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A new endemic bird species for the Sierra Nevada

Tuesday 23 December 2008.

ProAves supported eminent Andean ornithologist, Dr Niels Krabbe to study the birds in the Reserva El Dorado in 2007. His research has revealed new insights into the birds of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, including the discovery of one new species for science (Santa Marta Screech-owl Megascops gilesi) and production of the CD of bird songs “Birds of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta” available from ProAves.

Automolus rufipectus.

In a scientific paper published this month in the Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club, Niels justified the species status of a thitherto overlooked subspecies of Ruddy Foliage-gleaner Automolus rubiginosus rufipectus that is endemic to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Not only is this taxa distinctive, but it may even be more closely related to a genus Hylocryptus composed of two species in southern Ecuador and Peru and Brazil.

The species, named the Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner Automolus rufipectus was only found in the El Dorado Bird Reserve and is restricted to closed canopy primary subtropical forest, which is extremely fragmented and predominately cleared for agriculture. While know to occur in other sites in the Sierra Nevada, the species highly restricted range and sensitivity of habitat suggest the species be considered as Vulnerable to extinction.

The Sierra Nevada has no fewer than 70 endemic bird taxa (species and subspecies), and is perhaps the most diverse smaller centre of terrestrial endemism in the world. Seventeen are presently ranked as species by ProAves checklist to the birds of Colombia.

Preliminary analyses of vocalisations from El Dorado suggest that species rank is likely to be appropriate for five other taxa, including the Masked Trogon (Trogon personatus sanctaemartae), Montane Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes lacrymiger sanctaemartae), Rufous Antpitta (Grallaria rufula spatiator),Gray-breasted Wood-wren (Henicorhina leucophrys anachoreta), and Stripe-headed Brush-finch (Arremon torquatus basilicas), and possibly others.

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