Falcipennis falcipennis Hartlaub, 1855

Text, photos and map from Storch I. (2000) : Grouse Action Plan 2000-2004,
reproduced here with the Editor's agreement

Synonyms:

Dendragapus falcipennis,
Tetrao falcipennis

Common names:

Lian chi j

Chinese

Siberian grouse,
Siberian spruce grouse,
Sharp-winged grouse

English

Tétras de Sibérie

French

Sichelhuhn

German

Dikusha

Russian

Gallo siberiano

Spanish

Male, photo by Siegfried Klaus

Female, photo by Franz Hafner

male, photo by Franz Hafner

 

Conservation Status

IUCN 1996: Lower risk (near threatened).
CITES 1998: not listed in Appendices.
National red data books: China, Russia.

Taxonomy

No subspecies recognised.

Distribution

Russia; formerly occasionally in China. Resident in far eastern Russia from approx. 120°E to the shores of the Japanese (or Ochotsk) sea and the island of Sachalin south to the Sichote Alin mountains and north to approx. 60°N. In northernmost China the species was found in the Chingang mountains and in the low reaches of the Heilongjiang river valley in the late 1970s. Surveys between 1986-89 in these areas failed to confirm the species; present occurrence in China is unlikely (Sun pers. comm).

 

Population size and trend

Few population estimates are available. They report low densities between 6 and 25 birds per 100km_; these population densities may however be underestimates due to the species´ elusive behaviour (Potapov and Flint 1989). A recent intensive study resulted in an average density of 6-8 birds per km_ (Hafner and Andreev 1998). It is assumed that the species has been declining at least since the 1970s due to increasing land use and forest exploitation (Potapov and Flint 1989, Flint 1995). The rate of decline is unknown (Hafner and Andreev 1998; F. Hafner, pers. comm., S. Klaus, pers. comm.).

 

Habitat and ecology

The Siberian grouse mostly occurs in forests of spruce (Picea jezoensis, P. abies), fir (Abies nephrolepsis), larch (Larix dahurica), and pine (Pinus koraiensis) which characterise the Ochotsk taiga, the typical vegetation type of the region (see Klaus et al. 1995 for forest dynamics). Most descriptions of the habitat report mixed forests with at least some spruce and with dense understorey and ground vegetation. The species is not exclusively associated with mature coniferous forest but also uses young succession forest with as little as 5% spruce cover. Spruce needles are its exclusive winter food. Siberian grouse avoid open areas, the youngest stages of forest succession, and pure deciduous forest. They are susceptible to habitat changes related to forestry, and to large-scale clearcutting in particular. The species therefore is an indicator for the entire ecosystem, including the typical flora and fauna of the Ochotsk Taiga. Not only the Siberian grouse, but many other species as well, will profit from long-term conservation of its habitat (see Hafner and Andreev 1998).

 

Hunting and cultural importance

Because of its elusive behaviour and the poor accessibility of its habitat, the Siberian grouse has never had any economic importance other than occasional hunting by locals. The species has been listed in the Russian red data book since 1978; hunting is prohibited. Nonetheless, Siberian grouse are occasionally hunted for food or used as bait by sable Martes zibellina trappers. The overall influence of hunting on population dynamics is considered to be low (Hafner and Andreev 1998).

 

Principal threats

Socio-economic situation. The ongoing insecure socio-economic situation in Russia may pose significant threats to the Siberian grouse and its habitats. The demand for ressources is great, both by the state and by local inhabitants. Timber exploitation is uncontrolled in many parts of far eastern Russia. Large, industrial clearcutting is dominating and often done by international joint-ventures or by foreign companies; however, large clearcuts were common already in sovjet times. Private local Russian forestry enterprises are usually small and work with small clearcuts, or selectively cut the most valuable, mature trees. The future of the Siberian grouse will depend primarily on the socio-economic and political development in Russia. In China, habitat degradation due to agriculture and forestry may be threatening the habitat. It is doubtful, however, whether, the species has occurred much further south of the present distribution at least during this century.

 Forest exploitation. Habitat loss and deterioration related to forest exploitation are major threats to the Siberian grouse. The species disappears from areas with large-scale clearcutting. The purely deciduous secondary growth following clearcutting is unsuitable grouse habitat. Also, clearcuts usually are not replanted, are dominated by grasses, and natural regeneration may take several decades during which the clearcuts are unsuitable for Siberian grouse. Other cutting regimes with a smaller-scale mosaic of cut and uncut stands, however, may allow rapid regeneration and are therefore advantageous for the species (Hafner and Andreev 1998).

