BirdLife species factsheet for Black-breasted Puffleg
This discussion was first published as part of the 2017 Red List update. At the time, a decision regarding the status of this species was pended and the post remained open. Following experts’ review of the species factsheet, the topic has now been updated to reflect the most recent information. The initial topic on this analysis can be found here.
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. A second subpopulation was re-discovered in 2006 in the Cordillera de Toisán above the Intag valley (Jahn 2008, Aves y Conservación 2018). Sightings on the Atacazo volcano south-west of Quito could not be confirmed; however, it is possible that a small population will occur there.
The species appears to be scarce even in suitable habitat (T. Santander in litt. 2019). At Yanacocha-Verdecocha on the Pichincha volcano, a maximum of four individuals have been observed together during each transect count (T. Santander in litt. 2019, H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2020). The population in this area has preliminarily been estimated at up to 20 individuals (H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2020). Including further individuals in inaccessible, steep terrain and along the western slopes, the subpopulation at Pichincha volcano may number up to 80 individuals (H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2020), which roughly equates to 50 mature individuals. The subpopulation in the Cordillera de Toisán is less well studied. A recent survey however found the subpopulation to be likely larger than the subpopulation on the Pichincha volcano (L. Calapi, W. Arteaga and K. Varela per S. Bos in litt. 2020, Ulloa 2020). The global population is thus tentatively placed in the band 100-150 mature individuals. This estimate may require revision as soon as detailed population data from the Cordillera de Toisán becomes available.
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 (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 and push the species above the current treeline (Jahn 2008, Jahn and Santander 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) (BirdLife International 2020). However, in 2008 it had been suggested that classifying the species as Critically Endangered may have been too precautionary, and it has been recommended that downlisting might be appropriate, pending that the persistence of the subpopulation in the Cordillera de Toisán be confirmed (Jahn 2008). The recent discovery of a subpopulation in this area confirms this condition. This new information suggest that this species may warrant a change in Red List status. Therefore, we present here our reassessment against all criteria for the species.
Criterion A – The population of Black-breasted Puffleg is suspected to be in decline based on habitat loss within its range, the rate of which is likely lower than 10% over ten years (Santander et al. 2004, Cárdenas 2007, O. Jahn in litt. 2007, Tracewski et al. 2016, Global Forest Watch 2020; one generation length being 2.1 years; Bird et al. 2020)*. Considering the threat posed by additional habitat degradation, the rate of population decline may be higher than the rate of forest loss, and is here tentatively placed in the band 10-19% over ten years. Therefore, Black-breasted Puffleg qualifies as Least Concern under Criterion A.
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 600 km2. The maximum Area of Occupancy (AOO), calculated by a 4 km2 grid over the area of mapped range, is 100 km2. These values meet the thresholds for listing as Endangered under Criterion B1+2. 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 at least two, but potentially less than five, separate locations** sensu IUCN (see IUCN Standards and Petitions Committee 2019), which meets the threshold for Endangered under condition a. The EOO, AOO and habitat quality are inferred to be in a slow continuing decline, meeting the threshold under condition b(i,ii,iii). 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)+ 2ab(i,ii,iii).
Criterion C – The population of Black-breasted Puffleg is preliminarily estimated to number 100-150 mature individuals, though this may be an underestimate given that the subpopulation in the Cordillera de Toisán is likely larger than thought. The subpopulation on Pichincha volcano is estimated at up to 50 mature individuals (H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2020), while the subpopulation in Toisán may contain a slightly higher number of mature individuals (L. Calapi, W. Arteaga and K. Varela per S. Bos in litt. 2020, Ulloa 2020). This warrants listing as threatened, as long as further conditions are met.
The species is suspected to be in decline. A suspected decline however precludes a listing as threatened under Criterion C, and as such Black-breasted Puffleg can at most be listed as Near Threatened. The rate of decline is thought to be 10-19% over ten years, and sub-criterion 1 is met. Moreover, based on currently available information, both subpopulations are small, with the largest numbering potentially just over 50 mature individuals; hence sub-criterion 2a(i) is met. Therefore, Black-breasted Puffleg qualifies for listing as Near Threatened, approaching the threshold for listing as threatened under Criterion C1+2a(i).
Criterion D – The population size of this species is preliminarily estimated at 100-150 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)+2ab(i,ii,iii); D. We welcome any comments on this proposed listing and specifically request up-to-date information on the size of the subpopulation in the Cordillera de Toisán.
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.
*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).
**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).
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Bleiweiss, R.; Olalla, M. 1983. Notes on the ecology of the Black-breasted Puffleg on Volcan Pichincha, Ecuador. Wilson Bulletin 94: 656-661.
Global Forest Watch. 2020. Interactive Forest Change Mapping Tool. http://www.globalforestwatch.org (Accessed 23 April 2020).
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 Committee. 2019. Guidelines for Using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Version 14. 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.
Montenegro, E. 2017. Informe viaje a reserve Cotacachi-Cayapas, localidad Cayapachupa. En busca del Zamarrito Pechinegro (Eriocnemis nigrivestis). Unpublished report.
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.
Ulloa, C. 2020. Growing flowers to save a Critically Endangered hummingbird. http://www.birdlife.org/worldwide/news/growing-flowers-save-critically-endangered-hummingbird (Accessed 23 April 2020).
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.