Archived 2012-2013 topics: Sulphur-throated Finch (Sicalis taczanowskii): uplist to Near Threatened?

BirdLife species factsheet for Sulphur-throated Finch Sulphur-throated Finch Sicalis taczanowskii is restricted to the Tumbesian region of extreme wetern Ecuador and north-west Peru. It is currently listed as Least Concern because it was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN Red List criteria. Although this species may have a restricted range, with Extent of Occurrence (EOO) estimated at 41,400 km2,  it was not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (EOO <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 appeared to be stable, and hence the species was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified; it has been described as ‘common but patchily distributed’ (Stotz et al. 1996), but it was not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). This species was historically very abundant, with vast flocks reported near Tumbes, Peru (Taczanowski 1877), and in the Santa Elena Peninsula, Ecuador (Marchant 1958). However, this species has undergone a severe decline across most of its range (Williams 2012); recent observations have been of much smaller flocks of around 10-50 individuals in these areas (Williams 2012) and it has been considered rare in Ecuador since the 1980s (Paynter 1970). Although it was considered common in Peru (Ridgely and Tudor 1989), no details were presented and this is no longer thought to be true (Williams 2012). In addition, this species is known only from two protected areas in Lambayeque: the Bosque de Pomac Historical Sanctuary and the Chaparri Private Conservation Area (where it is regularly seen in large flocks of 200-300 birds) (Williams 2012). Given that this species has suffered dramatic declines in recent decades and now occupies a small, largely unprotected range, with a high human population density and where human activity is altering the remaining habitat, this species may warrant uplisting from Least Concern (Williams 2012). If there is evidence to suggest that the rate of decline of this species’s population may have approached 30% over the past three generations (11 years), and this decline is projected to occur over the next 11 years based on an index of abundance and a decline in area of occupancy, extent of occurrence and/or quality of habitat, the Sulphur-throated Finch would warrant uplisting to Near Threatened, approaching criteria A2bc+3bc+4bc for Vulnerable. If the global population is estimated to approach 10,000 mature individuals, has an estimated rate of continuing decline approaching 10% over three generations (11 years) and/or all subpopulations are approaching 1,000 mature individuals, this species could also qualify as Near Threatened under criterion C1+2a(i) of the IUCN Red List. For the purposes of Red List assessments, subpopulations 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. Further information is required on this species’s population size, trends, distribution and the size of the largest subpopulation. Additional comments on the proposed uplisting are welcome. References: Marchant, S. (1958) The birds of the Santa Elena Peninsula, S. W. Ecuador. Ibis 100, 349-387. Paynter, R. A. (1970) Check-list of the birds of the world, 13. Cambridge, MA: Museum of Comparative Zoology. Ridgely, R. S. and Tudor, G. (1989) The birds of South America, 1.Oxford: Oxford University Press. Stotz, D. F., Fitzpatrick, J. W., Parker III, T. A. and Moskovits. D. K. (1996) Neotropical birds: ecology and conservation. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Taczanowsi, L. (1877) Liste des oiseaux recueillis en 1876 au nord du Perou occidental par MM Jelski et Stolzmann. Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond. 1877, 319-333. Williams, R. S. R. (2012) Sulphur-throated Finch Sicalis taczanowskii: a little-known and declining Tumbesian endemic. Neotropical Birding 10, 63-66.

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3 Responses to Archived 2012-2013 topics: Sulphur-throated Finch (Sicalis taczanowskii): uplist to Near Threatened?

  1. This species in Northwest Peru is abundant in many locations between Southern Lambayeque and Tumbes. I have seen flock of several thousands in more than 10 sites, specifically in Olmos, Batan Grande, Pomac, Salas, Talara, between Olmos and Piura and near Mancora, Los Organos, etc. I really don’t think that the species should be uplisted to Near Threatened, especially based on the paper by Williams (2012). For example, its been stated that “It is clear that the species has undergone a severe decline in abundance across most of its range.”. I don’t know from where are this data, but seems to be based on a short period of time observations ina really small area (near Chaparri). Nothing is said about seasonal movements??. It is also stated that “It is clear that the Sulphur-throated Finch has declined dramatically in recent decades and that it now occupies a small geographic range that is largely unprotected with a high human population density and where human activity is altering the remaining habitat.”. For sure this is not true based on my observations. Most of the specie’s habitat has little or no use by humans: larga low-density flat or hilly areas, with scarce water sources. It is present at least on 2 more protected areas (El Angilo Hunting reserve and Huacrupe regional conservationa rea) in large flocks, bigger then the 800 or more mentioned on Williams paper. Maybe the source for this kind of proposals must come from peer-review scientific journals than Birding journals, where it is clear that authors can state many unconfirmed observations.

  2. Alexander More says:

    Since 2006 I have visited regularly tha area around the Coto de Caza El Angolo and Talara in Piura region. Even I don’t have a systematic census the species is quite common around these areas and easily to watch in large flocks (above 100). I consider that more information or justification is needed to uplist the species as Near-threatened!

  3. Fernando Angulo says:

    As an addition to above comments, during the birding rally challenge in northern Peru, one team spotted a group of 400- 500 STF as far south as Pacasmayo. Also, a quick search on e-bird yielded high numbers such as 2015 in Bosque de Pomac, where the species is regularly seen. Also, the bird distribution is shown with recent records, up to Tumbes ( Additionally, a quick survey on a Facebook group of people specialized in birds of northwest Peru let us know that the bird is not rare in that region. So, I really recommend to asses better the status of this species. To uplist it based on the article information, which clearly shows a poorly and biased-documented observations, seems to be hurried. Clearly, more information is needed.

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