 Forest fires. In the past 10-20 years, forest fires caused by people have significantly increased both in extend and frequency. Related to the great demand for forest products such as venison, fur, berries, herbs, mushrooms, medicinal plants such as ginseng, etc. for private consumption as well as for local and international markets, many people frequent the forests; most forest fires probably result from camp fires, cigarettes, etc. Siberian grouse do use succession forest after fire; however, they rely on conifers and if the frequency of fires is too high, conifers disappear from regenerating forests. In the southern part of the range, e.g. in the Sichote Alin mountains, forest regeneration after fire is exclusively deciduous, and thus unsuitable for Siberian grouse. Therefore, the populations in the south are probably more threatened than those in the north (F. Hafner pers. comm.; see Klaus et al. 1995).

 Exploitation. Besides the threats to its habitat, poaching for meat has become common practice in Russia, and law enforcement generally is poor. To what extent this situation is affecting the species is unclear. At least for their study areas, Hafner and Andreev (1998) believe that the influence of hunting on population dynamics is low.

 

Research needs

The first systematic studies have been published in the 1990s (see Hafner & Andreev 1998 and refs. therein). They have revealed important insights into life-history traits, behaviour, food habits, habitat use, and spacing patterns. Many questions remain unanswered.

Habitat relationships. Siberian grouse occur in a great variety of habitat types. The principal structural and spatial habitat requirements are not yet understood. Research is recommended into habitat needs in different types of habitat to identify the key elements including clarifying the factors determining the western and northern limits of the distribution.

Recolonisation after forest fires. Forest fires can result in major loss and fragmentation of Siberian grouse habitats, because many succession forests regenerating after fire are dominated by deciduous trees and therefore unsuitable for the grouse. How long it takes for regenerating stands to be recolonised by the grouse is important to know. Therefore, surveys in regenerating succession forests of different age are suggested. Differences between the northern (mixed regeneration) and southern part (deciduous regeneration) of the range are to be expected.

Effects of forestry practices. Siberian grouse also occur in managed forests and in coniferous or mixed second-growth habitats. To better understand the effects of various forestry practices on the persistence and population density of Siberian grouse, a series of surveys is suggested in different types of managed forests with different cutting regimes, including both newly cut primary habitats as well as second-growth forests; also, populations should be monitored before and after cutting. The results are important to give advice to the state forestry agencies and logging companies on how to integrate forestry operations and grouse habitat conservation.

 

Current conservation measures

Legal protection. In Russia and China, the Siberian grouse is red-listed and protected by law. Nevertheless, some illegal hunting occurs. 

Protected areas. There are nine protected areas (Zapovedniki) within the Russian range of the Siberian grouse, which exclude all human utilisation. These reserves are 570 &endash; 8.420km_ in size and probably large enough to maintain viable populations of grouse. In the Sichote Alin Mountains, the stronghold of the remaining population of Siberian Tigers, anti-poaching units have been set up and a network of protected areas and habitat corridors has been created for tiger conservation, largely financed by international organisations. These measures may also secure some habitats of the Siberian grouse.

 

Priority conservation measures

The Siberian grouse is listed as a globally near threatened species. Therefore its conservation has high priority. Here, a short summary of recommended conservation measures is given. Recommendations for research and conservation priorities for the Siberian grouse are described in greater detail in Chapter 4 of the Action Plan.

 Population surveys. The distribution and status of the species are insufficiently known and should be established by a series of surveys throughout the distribution range. Better information on population size and trends, as well as on size and potential fragmentation of the distribution range is needed to identify the threat category for the Siberian grouse according to IUCN criteria (see Appendix 2) and as a basis to identify necessary conservation action.

 Effective fire control. Forest fires caused by people have increased both in extent and frequency. Fires may significantly change the structure and tree-species composition of forests, and may thus lead to the degradation, loss, and fragmentation of grouse habitats. Prevention and fighting of forest fires are poor to absent, mostly due to a lack of funding for equipment, training, and salaries.

 Creation of a new protected area. In the western part of the range, a large protected area should be created to preserve old-growth forest habitats. 

Integrate forest use with grouse conservation. As a first step towards the integration of forest use and grouse conservation, clearcuts larger than 5 ha should be prohibited throughout the distribution range.

 

Correspondents

Siegfried Klaus, Franz Hafner, Roald Potapov, Sun Yue-Hua

 

Key publications

Hafner, F. & Andreev, A. V. 1998. Das Sichelhuhn. Naturwissenschaftlicher Verein für Kärnten, Klagenfurt, Austria. 118 pp. (ISBN 3-85328-014-5) (in German with English summaries).

Potapov, R. L. & Flint, V. E. 1989. Handbuch der Vögel der Sowjetunion. Band 4 Galliformes, Gruiformes. 427 pp. Ziemsen Verlag Wittenberg Lutherstadt, Germany. (ISBN 3-7403-0027-2)