Guadeloupe Woodpecker (Melanerpes herminieri): revise global status?

BirdLife species factsheet for Guadeloupe Woodpecker

Guadeloupe Woodpecker (Melanerpes herminieri) is endemic to the Island of Guadeloupe in the Lesser Antilles. It occurs from sea-level to the tree-line at 1,000 m, but is most common at 100-700 m (Winkler et al. 1995, Villard and Rousteau 1998). The population numbers > 8,000 breeding pairs (Villard et al. 2010), which equates to at least 16,000 mature individuals and 24,000 individuals in total. The majority of the population occurs on the island of Basse-Terre in western Guadeloupe, while a smaller percentage inhabits the island of Grande-Terre (Winkler et al. 2018).

The species inhabits all types of forest within the range, from humid semi-deciduous and evergreen forest to mangroves and swamp forest (Villard and Rousteau 1998). It also occurs near plantations with large trees (Winkler et al. 2018). Preferred habitats with the highest estimated population densities are evergreen secondary forest, followed by swamp forest and rainforest (Villard et al. 2010).

A major threat to the Guadeloupe Woodpecker is the loss of forests and the removal of dead trees, destroying its habitat and nesting sites, due to clear-cuts and infrastructural development (Raffaele et al. 1998, Villard and Rousteau 1998, Villard et al. 2010). Forest destruction by hurricanes can have a similarly serious impact on habitat availability for Guadeloupe Woodpecker. Further threats are the potential introduction of rats Rattus spp., pesticide use and illegal hunting (Winkler et al. 2018).

Guadeloupe Woodpecker is currently listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, approaching the threshold for listing as threatened under Criterion B1ab(ii,iii,v). However, using new information regarding population trends and availability of suitable habitat, this species appears to warrant a change in Red List status. Therefore, we present here our reassessment against all criteria for the species.

Criterion A – Between 1994 and 2007, the global population of Guadeloupe Woodpecker has been overall stable or increasing slowly (Villard et al. 2010). Kilometric index surveys found that the population on the island of Basse-Terre has been increasing considerably between 2008 and 2015, while the population on the island of Grande-Terre seemed to be declining (G. van Laere in litt. 2016). Considering that about 75% of the population occurs on Basse-Terre (Villard and Rosteau 1998, Winkler et al. 2018), the increase there potentially outweighs the decline on Grande-Terre, and the population is overall considered to be increasing (van Laere 2015). The rate of forest loss within the Guadeloupe Woodpecker’s range between 2000 and 2012 has been negligible (1.4% over three generations; Tracewski et al. 2016). Hurricane Maria, which hit the Caribbean in 2017, did not severely impact on the forest cover on Guadeloupe (Global Forest Watch 2014). Consequently, Guadeloupe Woodpecker may be listed as Least Concern under Criterion A.

Criterion B – Using a Minimum Convex Polygon, the Extent of Occurrence (EOO) has been calculated as 2,500 km2, which meets the threshold for listing as Endangered under Criterion B1 (EOO < 5,000 km2). However, to be listed under this criterion, at least two of three further conditions have to be met.

The species is widespread across Guadeloupe and it is thus assumed to occur at >> 10 locations* (BirdLife International 2018). Even though its habitat shows some degree of fragmentation particularly on Grande-Terre and western Basse-Terre (Global Forest Watch 2014), the species should not be considered severely fragmented per IUCN definition (see IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee 2017). Guadeloupe Woodpecker therefore does not meet condition (a). AOO as well as area, extent and/or quality of habitat are declining slowly (Tracewski et al. 2016), and the species meets condition (b) under subconditions (ii,iii). However, Guadeloupe Woodpecker does not undergo extreme fluctuations and so does not meet condition (c).

Therefore, even though Guadeloupe Woodpecker occurs in a very small range and consequently in restricted EOO and AOO, it does not trigger sufficient conditions for listing as threatened under criterion B.  As such, it may be listed as Least Concern under this criterion.

Criterion C – The population size has been estimated to number at least 16,000 mature individuals and to be stable or slightly increasing. Therefore, Guadeloupe Woodpecker does not fall below the threshold for Vulnerable (10,000 mature individuals and declining) and may be listed as Least Concern under this criterion.

Criterion D – The species’s population size and range are too large to warrant listing as threatened, and thus Guadeloupe Woodpecker may be considered Least Concern under Criterion D.

Criterion E – To the best of our knowledge no quantitative analysis of extinction risk has been conducted for this species. Therefore, it cannot be assessed against this criterion.

Therefore, it is proposed that Guadeloupe Woodpecker (Melanerpes herminieri) be listed as Least Concern. We welcome any comments on this proposed listing.

Please note that this topic is not designed to be a general discussion about the ecology of the species, rather a discussion of its Red List status. Therefore, please make sure your comments are relevant to the discussion outlined in the topic.

*The term ‘location’ refers to a distinct area in which a single threatening event can rapidly affect all individuals of the taxon present, with the size of the location depending on the area covered by the threatening event. Where a taxon is affected by more than one threatening event, location should be defined by considering the most serious plausible threat (IUCN 2001, 2012).

An information booklet on the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here and the Red List Criteria Summary Sheet can be downloaded here. Detailed guidance on IUCN Red List terms and definitions and the application of the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here.


BirdLife International. 2018. Species factsheet: Melanerpes herminieri. (Accessed 07 December 2018).

Global Forest Watch. 2014. World Resources Institute. (Accessed 07 December 2018).

IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee. 2017. Guidelines for Using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Version 13. Prepared by the Standards and Petitions Subcommittee.

Raffaele, H.; Wiley, J.; Garrido, O.; Keith, A.; Raffaele, J. 1998. Birds of the West Indies. Christopher Helm, London.

Tracewski, Ł.; Butchart, S. H. M.; Di Marco, M.; Ficetola, G. F.; Rondinini, C.; Symes, A.; Wheatley, H.; Beresford, A. E.; Buchanan, G. M. 2016. Toward quantification of the impact of 21st-century deforestation on the extinction risk of terrestrial vertebrates. Conservation Biology 30: 1070-1079.

Van Laere, G. 2015. Indice kilométrique pour le suivi des populations de Pic de la Guadeloupe (Melanerpes herminieri). Analyse des résultats 2015. Report. Parc national de la Guadeloupe.

Villard, P.; Feldmann, P.; Ferchal, A.; Pavis, C. 2010. Population size and habitat associations of the endemic Guadeloupe Woodpecker. Journal of Field Ornithology 81(3): 278-286.

Villard, P.; Rousteau, A. 1998. Habitats, density, population size, and the future of the Guadeloupe Woodpecker (Melanerpes herminieri). Ornitologia Neotropical 9(2): 121-128.

Winkler, H.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. 2018. Guadeloupe Woodpecker (Melanerpes herminieri). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain. (Accessed 07 December 2018).

Winkler, H.; Christie, D. A.; Nurney, D. 1995. Woodpeckers: a guide to the woodpeckers, piculets and wrynecks of the world. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, U.K.

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1 Response to Guadeloupe Woodpecker (Melanerpes herminieri): revise global status?

  1. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Preliminary proposal
    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2019 Red List would be to adopt the proposed classifications outlined in the initial forum discussion.
    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline in mid-July, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.
    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from those in the initial proposal.
    The final 2019 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

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