Dupont’s Lark (Chersophilus duponti): Request for information from North Africa

This discussion was first published as part of the 2018 Red List update. At the time a decision regarding its status was pended, but to enable potential reassessment of this species as part of the 2019 Red List update this post remains open and the date of posting has been updated.

The topic was originally written by Jose Rafael Garrido Lopez, but has received some slight edits to fit with the format and style of the forums site.

 

BirdLife species factsheet for Dupont’s Lark: http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/duponts-lark-chersophilus-duponti

 

Traditionally two subspecies of Dupont’s Lark are recognised (Suárez, 2010): Chersophilus duponti duponti living in the Iberian Peninsula, Morocco, Northern Algeria and Tunisia; and C. duponti margaritae, to which the southernmost populations of Algeria and Tunisia belong, as well as those of Libya and Egypt.

It is sparsely distributed and uncommon in most areas of its relatively small and fragmented range. Currently in Europe, the species is only found in continental Spain, which holds around 13% of the global population (Suárez et al. 2008). This Spanish population declined by more than 20% during 1970-1990 (Tucker and Heath 1994), but this rate of decline was thought to have slowed during 1990-2000 (BirdLife International 2004), with the total Spanish population estimated at 13,000-15,000 pairs following surveys in 1988 (Garza and Suárez 1990). However, the original survey may have dramatically overestimated the size of the Spanish population, which may have comprised as few as 1,900 pairs in 1988 (Garza et al. 2003). The Spanish population was assessed as 2,200-2,800 pairs in 2009, covering an approximate area of 150,000 ha, with clear evidence of declines (Suárez 2010). In terms of structure, the southern Spanish subpopulations comprise fewer than 25 pairs, with the largest having only 12 pairs, and other subpopulations containing fewer than 3 pairs (Garrido & Ruiz 2016). There have been reports of extinctions of a high number of Spanish subpopulations in the last two decades (Suárez, 2010; Pérez-Granados et al., 2013; Pérez-Granados & López-Iborra 2013), and Pérez-Granados & López-Iborra (2014) found that the Spanish population declined by 70% between 1997 and 2013, with at least 40 subpopulations becoming extinct. Additionally, Garza & Traba (2016) found that 20 subpopulations went extinct between 2006 and 2015 from across its Spanish distribution.

A population viability analysis for part of the Spanish population showed an increased extinction risk in the short to medium term for more than half of the existing populations in that region (Laiolo et al. 2008). The populations with highest extinction risk are those that have the smallest number and highest degree of isolation, supported by the documented extinction during the last decade of such populations (Tella et al. 2005; Garza & Traba 2016). Fragmentation plays a more important role when the local populations are small and isolated, because in such situations they depend only on their population productivity (Laiolo et al. 2008), and rescue effect from neighbouring ‘source’ populations is limited (Laiolo & Tella 2008).

In Morocco, the species has a scattered and uneven distribution, and is not recorded in large areas of apparently suitable habitat; and population size estimates do vary considerably. For instance, recent work in Morocco calculated a population of 11,200-20,200 males (Suárez 2010), but El Agbani & Qninba (2011) estimated only 2,000-3,000 pairs. As well as declines noted in Spain, habitat loss has been recorded within the Moroccan breeding range, but its impact and overall trends are not well understood.

The number of birds in eastern populations is not known, but it appears likely that the global population numbers a minimum of 36,000 individuals and may be considerably higher than this (BirdLife International 2017).

As well as declines noted in Spain, habitat loss has been recorded within the Moroccan breeding range, but its impact and overall trends are not well understood. Also, climate change projections indicate loss of >70% potential area in Spain (Huntley et al. 2007; Araujo et al. 2011).

The species is currently globally listed as Near Threatened (BirdLife International 2017). The European Red List of Birds lists the species as Vulnerable in Europe (BirdLife International 2015) on the basis of its small declining population. Pérez-Granados & López-Iborra (2014) have proposed listing it as Endangered in Spain (the only European population) on the basis of a steep decline that had not been quantified when the European Red List was compiled.

Although only around 13% of the species’ global population occurs in Europe and globally its status depends on trends in NW Africa, where the species has not been well studied, moderately rapid declines seems to have occurred in some areas of Morocco. If it is now declining overall at a similar rate as in Iberia, then it may qualify for uplisting to Vulnerable under criterion A. However, this would require information from throughout its African range. Therefore, to reassess its global status, we request any information about the species’ current population status and trends in its African range.

