Alexander Zaidan of Fundação Biodiversitas photographed this female Stresemann’s Bristlefront on Dec. 12, 2018 re-confirming the species’ existence. Hear a recording of the bird.
(Washington, D.C., December 20, 2018) An individual Stresemann’s Bristlefront, one of the world’s most endangered birds, was recently observed in Brazil after months of searches had come up empty. Sightings of the female bristlefront on December 12th and 14th in fragments of habitat in Bahia, Brazil, have renewed hope that there is still time to save this remarkable, ground-nesting songbird from extinction. With only one currently known individual, this may well be the world’s rarest bird — although researchers do hope to find more individuals in the near future.
American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and its partner organization in Brazil, Fundação Biodiversitas, have been on high alert about the species’ population, which numbered as few as 15 in recent years. In a bid to assess the current population, Fundação Biodiversitas, supported by ABC, sent a team this fall to scour the species’ remaining habitat, which includes forest within and outside of the Mata do Passarinho, or “Songbird Forest,” Reserve. After several unsuccessful searches, the female bristlefront was seen outside the reserve’s boundaries by Alexander Zaidan of Fundação Biodiversitas and researcher Marcos Rezende Peres. The team also obtained a recording of the bird.
Alexander Zaidan (left) and Marcos Rezende Peres (right) in the field after finding the bristlefront.
Notoriously difficult to detect, the Stresemann's Bristlefront has gone missing previously. It had been undetected for more than 50 years when it was rediscovered in 1995, also in the Brazilian state of Bahia.In 2007, Fundação Biodiversitas, with support from ABC, Rainforest Trust and other organizations, established the Mata do Passarinho Reserve to safeguard habitat for this and other rare species, such as the Banded Cotinga. The reserve preserves an important fragment of Atlantic Forest — one of the most threatened biomes in the world, with less than 10 percent of its original habitat remaining.
About the size of a Gray Catbird or Northern Cardinal, the Stresemann’s Bristlefront is named for the stiff bristles on its face and is classified as a tapaculo — one in a family of 50-plus species found mainly in South America and known for their skulking habits. Unlike most songbirds, this species nests in underground tunnels.
Many details of this bird’s life history remain a mystery, but before these details can be studied, the species' drop toward extinction must be halted. For now, the best chance at saving this species is to protect its remaining habitat.
With a dangerously small population, even slight disturbances could have major impacts on this species, as recent events have illustrated. Over the last five years, this region of northeastern Brazil has suffered an unprecedented drought so severe that it dried up the reserve’s streams. In 2016, fires spread into the reserve, damaging important habitat. Reserve staff report that they saw bristlefronts after the fires, but additional searches in 2017 failed to detect the birds within or near the reserve.
“Although we are relieved that the Stresemann’s Bristlefront continues to survive, the species’ future remains precarious,” said Amy Upgren, Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) Program Officer at ABC. “Much more work needs to be done to locate additional individuals and protect additional habitat.”
“Conservationists have recovered a number of bird species from tiny populations, including the Seychelles Magpie-Robin, Whooping Crane, and Lear’s Macaw. We are hopeful that if we can find more birds and take significant action quickly, this bristlefront population can also grow,” said Gláucia Drummond, Executive Director of Fundação Biodiversitas.
“ABC and our partners across the hemisphere are working hard to conserve this and other bird species on the brink of extinction, and to make sure other species don’t decline to such dangerously low population levels,” said Daniel Lebbin, ABC Vice President of Threatened Species.
Searches are continuing in hopes of locating other bristlefronts, including the female’s mate. ABC and partners are also creating an emergency action plan to protect more habitat. To support these efforts, please contact Amy Upgren.
Work to conserve this area and species is supported by a Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded project, in partnership with UN Environment and BirdLife International, as well as David and Patricia Davidson.
American Bird Conservancyis a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).
Fundação Biodiversitas' mission is the conservation of Brazilian biodiversity. A nongovernmental organization based in Belo Horizonte, Biodiversitas has promoted science-based conservation in Brazil since 1989 and acts as a reference center for the collection and application of scientific knowledge.
