Archived 2010-2011 topics: Noble Snipe (Gallinago nobilis): is this species declining?

Link to BirdLife species factsheet for Noble Snipe

Noble Snipe Gallinago nobilis is currently listed as Least Concern because it was not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN criteria.

The species has a large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence less than 20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation); the population trend was thought to be stable, and hence the species did not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (at least a 30% decline over ten years or three generations); the population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (fewer than 10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be at least 10% over ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure).

This species, described as uncommon to fairly numerous across its range (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001, Hilty 2003, Restall et al. 2006), was suspected to have a stable population; however, it has been suggested that it is in fact declining, at least in some areas (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001, Cisneros-Heredia 2006). During the last 30-40 years, an estimated 20-65% of its habitats in Ecuador have been desiccated, or transformed into agricultural lands and suburban areas (Sierra et al. 1999 in Cisneros-Heredia 2006).

The species is a frequent target of hunters across its range, and in some areas of Ecuador over-hunting and habitat degradation appear to be causing local declines (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001, Cisneros-Heredia 2006). Surveys at La Mica Lagoon, Ecuador, indicate a marked decline since 1993, despite an increase in the size of the lagoon due to damming and the subsequent recovery of wet grasslands (Muñoz and Olmedo in Cisneros-Heredia 2006). In the paramos of El Angel and Guamaní, and in the Mojanda lagoons, Ecuador, similar patterns of population decline have been observed, probably caused by over-hunting and burning of large areas. In contrast, stable populations of this species are present in protected areas such as Limpiopungu lagoon in Cotopaxi National Park and a private reserve in the Yanacocha area (Cisneros-Heredia 2006).

Despite the perceived declines, the species has not been listed as threatened or Near Threatened at the national level in Ecuador (Granizo et al. 2002) or Colombia (Renjifo et al. 2002). If the rates of habitat loss and intensity of hunting pressure described by Cisneros-Heredia (2006) for Ecuador are representative of threats throughout its range, this species could be experiencing an ongoing and moderately rapid decline, likely to be approaching 30% over 14 years (estimate of three generations). If this is shown to be the case, the species may be eligible for uplisting to Near Threatened under criteria A2a,c,d; A3a,c,d; A4a,c,d.

With all this in mind, further information is requested on the species’s likely population trend in all range states, as well as the current and past severity of potential threats.

Cisneros-Heredia, D. F. (2006) A preliminary approach to the Snipes (Gallinago) of Ecuador, with remarks on their distribution in Ecuadorian IBAs and its conservation status. WI-WSSG Newsletter 32: 4-11.

Granizo, T., Pacheco, C., Ribadeneira, M. B., Guerrero, M., Suárez, L. eds. (2002) Libro rojo de las aves del Ecuador. Serie Libros Rojos del Ecuador, tomo 2. Quito: SIMBIOE/Conservation International/EcoCiencia/Ministerio del Ambiente/IUCN.

Hilty, S. L. (2003) Birds of Venezuela. London: Christopher Helm.

Renjifo, L. M., Franco-Maya, A. M., Amaya-Espinel, J. D., Kattan, G. H. and López-Lanús, B. eds. (2002) Libro rojo de aves de Colombia. Serie Libros Rojos de Especies Amenazadas de Colombia. Bogotá: Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt y Ministerio del Medio Ambiente.

Restall, R., Rodner, C. and Lentino, M. (2006) Birds of Northern South America: an identification guide. Volume 1: Species Accounts. London: Christopher Helm.

Ridgely, R. S. and Greenfield, P. J. (2001) The Birds of Ecuador: status, distribution and taxonomy. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press and Christopher Helm.

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2 Responses to Archived 2010-2011 topics: Noble Snipe (Gallinago nobilis): is this species declining?

  1. After my publication on the Snipes of Ecuador, I have conducted several other surveys in different areas where Gallinago nobilis occurs or was historically recorded, and the declination trends seem to be apparent. I suggest, as published in my 2006 paper, that it should be considered at least NT.

    Despite its apparent wide range, the populations of the species are definitely not stable. Several populations are subjected to severe uncontrolled hunting and its habitats have been transformed into agricultural lands or just dessicated.

    Paramos and surrounding montane vegetation formations, where Gallinago nobilis occur, have been transformed at a high rate during the last years. However, those transformations are sometimes not perceived as problematic as in other habitats. Especially, because they are not forested areas and many people do not perceive the severity of the impacts (versus the perception of forests been transformed into open areas). Also, little population ecology and conservation studies are conducted on birds from non-forested areas (most efforts are towards species from the Andean forests or Chocoan and Amazonian lowlands). Probably those are the reasons why Gallinago nobilis and many other species of birds from paramos, grassslands and open areas have not been reported as threatened.

  2. Andy Symes says:

    Fundacion ProAves have provided the following information from the species’s Colombian range:

    This species is threatened by drainage of wetlands in montane regions of South America. However, it is fairly common in the humedales of the East Andes and can be found in such habitats in Chingaza National Park, humedal La Conejera (in Bogotá) and other such sites.

    Fundacion ProAves (in press) The status of various threatened or potentially threatened birds in Colombia. Conservación Colombiana 14

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