 

References

Araujo, M. B.; Guilhaumon, F.; Neto, D. R.; Pozo, I.; Calamaestra, R. 2011. Impactos, Vulnerabilidad y Adaptación al Cambio Climático de la Biodiversidad Española. 2 Fauna de Vertebrados. Dirección General de Medio Natural y Política Forestal. Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, y Medio Rural y Marino. Madrid, 640 pages.

BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

BirdLife International. 2015. European Red List of Birds. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/info/euroredlist.

BirdLife International. 2017. Species factsheet: Chersophilus duponti. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 01/11/2017.

El Agbani, M. A.; Qninba, A. 2011. Les oiseaux d’intérêt patrimonial au Maroc. Publications du Grepom nº3.

Garrido, J. R.; Ruiz, G. 2016. Programa de Emergencias, Control Epidemiológico y Seguimiento de Fauna Silvestre de Andalucía. Seguimiento de Aves Terrestres. Reproducción de 2015. Informe Regional. Consejería de Medio Ambiente y Ordenación del Territorio, Junta de Andalucía, Sevilla. Downloaded from http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/medioambiente/portal_web/web/temas_ambientales/biodiversidad/2_seguimiento/seguimiento_de_aves_terrestres/quieres_saber_mas/Avesterrestres_Reprod_publico_2015.pdf.

Garza, V.; Suárez, F. 1990. Distribution, population and habitat selection of Dupont’s Lark Chersophilus duponti on the Iberian Peninsula. Ardeola 37: 3-12.

Garza, V.; Traba, J.; Suárez, F. 2003. Is the European population of Dupont’s Lark Chersophilus duponti adequately estimated? Bird Study 50: 309-311.

Garza, V.; Traba, J. 2016. El fantasma del páramo. Última llamada para la alondra ricotí: retos para la conservación de una especie amenazada. Quercus 359: 24-33.

Huntley, B.; Green, R. E.; Collingham, Y. C.; Willis, S. G. 2007. A climatic atlas of European breeding birds. Durham University, The RSPB and Lynx Editions, Barcelona.

Laiolo, P.; Tella, J. L. 2008. Social determinants of songbird vocal activity and implications for the persistence of small populations. Animal Conservation 11(5): 433-441.

Laiolo, P.; Vögeli, M.; Serrano, D.; Tella, J. L. 2008. Song diversity predicts population viability in fragmented populations of birds. PLoS ONE 3: e1822. doi:10.

Pérez-Granados, C.; López-Iborra, G. M. 2013. Census of breeding birds and population trends of the Dupont´s lark Chersophilus duponti in eastern Spain. Ardeola 60(1): 143-150.

Pérez-Granados, C.; Noguerales, V.; Serrano-Davies, E. 2013. Alondra ricotí: ¿última baza en la provincia de Toledo? Quercus 329: 64-65.

Pérez-Granados, C.; López-Iborra, G. M. 2014. ¿Por qué la alondra ricotí debe catalogarse como “En peligro de Extinción”? Quercus 337: 18–25.

Suárez, F. (ed.). 2010. La alondra ricotí (Chersophilus duponti). Dirección General para la Biodiversidad. Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Medio Rural y Marino. Madrid.

Suárez F.; Hernández J.; Oñate, J. J.; Garza V.; Hervás, I.; Viñuela, J.; Calero-Riestra M.; García J. T.; Pérez-Tris J. 2008. La alondra ricotí en el Norte de África. Quercus 263: 26-34.

Tella, J. L.; Vögelli, M.; Serrano, D.; Carrete, M. 2005. Current status of the threatened Dupont’s lark Chersophilus duponti in Spain: overestimation, decline, and extinction of local populations. Oryx 39: 90-94.

Tucker, G. M.; Heath, M. F. 1994. Birds in Europe: their conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

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5 Responses to Dupont’s Lark (Chersophilus duponti): Request for information from North Africa

  1. Natalino Fenech says:

    Individuals of this species are likely to sometimes migrate with Short-toed larks. In Malta there are two historic records, one was caught on 15 November 1901 and a more ‘recent one’ belonging to the race margaritae, was identified in a collection of stuffed birds. The bird had been bought from a pet shop, where it was seen in a cage with about a dozen Greater Short-toed Larks (Calandrella brachydactyla). The bird was actually bought as it appeared strange. Short-toed larks used to be trapped in large numbers in Malta at the time. The Dupont’s lark had been trapped in April or May 1998 or 1999. The implication of these two records is that a few birds might be crossing the Mediterranean in both spring and autumn. The record of this bird was given in the book A complete guide to the birds of Malta (Midseabooks 2010)

  2. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our proposal for the 2018 Red List would be to pend the decision on this species and keep this discussion open until 2019, while leaving the current Red List category unchanged in the 2018 update.

