a small portion of remaining forested land is deemed suitable for many bird species due to both intense land-use management (48) and bird-trapping (49, 50).


Conservation Measures and Habitat Management

Currently there are no known conservation plans or efforts being developed for this species. The Asian Songbird Trade Crisis Summit in 2015 mentioned the need for immediate action for a range-wide genomic enquiry for the pre-split species (51), which has been done recently and resulted in the recognition of this species itself. Both the new taxa and the pre-split form were not included in the new list of protected species by Indonesian law in 2018 (52).

Several bird keepers have managed to breed this species in captivity, but it is yet to become a staple of the captive-breeding industry (50), and the majority of birds kept in households are still coming from wild-caught individuals (43). Even with successful commercial breeding, the supply may simply stimulate increased demand for the species instead of satisfying the current demand in the market, and therefore it is important to establish whether and how commercial captive breeding could be developed and regulated to replace Java's current consumption of wild-caught birds (43).

Recommended Citation

Akbar, P. G. and B. van Balen (2020). Sangkar White-eye (Zosterops melanurus), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.sanwhe2.02