GALAPAGOS, new success histories

Expedition Tours

27 July 2020

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6 young chicks have fledged their nests and joined the existing population during this season.

 

This time the story refers to the little Vermillion Flycatcher. A combined mission of scientists from the Charles Darwin Research Station, together with rangers from the Galapagos National Park recently found that six young chicks have fledged their nests and joined the existing population during this season, bringing good hopes to recover this lovely and colorful land bird species in the island of Santa Cruz, where no more than 40 breeding pairs had been recorded during the last surveys conducted as part of this long-term project, supported by several international NGO’s.

 

The population of the Vermillon Flycatcher had been drastically falling on several islands, mainly due to habitat alteration and the devastating effects caused on the bird’s nests by an introduced parasitic fly called “Philornis downsi”.This endemic little bird is definitely the most colorful and charismatic of the Galapagos land birds.  The adult males sport a brightly red plumage on their chest and head, while contrasting black feathers cover their back.  Meanwhile, the adult females show a pretty creamy-yellow color on their chest and chocolate-brown plumage on their backs. They feed on small insects which they skillfully catch with their conspicuous sharp and straight-pointed beaks. Their unusual steep flights into high altitudes to then descend on spiral aerial-dives are a spectacular scene for those lucky to watch.

Since 2018, the Galapagos National Park along with the Charles Darwin Foundation undertook a pilot project to control introduced species in order to restore the natural habitat of the Little Vermillion Flycatcher.  The actions include removing invasive plants like the aggressive wild blackberry and restoring the soils for the normal growth of native and endemic plants. Simultaneously, an extremely careful and elaborate process is conducted in order to neutralize the action of the nasty parasitic larvae of those equally introduced nest-flies, using a specially tested larvicide that does not affect the birds.  This program takes place on six specifically designated plots, which are regularly monitored by the two Institutions, especially during and after the nesting season that takes place during the months of January to May.  The monitoring includes banding the bird fledglings in order to more accurately monitor and register their movements and determine their survival.

According to the Press Release, the Director of the Galapagos National Park, Danny Rueda, said that “the finding of the six new Little Vermillion Flycatchers nestlings is evidence that the actions implemented in the area are having positive results for the recovery of this species”. Meanwhile, Birgit Fessl, Coordinator of the CDF’s Land bird Conservation Project said that “these results are encouraging for the conservation of these birds that were disappearing from Santa Cruz Island”.

The mission team has confirmed that, from direct field observation, the birds do like the restored sites, free of invasive plants and there is even competition among them for these areas.  These positive results will encourage the continuation of the program in the future.

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