This discussion was first published as part of the 2013 Red List update, but remains open for comment to enable reassessment in 2015.
Woodpecker Finch Camarhynchus pallidus is restricted to the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador), where it occurs on the islands of Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, Rábida, Pinzón, Baltra, Santa Cruz, Floreana and San Cristóbal. It is currently listed as Least Concern because it was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN Red List criteria. Although this species has a small range (estimated Extent of Occurrence [EOO] of 7,400 km2), it was not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (EOO <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend was thought to be stable, and hence the species did not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The global population size has not been quantified, and although this species was described as ‘uncommon’ (Stotz et al. 1996), it was also not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure).
A recent study by Dvorak et al. (2012) used quantitative census data to describe the distribution and abundance of the land birds of Santa Cruz, the second largest island in the Galapagos archipelago. The results revealed that the Woodpecker Finch had declined significantly between 1997 and 2010, with declines of >65% in the dry zone, >20% in the Scalesia forest and >50% in the agricultural zone. The population size on Santa Cruz in 2008 (largely confined to higher altitudes) was estimated at c. 12,000 singing males. The most pronounced species declines were at higher elevations in humid native forest and agricultural areas; the highland habitat has been the most impacted by direct or indirect human activity (Dvorak et al, 2012). Most of the declining species (including the Woodpecker Finch) are insectivorous, indicating that changes in insect abundance or availability could be driving the decline, although other factors such as habitat alteration and introduced species should also be considered (Dvorak et al, 2012). In addition, no census data currently exists for bird species on the islands of Isabela and Santiago but given the level of habitat destruction and degradation by introduced herbivores on those islands (Henderson & Dawson 2009), similar impacts on the Woodpecker Finch are suspected there.
The EOO of this species is estimated to be <20,000 km2; if it is known to exist at no more than 10 locations (based on the assumption that it is reasonable to consider each island as a separate location, consistent with the treatment of other Galapagos endemics), and it is inferred to be undergoing continuing declines in the Area, extent and/or quality of habitat and number of mature individuals, it would warrant uplisting to Vulnerable under criteria B1ab(iii,v) of the IUCN Red List. If there is evidence to suggest that the global population of this species has reduced by >30% over the past 11 years (three generations), with an inferred decline based on Index of abundance, and declines at a similar rate are projected to continue within the next 11 years, this species would warrant uplisting to Vulnerable under criteria A2b+3b+4b. The findings by Dvorak et al. (2012) suggest that the overall rate of decline on Santa Cruz could be in the region of 30-49%; is it reasonable to assume that similar rates of decline have occurred in the rest of this species’s range?
The term ‘location’ defines a geographically or ecologically distinct area in which a single threatening event can rapidly affect all individuals of the taxon present. The size of the location depends on the area covered by the threatening event and may include part of one or many subpopulations. Where a taxon is affected by more than one threatening event, location should be defined by considering the most serious plausible threat. (IUCN 2001). For example, where the most serious plausible threat is habitat loss, a location is an area where a single development project can eliminate or severely reduce the population. Where the most serious plausible threat is volcanic eruption, hurricane, tsunami, frequent flood or fire, locations may be defined by the previous or predicted extent of lava flows, storm paths, inundation, fire paths, etc.
Further information is requested on this species’s global population trends, size and distribution. Comments on the severity of threats to this species are also welcome.
Dvorak, M, Fessl, B, Nemeth, E, Kleindorfer, S. and Tebbich, S. (2012) Distribution and abundance of Darwin’s finches and other land birds on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos: evidence for declining populations. Oryx 46(1), 78-86.
Henderson, S. and Dawson, T. P. (2009) Alien invasions from space observations: detecting feral goat impacts on Isla Isabela, Galapagos Islands with the AVHRR. International Journal of Remote Sensing 30, 423–433.
Stotz, D. F., Fitzpatrick, J. W., Parker III, T. A. and Moskovits. D. K. (1996) Neotropical birds: ecology and conservation. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.