BirdLife species factsheet for Black-breasted Puffleg
This discussion was first published as part of the 2019 Red List update. At the time a decision regarding the status of this species was pended, but to enable potential reassessment of this species as part of the 2020 Red List update this post remains open and the date of posting has been updated.
Black-breasted Puffleg (Eriocnemnis nigrivestis) is endemic to Ecuador, occurring in the highlands of Pichincha, Esmeraldas and Imbabura provinces. The majority of records come from the northwestern ridge-crests of Pichincha volcano, west of Quito. In 2006, a small population was rediscovered in the Cordillera de Toisán above the Intag valley (Jahn 2008). A recent survey found that this population still persists, albeit in low numbers (Aves y Conservación 2018). The total population is estimated to number 210-268 individuals, roughly equating to 140-180 mature individuals (Jahn 2008). Sightings on the Atacazo volcano south-west of Quito could not be confirmed; however, it is possible that a small population will occur there.
Black-breasted Puffleg inhabits humid and wet montane cloud forest at 1,700-3,500 m (Jahn 2008, Jahn and Santander 2008). The species has occasionally been recorded along bushy forest edges along road sides, steep slopes with stunted vegetation and from taller montane forest interiors and clearings (Bleiweiss and Olalla 1983, Santander et al. 2004, Jahn 2008, Jahn and Santander 2008). However, recent research suggests that the species strongly avoids edge habitats (Guevara et al. 2015). Black-breasted Puffleg undergoes seasonal altitudinal migrations, which are thought to be determined by the flowering of specific vines and species such as fuchsias and ericaceous trees (Bleiweiss and Olalla 1983).
The species is suspected to have suffered drastic declines owing to habitat loss within its small range and is now rare (Phillips 1998). Around 93% of suitable habitat within its probable historic range has been degraded or destroyed (Williams and Santander 2003). The main threat is the logging of forest for timber, charcoal and mining concessions, facilitating the introduction of cattle and the spread of the agricultural frontier (Phillips 1998, Santander et al. 2004, Jahn 2008). Additionally, human-induced fires threaten large tracts of forest during the dry season (Jahn 2008). In the future, climate change may render remaining habitat unsuitable (Jahn and Santander 2008) and push the species above the current treeline (Jahn 2008), which could lead to increased competition with Gorgeted Sunangel (Heliangelus strophianus) (Jahn 2008, Guevara 2013).
Black-breasted Puffleg is currently listed as Critically Endangered under Criterion B1ab(i,ii,iii,v), indicating a very small Extent of Occurrence (EOO). However, already in 2008 it has been suggested that classifying the species as Critically Endangered may be too precautionary (Jahn 2008). It has further been recommended that downlisting might be appropriate, pending that the persistence of the population in the Cordillera de Toisán be confirmed. The recent discovery of a pair of Black-breasted Puffleg in this area (Aves y Conservación 2018) confirms this condition.
Following IUCN guidelines, the EOO for this species has been re-calculated using a Minimum Convex Polygon (IUCN 2001, 2012, Joppa et al. 2016). A Minimum Convex Polygon is defined as “the smallest polygon in which no internal angle exceeds 180 degrees and which contains all the sites of occurrence” (IUCN 2001, 2012). For a species occurring in several discrete patches, this would still take the form of one continuous area, rather than separate polygons, as such disjunctions are ‘strongly discouraged’ by IUCN (IUCN Petitions and Standards Subcommittee 2017). This is because using separate, discrete polygons would not accurately reflect how a large range size reduces the global impact on a species from local processes.
After re-calculating the EOO for Black-breasted Puffleg, this species appears to warrant a change in Red List status. Therefore, we present here our reassessment against all criteria for the species.
The initial topic on this analysis can be found here.
Criterion A – The population of Black-breasted Puffleg is considered to be in decline based on habitat loss within its range, the rate of which is likely lower than 10% over three generations (12.6 years) (Santander et al. 2004, Cárdenas 2007, O. Jahn in litt. 2007, Tracewski et al. 2016). Therefore, Black-breasted Puffleg may be listed as Least Concern under this criterion.
Criterion B – The species is known from the slopes of the Pichincha volcano and in the Cordillera de Toisán. Using a Minimum Convex Polygon, the Extent of Occurrence (EOO) of this species has been calculated as 700 km2, which meets the threshold for listing as Endangered under Criterion B1. The Area of Occupancy (AOO) has not been quantified, and therefore the species cannot be assessed against Criterion B2. However, in order to be listed as threatened under Criterion B, at least two further conditions have to be met.
