Archived 2011-2012 topics: Galapagos Martin (Progne modesta): uplist to Endangered?

Initial deadline for comments: 31 January 2012.

BirdLife species factsheet for Galapagos Martin

Galapagos Martin Progne modesta occurs on the central and southern islands of the Galápagos Archipelago, where it frequents a wide range of habitats. It is currently listed as Vulnerable under criterion D1, on the basis that it is estimated to have a very small population (<1,000 mature individuals), but with no clear information on the population trend or potential threats.

Recent estimates, however, suggest that the population may number fewer than 500 birds (Wiedenfeld and Jiménez-Uzcátegui 2008, D. Wiedenfeld in litt. 2011). If evidence suggests that the population includes fewer than 250 mature individuals, the species may qualify as Endangered under criterion D1. If there is insufficient evidence on which to base a lower population estimate, it could nevertheless qualify as Endangered under criterion C2 if there is evidence of a continuing decline AND evidence that at least 95% of mature individuals are in a single sub-population (EN C2aii) or that all sub-populations number fewer than 250 mature individuals (EN C2ai).

For the purposes of Red List assessments, sub-populations are defined as geographically or otherwise distinct groups between which there is little or no demographic or genetic exchange, i.e. typically one successful migrant per year or less.

We invite comments on the status of this species, particularly information on the population size and trend: are there likely to be fewer than 250 mature individuals, and can a continuing population decline be inferred in the present or projected in the future?


Wiedenfeld, D. A. and Jiménez-Uzcátegui, G. A. (2008) Critical problems for bird conservation in the Galápagos Islands. Cotinga 29: 22-27

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5 Responses to Archived 2011-2012 topics: Galapagos Martin (Progne modesta): uplist to Endangered?

  1. Glyn Young says:

    Almost nothing at all is known about this bird. Sightings are rare and erratic and a brief scan of reports from birding tour groups suggests that very few are ever seen. There may be some identification problems with migratory species making it likely that Galapagos martin is even rarer than thought. However, with the majority of this large archipelago unvisited in any year it is difficult to be certain on population and trends. I think it unlikely that there are more than 500 birds and there could be much less than 100 but it is currently difficult to know

  2. Uplist to Endangered would help to draw attention to do further monitory over several years. My experience in the 1960s-1970s is that it was common to see groups of 10-15 in Academy Bay and Tagus Cove where supposedly nesting occurred, but as far as I know never details have been published.

    Irregular visits afterwards to these places would not be a good indicater as that could be out of the breeding season. Sites should be monitored and sizes of colonies established. So I feel for uplisting to endangered and would stress for further studies whether a decline exists.

  3. David Wiedenfeld says:

    This species is known from only a very few, specific sites around the archipelago. It is definitely a rare species. As Tjitte mentions, it was once seen regularly around Academy Bay, but now is seen less than 1 sighting per year. It most definitely seems to be a species that has declined dramatically. However, because so little is known of the species, it is not clear exactly what might be the causes.
    I think it is probably one of the three most threatened bird species in Galapagos.

  4. Peter Grant says:

    We have seen martins on Daphne Major island every year since our long-term study of finches began in 1973. They occasionally fly towards the north shore of Santa Cruz, where we have also seen them in small numbers (less than half a dozen). They may nest on the steep cliffs of Daphne and forage on the coast of Santa Cruz. In most years we have recorded the minimum number of martins present on Daphne during the first half of the calendar year (typically the first three months). These numbers may reflect a population decline, although this is not certain because the estimates were not made systematically. The annual averages, followed in parentheses by the ranges, for each decade are as follows: 1973-82…10.3 (8-14); 1983-92…11.0 (6-22); 1993-2002…6.4 (5-10); 2003-2012…4.1 (1-12).

  5. David Wiedenfeld says:

    I think the birds seen on Daphne Major and the north of Santa Cruz are probably representatives of a population that lives somewhere around the east end of Canal Itabaca. They are also regularly seen on the southeast corner of Baltra Island. All of these locations are within sight of one another.
    A new wind power farm is being built on southeastern Baltra, which may pose a threat to those birds.

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