Bold commitment to map and conserve “last frontiers” for 230 birds, turtles, and more
The stunning Araripe Manakin is found in one of approximately 150 Brazilian Alliance for Zero Extinction sites, Chapada do Araripe. Photo by Ciro Albano. (Additional photos available on request.)
(Washington, D.C., August 6, 2018)Brazil has established itself as a world leader in biodiversity protection, becoming the first nation in the world to adopt the global Alliance for Zero Extinction(AZE) framework to identify and map sites holding the last known populations of highly threatened species.
The Ministry of Environment of Brazil published an ordinance in July 2018 recognizing AZE sites as an official tool to implement national policies for protection of the country's threatened species.
Brazil is home to nearly 150 critical sites that are together the last frontiers for more than 200 endangered species. “The main goal is to put a spotlight on the last refuges of the most threatened species in Brazil,” explained Ugo Eichler Vercillo, Director of Species Conservation and Management for the Ministry of the Environment of Brazil. “It will help to promote the integration of public policies and private actions at these sites.”
Called the Brazilian Alliance for Zero Extinction (BAZE), the initiative was inspired by the global AZE, which comprises over 90 nongovernmental biodiversity conservation organizations and engages with governments, multilateral institutions, the private sector, and others to identify and effectively conserve the most important sites in the world for preventing imminent species extinctions.
“The Brazilian Alliance for Zero Extinction will create a site map that acts as a compass for public and private conservation policy, pointing out species with conservation gaps and turning on a red light to indicate critical areas,” said Gláucia Drummond, President of the Brazilian conservation group Fundação Biodiversitas. Biodiversitas is a member of the global AZE Steering Committee and is the Brazilian leader of the BAZE.
"Congratulations to Brazil for this important step," said Mike Parr, Chair of the Alliance for Zero Extinction and President of American Bird Conservancy. "Of all the world's problems, preventing imminent species extinctions is one of the most solvable. Brazil just took a giant step forward toward this solution."
BAZE contributes to the achievement of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), especially those of Target 11, which focus on conservation of areas of particular importance for biodiversity. It will also contribute to Target 12, with a focus on avoiding the extinction of species. These targets have been set at a global level under the CBD with a goal of achieving the targets by 2020.
Encouragingly, Brazil has also secured a commitment for additional CBD-signatory nations to consider adopting the AZE approach within their borders. The initiative, led by the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, is currently set for discussion at the next Conference of the Parties (COP 14), to be held in November in Egypt.
Work on the global AZE program is supported by the Global Environment Facility in conjunction with ABC, BirdLife International, and the United Nations Environment Program.
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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@abcbirds1).
New Reserve May Stave Off Extinction for Cherry-throated Tanager
(Washington, D.C., June 5, 2017) The critically endangered Cherry-throated Tanager, which numbers as few as 30 individuals, has gained a much-needed refuge in Brazil’s threatened Atlantic Forest. The 4,171-acre (1,688-hectare) private natural heritage reserve, not yet named, protects essential habitat and provides a lifeline for the species.
The Cherry-throated Tanager went unseen for more than 50 years and was believed to be extinct in the wild until 1998, when it was sighted again in privately held, well-preserved forest patches in the Caetés region of Espírito Santo. Protecting every possible acre is important in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, where only about 10 percent of original habitat remains.
The new reserve is the second-largest private protected area in the state of Espírito Santo and shelters more than 250 bird species, in addition to the Cherry-throated Tanager. Five other globally threatened birds are also found in the surrounding Caetés region: White-necked Hawk, Brown-backed Parrotlet, Golden-tailed Parrotlet, Vinaceous Amazon Parrot, and Bare-throated Bellbird. Threatened mammals, including endangered buffy-headed marmoset and brown-throated sloth, will potentially gain habitat as well.
SAVE Brasil worked with Grupo Águia Branca, one of the country’s largest transportation and logistics companies, to create this private reserve. SAVE has also been working with the state government to create a 10,625-acre (4,300-hectare) wildlife refuge adjacent to the private reserve, and American Bird Conservancy (ABC) supported SAVE on the public consultation process in 2016. ABC and SAVE’s support of the government on outreach for the wildlife refuge also helped in the creation of the private reserve.
