Slaty-backed Hemispingus (Poospiza goeringi): revise global status?

BirdLife species factsheet for Slaty-backed Hemispingus

Slaty-backed Hemispingus (Poospiza goeringi) is endemic to Venezuela, where it occurs in the Cordillera de Mérida in the west of the country. It inhabits cloud and elfin forest at 2,600-3,200 m, but appears to tolerate shrubby and degraded secondary habitats (Hilty and Sharpe 2020). The species is locally uncommon to very common, and the population size has tentatively been placed in the band 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.

The species is threatened by habitat loss. Forest in the Cordillera de Mérida have been logged for agricultural conversion, potentially to be compounded by proposed mining and road construction (M. L. Goodwin in litt. 1993, C. J. Sharpe in litt. 1997, 2003). However, this destruction has been concentrated in areas below the species’s altitudinal range.

Slaty-backed Hemispingus has been considered Vulnerable under Criterion D2 (BirdLife International 2020). However, new information regarding trends in habitat availability suggest that the species may warrant a change in Red List status. Therefore, we have fully reviewed the species here against all Red List criteria.

Criterion A – The population trend has not been assessed directly. The only threat known to Slaty-backed Hemispingus is habitat loss. The species is thought to potentially have declined in the past as a consequence of the loss and fragmentation of its forest habitat, however forest loss has likely always been low within the range (Sharpe 2008). Over the past ten years (one generation length being 2.7 years; Bird et al. 2020*), deforestation rates within the range have been negligible (< 1%; Tracewski et al. 2016, Global Forest Watch 2020). Hence, in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats, the population is assessed as stable. The species is therefore listed as Least Concern under Criterion A.

Criterion B – The newly calculated Extent of Occurrence (EOO) for this species is 8,300 km2. This is meets the threshold for Vulnerable under Criterion B1. However, in order to be listed as threatened, a species needs to fulfil at least two further conditions.

Given the homogeneity and stability of forests within the range, Slaty-backed Hemispingus cannot be considered severely fragmented sensu IUCN (IUCN Standards and Petitions Committee 2019). There are currently no substantial threats to the species, hence the number of locations** cannot be quantified. Condition a is not met. Habitat availability and population size are stable, and consequently conditions b and c are not met. Therefore, even though the EOO is small, the species does not fulfil the conditions required to be listed as threatened under Criterion B. It therefore qualifies as Least Concern under this criterion.

Criterion C – The global population is thought to number 1,500-7,000 mature individuals. The population is thought to be stable. Slaty-backed Hemispingus therefore qualifies as Least Concern under Criterion C.

Criterion D – The global population size is placed in the band 1,500-7,000 mature individuals. Assuming that the true population size is closer to the lower end of the estimate, Slaty-backed Hemispingus warrants listing as Near Threatened, approaching the threshold for listing as threatened under Criterion D1. The number of locations* cannot be quantified as the species is currently not facing any threats that could rapidly extirpate large parts of the population within the next generation (2.7 years; Bird et al. 2020*), and hence the species cannot be assessed against Criterion D2.

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

Therefore, it is suggested that Slaty-backed Hemispingus (Poospiza goerinig) be listed as Near Threatened, approaching the threshold for listing as threatened under Criterion D1.We welcome any comments to the 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 the species’ Red List status. Therefore, please make sure your comments are relevant to the species’ Red List status and the information requested. By submitting a comment, you confirm that you agree to the Comment Policy.

*Bird generation lengths are estimated using the methodology of Bird et al. (2020), as applied to parameter values updated for use in each IUCN Red List for birds reassessment cycle. Values used for the current assessment are available on request. We encourage people to contact us with additional or improved values for the following parameters; adult survival (true survival accounting for dispersal derived from an apparently stable population); mean age at first breeding; and maximum longevity (i.e. the biological maximum, hence values from captive individuals are acceptable).

**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.


Bird, J. P.; Martin, R.; Akçakaya, H. R.; Gilroy, J.; Burfield, I. J.; Garnett, S.; Symes, A.; Taylor, J.; Šekercioğlu, Ç.; Butchart, S. H. M. 2020. Generation lengths of the world’s birds and their implications for extinction risk. Conservation Biology online first view.

BirdLife International. 2020. Species factsheet: Poospiza goeringi. (Accessed 24 April 2020).

Global Forest Watch. 2020. Interactive Forest Change Mapping Tool. (Accessed 24 April 2020).

Hilty, S.; Sharpe, C. J. 2020. Slaty-backed Hemispingus (Poospiza goeringi), version 1.0 In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D. A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). Birds of the World. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. (Accessed 24 April 2020).

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.

IUCN Standards and Petitions Committee. 2019. Guidelines for using the IUCN Red List Categoreis and Criteria. Version 14.

Sharpe, C. J. 2008. Aves. In: Rodríguez, J. P.; Rojas-Suárez, F. (eds.). Libro Rojo de la fauna Venezolana, 3ra edición. Provita and Shell Venezuela, S. A., Caracas, Venezuela.

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.

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3 Responses to Slaty-backed Hemispingus (Poospiza goeringi): revise global status?

  1. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Global Forest Change data on tree cover loss up to 2019 have now been released and made available via Global Forest Watch. Based on these data, over ten years approximately 0.6% of tree cover with >30% canopy cover was lost from within the species’s range (Global Forest Watch 2020). This does not affect the above assessment under Criterion A.

  2. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    The window for consultation is now closed. We will analyse and interpret the new information and post a preliminary decision on this species’s Red List status on this page in early July.

    Thank you,
    BirdLife Red List Team

  3. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Preliminary proposal

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2020 Red List would be to adopt the proposed classification 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 2020 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2020/January 2021, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

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