Archived 2017 topics: Chestnut Seedeater (Sporophila cinnamomea): downlist from Vulnerable to Near Threatened?

This discussion was first published as part of the 2016 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 2017 Red List update this post remained open and the date of posting was updated.

BirdLife species factsheet for Chestnut Seedeater

Chestnut Seedeater breeds in north-eastern Argentina, southern Paraguay, western and south-eastern Uruguay and extreme southern Brazil. It winters largely in central Brazil and eastern Paraguay. The species is currently listed as Vulnerable under A2cde+3cde+4cde; C2a(i). A rapid and on-going decline is suspected, owing to trapping for the bird trade, compounded by habitat loss and degradation. The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals with <1,000 mature individuals in each subpopulation.

In 1969, there were c.100 males at Arroyo Barú and Arroyo Perucho Verna, Argentina, but only one singing male at Arroyo Barú in 1992 (Pearman and Abadie 1995). Surveys in 1991-1993 found no more than eight males at any site in Argentina (Pearman and Abadie 1995). In 1998, there were 23 males at Ñu Guazu, Paraguay (R. P. Clay in litt. 1999) but only two were found here in November 2006 and the majority of records since 2004 relate to single birds (A. B. Lesterhuis in litt. 2007). Heavy trapping pressure is compounded by extensive conversion within the species’s grassland habitat. Rapid afforestation with Eucalyptus and Pinus spp. (Pearman and Abadie 1995, World Bank 1995, Clay et al. in prep.) is even affecting wet valley bottoms, regardless of subsequent poor tree growth (R. Davies verbally 1998). Pesticides and other chemicals are carried by drainage and run-off directly into marshes (Clay et al. in prep.). Mechanised agriculture, invasive grasses and annual burning additionally threaten winter and migration habitats (Stotz et al. 1996, Parker and Willis 1997). In southern Paraguay seasonally inundated grasslands and marshes are being converted to rice fields and this has already taken place in much of the Ñu Guazu area since the species was recorded there in 1998 (A. B. Lesterhuis in litt. 2007).

In the Brazilian Red List assessment for birds (MMA 2014) this species is listed as Near Threatened. Given that Brazil represents a large proportion of the global wintering range, should the species be downlisted to Near Threatened globally?

Up-to-date information is requested on the species’s population size, structure and population size reduction. Is the global population likely to be >10,000 mature individuals or is the number of mature individuals in each subpopulation >1,000? In which case the species would no longer meet the thresholds for Vulnerable under C2a(i). Is the population size reduction likely to be <30% over 10 years or three generations? And is the population in continuing decline? A population size reduction approaching but not exceeding 30% in 10 years or three generations owing to a decline in habitat quality /Area of Occupancy/Extent of Occurrence, exploitation or the effects of introduced taxa or pollutants would likely qualify the species for downlisting to Near Threatened under A2cde+3cde+4cde.

Comments on the proposed changes and any new information are welcome.



Clay, R. P.; Lowen, J.C.; Capper, D. R. in prep. A Paraguayan perspective on grassland conservation in central South America.

MMA (2014) Lista Nacional Oficial de Espécies da Fauna Ameaçadas de Extinção. Portaria No 444, de 17 de dezembro de 2014. Diário Oficial da União – Seção 1. Nº 245, quinta-feira, 18 de dezembro de 2014.

Parker, T. A.; Willis, E. O. 1997. Notes on three tiny grassland flycatchers, with comments on the disappearance of South American fire-diversified savannas. Ornithological Monographs 48: 549-555.

Pearman, M.; Abadie, E. I. Undated. Mesopotamia grasslands and wetlands survey, 1991–1993: conservation of threatened birds and habitat in north-east Argentina.

Stotz, D. F.; Fitzpatrick, J. W.; Parker, T. A.; Moskovits, D. K. 1996. Neotropical birds: ecology and conservation. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

World Bank. 1995. Paraguay: agricultural sector review.

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5 Responses to Archived 2017 topics: Chestnut Seedeater (Sporophila cinnamomea): downlist from Vulnerable to Near Threatened?

  1. Rob Clay says:

    A brief visit to Ñu Guazu, Paraguay, in January 2016, revealed at least 8 singing males. This is the only known breeding site in Paraguay. It’s an extensive area of grassland and wetlands, some of which has been converted to rice fields. The area where birds were first located in the 1998 is now too heavily grazed for seedeaters to breed. While it seems likely that the population is larger than 8 males, there is an ongoing threat to the habitat (overgrazing, and potentially conversion to rice).

  2. Adrian Di Giacomo says:

    The breeding habitat in Argentina, outside of the few extant protected areas, has declined in the last decade by afforestation and the intensification of agriculture and livestock. The activity of bird trapping of the genus Sporophila in NE Argentina also is continuing, not stopped. I think in Argentina we don’t have evidences for support this change in the category, on the contrary could be worse on the basis of the habitat loss and persecution.

  3. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Based on available information, our proposal for the 2016 Red List would be to pend the decision on this species and keep this discussion open until 2017, while leaving the current Red List category unchanged in the 2016 update.

    Final 2016 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  4. Hemos monitoreado a la especie durante 3 temporadas reproductivas en parte del IBA “Lorenzo Geyres and Quebracho Grasslands” (UY008). Trabajamos en algunas áreas pilotos donde consideramos que podría estar la especie pero presentaban pastoreo por ganado bovino y se encontraba cercano a grandes áreas forestadas. Excluímos el ganado en primavera-verano para lograr pastos de altura. Luego del primer año en las tres áreas piloto se registró a la especie. Las área son pequeñas y en general solo se registran un par de individuos, máximo 4. Comenzamos a buscar a la especie en otras regiones cercanas sin manejo. Existen muy pocos ambientes que provean pastizales de altura que las especies utiliza. Principalmente se observan en sitios bajos cerca a pequeños cursos de agua, pero son puntuales. Estos suelen ser sitios donde no se realizan cultivos. Tampoco tenemos claro el éxito reproductivo en estos sitios, si bien se han registrado juveniles.
    Sin duda debe haber más individuos en esta IBA pero en una misma temporada consideramos que no registramos más de 10 individuos.
    Si bien en Uruguay se registra en gran parte del país, es muy poco frecuente de observar y los registros son puntuales. Esto probablemente responda a los pocos pastizales de altura que se observan en el país.

  5. Hannah Wheatley (BirdLife) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2017 Red List would be to retain this species as VU under criteria A2cde+3cde+4cde;C2a(i).

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 4 August, 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 the initial proposal.

    The final 2017 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

Comments are closed.