In view of our current knowledge about the distribution of the species, we can assume that the two known areas of occurrence of Black-breasted Puffleg represent two separate locations* sensu IUCN, which meets the threshold for Endangered under condition (a). The EOO, AOO, habitat quality and population size of Black-breasted Puffleg are in decline, meeting the threshold under condition b(i,ii,iii,v). Black-breasted Puffleg is not known to undergo extreme fluctuations, thus condition (c) is not met. Overall, the species may be listed as Endangered under Criterion B1ab(i,ii,iii,v).
Criterion C – The population of Black-breasted Puffleg is estimated to number 140-180 mature individuals. This estimate appears very precautionary and the true population size may be larger (Jahn 2008). However, based on currently available information, it may warrant listing Black-breasted Puffleg under Criterion C, given the species is considered to be declining, as long as other conditions are met. To be listed under Criterion C1 would require Black-breasted Puffleg to be undergoing a decline of at least 10 % over three generations. As the rate of decline for this species is not known, but likely lower than 10% over this timeframe (Santander et al. 2004, Cárdenas 2007, O. Jahn in litt. 2007, Tracewski et al. 2016), it cannot be assessed against Criterion C1.
Black-breasted Puffleg is known from two locations* on Pichincha Vulcano and outside Cotocachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve in Toisán. Pichincha is believed to support around 160 individuals (Jahn 2008), equalling about 110 mature individuals. The size of the subpopulation of Toisán has not been estimated, but is likely smaller. Jahn (2008) suggested that this subpopulation numbers 48-108 individuals, equalling about 30-70 mature individuals. This means that, while the global population numbers likely less than 250 mature individuals, the largest subpopulation contains more than 50 mature individuals and thus, the conditions for listing the species as Critically Endangered under this criterion are not met. However, as no subpopulation holds more than 250 mature individuals, Black-breasted Puffleg may be listed as Endangered under Criterion C2a(i).
Criterion D – The population size of this species is estimated at 140-180 mature individuals. Therefore, it may be listed as Endangered 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 Black-breasted Puffleg (Eriocnemis nigrivestis) be listed as Endangered under Criteria B1ab(i,ii,iii,v); C2a(i); D. We welcome any comments on this proposed listing and specifically request up-to-date information on the size of the subpopulations of Black-breasted Puffleg.
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.
*Note that 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, 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.
Aves y Conservación. 2018. Se registra nuevamente al Zamarrito Pechinegro en Imbabura. http://avesconservacion.org/web/se-registra-nuevamente-al-zamarrito-pechinegro-en-imbabura/ (Accessed 18/03/2019).
Bleiweiss, R.; Olalla, M. 1983. Notes on the ecology of the Black-breasted Puffleg on Volcan Pichincha, Ecuador. Wilson Bulletin 94: 656-661.
Guevara, E.A. 2013. Multi-scale habitat use analysis and interspecific ecology of the Critically Endangered Black-breasted Puffleg, Eriocnemis nigrivestis. MSc Thesis. Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Guevara, E.A.; Bonaccorso, E.; Duivenvoorden, J.F. 2015. Multi-scale habitat use analysis and interspecific ecology of the Critically Endangered Black-breasted Puffleg Eriocnemis nigrivestis. Bird Conservation International: 1-10.
IUCN. 2001. IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria: Version 3.1. IUCN Species Survival Commission. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K.
IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria: Version 3.1. Second edition. IUCN Species Survival Commission. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K. www.iucnredlist.org/technical-documents/categories-and-criteria
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. http://www.iucnredlist.org/documents/RedListGuidelines.pdf
Jahn, O. 2008. Rediscovery of Black-breasted Puffleg Eriocnemis negrivestis in the Cordillera de Toisán, north-west Ecuador, and reassessment of its conservation status. Cotinga: 31-39.
Jahn, O.; Santander, T. 2008. Species action plan: Black-breasted Puffleg Eriocnemis nigrivestis. Aves & Conservación, Quito, Ecuador.
Joppa, L.N.; Butchart, S.H.M.; Hoffmann, M.; Bachman, S.P.; Akçakaya, H.R.; Moat, J.F.; Böhm, M.; Holland, R.A.; Newton, A.; Polidoro, B.; Hughes, A. 2016. Impact of alternative metrics on estimates of extent of occurrence for extinction risk assessment. Conservation Biology 30: 362-370.
Phillips, R. 1998. Red Data Bird: Black-breasted Puffleg Eriocnemis nigrivestis. World Birdwatch 20: 20-21.
Santander, T.; Tellkamp, M.P.; Williams, R.; Davidson, I.J. 2004. Conserving the globally threatened Black-breasted Puffleg Eriocnemis nigrivestis. BirdLife International, Quito, Ecuador.
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.
Williams, R.; Santander, T. 2003. Conservation of the Black-breasted Puffleg Eriocnemis nigrivestis: A review of the species’ range and ecology, mapping of remaining habitat and proposal for the species’ conservation.