“We hope that creation of the new reserve will accelerate the process of establishing the wildlife refuge,” said Dan Lebbin, ABC’s Vice President of International Programs. “With a total of nearly 15,000 acres (nearly 6,000 hectares), these two protected areas would contribute much-needed hope for the tanager’s survival.”
Cherry-throated Tanager occurs primarily in the forest canopy at elevations between approximately 2,800 to 4,000 feet (850 to 1,250 meters). Single individuals or groups of up to 10 birds can be found, occasionally associated with mixed-species flocks. The population may be as high as 250 but is more likely closer to 30 individual birds left in the world. Recent sightings have been of small groups of two or three tanagers observed at the same site.
The species is a candidate for designation as an Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species. AZE species are those assessed as endangered or critically endangered that are restricted to one site globally. These species are those in most urgent need of conservation globally.
As few as 30 Cherry-throated Tanagers are left in the world. Photo by Ciro Albano
American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.
SAVE Brasil (Society for the Conservation of Birds in Brazil) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to the conservation of Brazilian birds and nature. Following a participatory approach, we work together with governments, civil society organizations, universities, business and communities to develop and implement strategies, programs, and actions that contribute to a better, healthier and more beautiful planet for animals, plants, and people.
BirdLife International, American Bird Conservancy (ABC), IUCN, UNEP, GEF, and the Governments of Brazil, Chile, and Madagascar team up to safeguard endangered species
(Montreal/Cambridge/Washington, D.C., April 28, 2016)Gathered in Montreal1, leading conservation organizations have announced a new global initiative to prevent the extinction of endangered species, in partnership with the governments of Brazil, Chile, and Madagascar.
Supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the initiative will mobilize $6.7 million to deliver a project entitled the “Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE): Conserving Earth’s Most Irreplaceable Sites for Endangered Biodiversity.”AZEis a global initiative working to prevent species extinctions by identifying and safeguarding the places where Endangered or Critically Endangered species are restricted to single remaining sites.
Birds such as theStresemann’s Bristlefront2, clinging to existence with fewer than 15 known individuals in significantly fragmented habitat in Brazil, will be targeted. The project’s focus will be the creation and improved management effectiveness of protected areas and the improved conservation status of AZE species at five demonstration sites in Brazil, Chile, and Madagascar and at an additional 10 sites globally.3
“By focusing on those sites that represent the tip of the iceberg of the extinction crisis, the Alliance for Zero Extinction is a key approach to save species from extinction,” said Gustavo Fonseca, GEF Director of Programs. “These are sites that are the last remnants for entire species. Saving the habitat is saving these fragile species."
Carlos Alberto de Mattos Scaramuzza, Ministry of the Environment, Government of Brazil,stated:“By expanding the Mata do PassarinhoReserve and working with local landowners, this initiative will provide a vital lifeline for the critically endangered Stresemann’s Bristlefront. The initiative will provide essential information to inform national species conservation efforts, by focusing effort on the last remaining habitats of endangered species.”
Neville Ash, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre Director,said:“Working with the GEF and other partners, this UNEP project is the first global effort to integrate AZE as a distinct priority into conservation planning at the national level. It will scale up best practices on effective and equitable management of the world’s ecological safety nets, and has potential to have a major long-term reduction of global extinction rates, directly contributing towards CBD’s Aichi Targets 11 and 12.”
Braulio Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity,stated:“Protecting the last remaining habitats for critically endangered species is a vital strategy for preventing extinctions. The CBD Secretariat welcomes this initiative as a contribution towards global species conservation efforts.”
Diego Flores Arrate, Ministry of the Environment, Government of Chile,said: “In Chile, the initiative seeks to create conditions for the survival of three amphibian species, by protecting their habitat and reducing impacts from farming, ranching, and logging activities, considering a participatory approach with different stakeholders.”
Paola Mosig Reidl, CONABIO, Government of Mexico,stated:“Mexico is a strong supporter of the Alliance for Zero Extinction. As host of the CBD COP this year, Mexico welcomes the role of the AZE initiative in informing global species conservation efforts.”