    Final 2018 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in November, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  3. Paul Donald says:

    From our forthcoming book on the world’s larks:

    STATUS & CONSERVATION IUCN Red List: Near Threatened. Listed as Vulnerable in Europe and in the European Union in the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International 2015) due to declines in the Spanish population. The Spanish population was estimated at 13,000 pairs in 50 populations in 1988 (Garza & Suárez 1990), but this was revised downwards to 1,300 pairs in 2002-2004, partly due to previous over-estimation (Garza et al. 2003, Pérez-Granados & López-Iborra 2017) but also due to severe declines in core populations and numerous local extinctions in peripheral populations (e.g. Velasco 2004, Tella et al. 2005, Garza et al. 2006, Pérez-Granados & López-Iborra 2013, Pérez-Granados et al. 2017c). More recently the Spanish population has been estimated at 2,200 to 2,700 pairs (Suárez 2010, BirdLife International 2017), although this is likely to be an over-estimate of the current population due to an estimated 3.9% annual decline rate in the population (Gómez-Catasús et al. 2018b). The remaining population occurs in fragments of suitable population which between them cover an area of just over 1,000 km2 of habitat (García Antón et al. 2019). These recent declines follow a longer pattern of decline that has been apparent since at least the nineteenth century (Garza et al. 2006). The range appears to have declined by over 40% since 2000, and has contracted primarily from areas with higher temperature range, lower annual precipitation and where human population density has fallen, suggesting that it is vulnerable to both climate change and to rural abandonment and the consequent loss of traditional grazing patterns (García Antón et al. 2019). Breeding success is relatively high (50% in one study) suggesting that declines are more likely to be driven by low adult or juvenile survival (Pérez-Granados et al. 2017a). The functional population may be even lower because the adult sex ratio is significantly skewed towards males (Suárez et al. 2009a), a common pattern in declining species (Donald 2007). The species is now on the brink of extinction in some provinces, such as Toledo (Pérez-Granados et al. 2013b, Pérez-Granados et al. 2017c).
    Previously the species was trapped in large numbers (Aragüés & Herranz 1983), but the principal factors responsible for recent declines are agricultural intensification, habitat loss and fragmentation, reduced grazing pressure, the introduction of new crops and commercial afforestation (Iñigo et al. 2008, Suárez 2010). Wind farms pose a further threat, and Dupont’s Lark populations have been shown to be negatively impacted by their presence over distances of several kilometres (Gómez-Catasús et al. 2018a). Fragmentation and isolation are leading to inbreeding, the erosion of genetic diversity and the erosion of song transmission in small populations of fewer than 20 territories and in populations separated by more than 30 km from other populations, and translocation has been suggested as a way to improve genetic diversity in small and isolated populations (Laiolo & Tella 2005, García et al. 2008a, Méndez et al. 2011, Méndez et al. 2014, Pérez-Granados et al. 2016).
    Dupont’s Lark populations isolated in the Iberian Peninsula, Morocco, and Tunisia are distinct evolutionary entities and should be considered as such in conservation plans (García et al. 2008a), but very little is known of populations or trends of the species outside Spain. There may have been some loss of habitat in one area of Morocco, but this does not seem to have been a general pattern (García et al. 2008b). The population may also have declined in Tunisia (Isenmann et al. 2005) and in Libya (Isenmann et al. 2016).
    The species’ restriction to a particular and threatened habitat type, within which it occurs at low densities, its strict territoriality and the requirement of a permeable habitat matrix to allow the dispersal of young birds make the conservation of this species problematic (Garza et al. 2005). Prescribed burning of shrub-steppe habitats has the effect of greatly reducing Dupont’s Lark densities, and while it may be a useful way of creating new habitat from other habitat types, it is unlikely to be effective as a way of managing populations (Pérez-Granados et al. 2013a). An EU action plan has been prepared (Iñigo et al. 2008). Suggested conservation actions include reducing tree density in flat areas, converting dry crops to shrubland, promoting the growth of chamaephytes by clearing phanerophytes, encouraging traditional low-level transhumance grazing and coordinating action across municipal boundaries (Seoane et al. 2006, Pérez-Granados & López-Iborra 2014, Garza & Traba 2016, Pérez-Granados et al. 2017b, Aguirre et al. 2018). Most of the species’ remaining populations are included within Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) but less than half fall within Nature 2000 Special Protection Areas (García Antón et al. 2019).

