Six South American Bird Species Now Protected as Endangered Under U.S. Law

Junin Grebe by Pete Morris
Junín Grebe by Pete Morris, Birdquest

(July 30, 2012) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has announced a final rule to protect six South American bird species as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), including the Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant, Junín Grebe, Junín Rail, Peruvian Plantcutter, Royal Cinclodes, and White-browed Tit-Spinetail. Two of these species, the Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant and Royal Cinclodes, are native to Peru and Bolivia, while the remaining four species occur only in Peru.

The primary factor leading to the listing of these species is habitat destruction and degradation caused by ongoing human activities. All six species have specific habitat requirements and are at risk throughout their entire range.

The Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant, Peruvian Plantcutter, Royal Cinclodes, and White-browed Tit-Spinetail are forest species, whose ranges have become highly-fragmented and disjunct as a result of deforestation  for agriculture, grazing, and fuel wood extraction. The Junín Grebe and Junín Rail are waterbirds that are endemic to a single lake (Lake Junín). Mining activity has polluted a major river flowing into the lake at the northwestern end and has caused grebes to abandon this area in favor of other parts of the lake where pollution is lower. Water availability has also been compromised due to ongoing manipulations in water levels (for hydropower generation) and mining, and there are threats from disease caused by contamination of the lake water. The Junín Rail is also subject to increased predation when water levels are low. All of the species in this rule are further at risk due to their extremely small population sizes, which compromises their ability to survive unexpected natural events.

American Bird Conservancy, the only organization exclusively dedicated to conserving birds throughout the Americas, has initiated a host of programs over the last ten years to increase protections for these species. Working with Peruvian and Bolivian partners, including Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN) in Peru, and Asociación Armonía, and Instituto de Ecología in Bolivia, ABC has helped to reduce the extinction threat these birds face.  Those efforts include:

Currently, there are about 600 foreign species listed under the ESA, compared to about 1,390 species native to the United States, including 90 birds.

The final FWS rule on the six species was published July 24, 2012, in the Federal Register, and will become effective on August 23, 2012. The document may be viewed online by clicking on the 2012 Final Rules under Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.

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