Michael Parr, Chairman of AZE and Chief Conservation Officer for American Bird Conservancy,said: “AZE presents an ambitious but realistic plan to address Earth’s pending extinction crisis. This is a team effort that ultimately needs to involve all of us. The time for action is now.”
Pepe Clarke, Head of Policy, BirdLife International,stated:“This initiative is particularly important as it links local conservation action to national and international policy. We are truly honoured to be working with the Governments of Brazil, Chile and Madagascar.”
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(Washington, D.C., Jan. 5, 2016) The Brazilian conservation groupFundação Biodiversitas, with support from American Bird Conservancy, has secured a tract of vital Atlantic Forest habitat for the Stresemann’s Bristlefront, listed as Critically Endangered by theInternational Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and other rare species like the Banded Cotinga. The acquisition adds 766 acres to the 1,586-acreMata do Passarinho Reserve, bringing the total protected area to 2,352 acres. This expansion represents a major step toward the preservation of the many species that rely on this unique and threatened forest region.
Because of deforestation, the reserve “is like an oasis in a desert,” said Gláucia Drummond, Executive Director of Fundação Biodiversitas. Expanding the protected area represents “one of the most promising and effective ways to save the Stresemann’s Bristlefront from extinction” and to preserve the area’s rich biological heritage, she said.
Biodiversitas created the reserve in 2007 with ABC support. The reserve sits at the southernmost point of a rare forest complex—one of the last patches of Atlantic Forest in northern Minas Gerais and southern Bahia states—that shelters numerous endangered species. The newly protected area includes large areas of primary forest as well as former cattle-grazing areas that, untouched for more than a decade, have become robust secondary forests.
The Mata do Passarinho Reserve, anAlliance for Zero Extinctionsite, represents the last known home of theStresemann's Bristlefront. With a population of fewer than 15 known individuals, the ground-nesting bird is one of the most endangered species on the planet.
Stresemann's Bristlefront numbers fewer than 15 known individuals. Photo by Biodiversitas
“With this acquisition, the Mato do Passarinho Reserve now protects all the forest known to be occupied by the Stresemann’s Bristlefront,” said Daniel Lebbin, ABC’s Vice President for International Programs. “Additional expeditions are needed to confirm if any other bristlefronts may still persist in additional forest fragments nearby.”
“Mata do Passarinho” is Portuguese for “Songbird Forest.” Many other endangered bird species shelter in the reserve, including theBanded Cotinga, Brown-backed Parrotlet, Red-browed Parrot, Hook-billed Hermit, and Bahia Tyrannulet. Rare mammals—including the maned three-toed sloth and the yellow-breasted capuchin monkey, which is listed as Critically Endangered by IUCN—will also benefit from the expansion of the protected area.
The Atlantic Forest stretches along the Brazilian coastline from the state of Rio Grande do Norte south to Rio Grande do Sul, and reaches inland as far as Paraguay in the south. With intense human development in the region, the forest has been reduced to about eight percent of its original extent. In some places it has disappeared almost completely. The expansion of the Mata do Passarinho Reserve helps guarantee the survival of this rare and threatened ecosystem and the many species that rely on it.
As well as harboring many rare and endemic species, the Atlantic Forest helps ensure clean water and air and other essential environmental services for the area’s human population. “We want the reserve to be a source of pride for local communities and for public managers as well as being an opportunity to generate income for these people and municipalities,” Drummond said. “The challenge now is to raise awareness among neighboring landowners about local production practices and help them understand the importance of maintaining and restoring native forest.”
In addition to helping secure the latest Mata do Passarinho expansion, “ABC has assisted the reserve with guard housing, reforestation programs, and a Stresemann's Bristlefront monitoring program,” said Bennett Hennessey, ABC’s Brazil Program Coordinator. ABC and the reserve have also established a conservation program that includes supplementing the bristlefronts’ food supply and providing artificial burrows for the ground-nesting birds.