  4. Spanish –European, population is dramatically decreasing in its all over range, especially in Southern limit of distribution and according to Pérez-Granados & López-Iborra (2014), Gómez-Catasús et al. (2018) and García Antón et al. (2019) this European population should be uplisted to Endangered under criterion A.
    In North Africa published data shows decreasing because overgrazing and agricultural development in Tunisia (Isemann et al. 2005, Azafzaz et al. 2015) and maybe Algeria, where Isenmann and Moali (2000) do not indicate any location in the East where previously there was. There is also no recent information about conservation status from Lybia (without any record since 1971, Isenmann et al. 2016) and Egypt. Thus, García et al. (2010) suggested that main available habitat to the species (area of steppes dominated by halfa grass Stipa tennacissima) in all North Africa has been reduced, especially in Eastern Morocco and Tunisia, where surface of this potential habitat were estimated in only 56 km2. According to these authors situation in Lybia and Egypt could be even worse and reasons of decline are agricultural development and overgrazing, but also increasing of droughts because climate change with an increase in the cover of sandy soils at the expense of hard and pebbly surfaces. All these factors would have increased in the last ten years with the increasing of human population and, consequently livestock overgrazing and agricultural transformation of lands.
    On the other hand, according to E-birds there are some new locations in Southern Morocco, Northeastern Algeria and Southern Lybia. Because that, I think it could be difficult to uplist to Vulnerable in its global range according to our actual knowledge, but all scarce known data could support the uplisting according to criterion A3c because the global decline of habitat quality and a population reduction suspected to be met in the future (if not already in the present).
    Anyway, I think it would be essential to establish a global survey to determine range of species in North Africa.
    REFERENCES
    Pérez-Granados C, López-Iborra GM. 2014 ¿Por qué la alondra ricotí debe catalogarse como ‘En peligro de extinción’? Quercus 337:18–25.
    Gómez-Catasús J, Pérez-Granados C, Barrero A, Bota G, Giralt D, López-Iborra GM, Serrano D, Traba J. 2018. European population trends and current conservation status of an endangered steppe-bird species: the Dupont’s lark Chersophilus duponti. PeerJ 6:e5627 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.5627.
    García Antón A, Garza V, Hernández Justribó J, Traba J (2019) Correction: Factors affecting Dupont’s lark distribution and range regression in Spain. PLOS ONE 14(6): e0219092. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0219092.
    Isenmann , P., Gaultier, R., El Hili, A., Azafzaf , H., Dlensi, H. & Smart, M. 2005. Oiseaux de Tunisie. Société d’Études Ornithologiques de France, Paris, France.
    Azafzaf, H., Feltrup-Azafzaf, C., Dlensi, H. & Isenmann, P. 2015. Nouvelles données sur l’avifaune de Tunisie (2005-2014). Alauda 83: 7-28.
    Isenmann , P. & Moali, A. 2000. The Birds of Algeria. Société d’Études Ornithologiques de France,, Paris, France.
    Isenmann , P., Hering, J., Brehmen, S., Essgahier, M., Etayeb, K., Bourass, E. & Azafzaf , H. 2016. Oiseaux de Libye. Société d’Études Ornithologiques de France, Paris, France.
    García JT, Suárez F, Calero-Riestra M, Garza V, Viñuela J, Justribó JH. 2010 La alondra ricotí en el norte de África: distribución, tamaño poblacional y relaciones filogenéticas con las poblaciones ibéricas. In: Suárez F, editor. La alondra ricotí (Chersophilus duponti). Dirección General para la Biodiversidad. Madrid: Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Medio Rural y Marino; 2010 pp. 29–37.

  5. Rob Martin (BirdLife International) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our proposal for the 2019 Red List would be to pend the decision on this species and keep this discussion open until 2020, while leaving the current Red List category unchanged in the 2019 update.

    Final 2018 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in November, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

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