This acquisition was made possible through the generous contributions of David and Patricia Davidson, David Harrison, George and Cathy Ledec, Michael Reid, the Jacaranda Foundation, Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, and IUCN National Committee of The Netherlands (IUCN NL). The project is also supported by the Global Environment Facility, the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, the Hildegard and Hans Schaefer Foundation, and the United Nations Environment Program.
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Fundação Biodiversitas’ mission is the conservation of Brazilian biodiversity. A nongovernmental organization based in Belo Horizonte, Biodiversitas has promoted science-based conservation in Brazil since 1989 and acts as a reference center for the collection and application of scientific knowledge.
Washington, D.C., January 2, 2014) Bolivia’s Barba Azul Nature Reserve, home to the world’s largest population of the majestic Blue-throated Macaw, has been doubled in size through efforts led by Asociación Armonía, Bolivian partner of American Bird Conservancy (ABC).
Asociación Armonía and several partner groups worked together to purchase an additional 14,820 acres that have expanded Barba Azul Nature Reserve from 12,350 acres to 27,180 acres. The reserve is the only protected savanna in Bolivia’s Beni bioregion that is spared cattle grazing and yearly burning for agricultural purposes.
“Barba Azul” means “Blue Beard” in Spanish and is the local name for the Blue-throated Macaw, which only occurs in Bolivia and is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). It was also recently listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The Barba Azul Nature Reserve is the world’s only protected area for the Blue-throated Macaw; the reserve has hosted the largest known concentration of these birds, with close to 100 recorded on the reserve at times.
“Conservation actions of this magnitude for small organizations in poor countries are only possible with outside help. Doubling the size of the Barba Azul Nature Reserve is an excellent example of conservation groups combining their effort to achieve a massive conservation product,” said Bennett Hennessey, Executive Director of Asociación Armonía.
Several organizations and individuals teamed up to achieve this historic conservation result: American Bird Conservancy, Patricia and David Davidson, International Conservation Fund of Canada, IUCN NL / SPN (sponsored by the Netherlands Postcode Lottery), Loro Parque Fundación, Rainforest Trust, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Grants Program, Robert Wilson Charitable Trust, and World Land Trust.
The reserve extension protects broad grassy plains of the Beni savanna that are seasonally flooded in the rainy season. Also included in the newly protected area are a small river as well as “islands” of tropical forest characterized by tropical hardwoods and palms in this sea of grass. Two large forested islands provide crucial foraging habitat for Blue-throated Macaws, while more than 20 small forested islands provide roosting and potential nesting sites for these birds.
“The small forested islands appear to be great sites to use artificial nest boxes to attract Blue-throated Macaws to breed here,” Hennessey added. Armonía is currently working at the reserve to attract Blue-throated Macaws to artificial nest boxes, with support from ABC, Bird Endowment, Loro Parque Fundación, and the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.
In addition to the macaw, the Barba Azul Nature Reserve supports roughly 250 species of birds. The tall grasslands provide habitat for the Cock-tailed Tyrant and Black-masked Finch, both listed as Vulnerable by IUCN, as well as healthy populations of the Greater Rhea (Near Threatened) and migratory Bobolink from North America. Extensive wetlands attract flocks of waterbirds, including the Orinoco Goose (Near Threatened), which use nest boxes on the reserve. Armonía staff observed more than 1,000 Buff-breasted Sandpipers on the reserve in 2012, making Barba Azul the most important stop-over site for this species in Bolivia. The reserve extension will protect five additional miles of short-grass river shore habitat used by Buff-breasted Sandpipers during their spring migration.
Barba Azul is also a haven for mammals, thanks to the reserve’s protection of the Omi River, which is the only year-round source of water for miles around and a critical dry-season resource. The extension of Barba Azul improves its ability to protect the 27 species of medium and large mammals that depend on this habitat, including giant anteater (Vulnerable), pampas cat, puma, marsh deer (Vulnerable), pampas deer, white-collared peccary, and capybara. The reserve extension is critically important to maintain large protected areas for species needing expansive territories, like the maned wolf and jaguar.
The Beni savanna is an area twice the size of Portugal. It is a land of extreme contrasts, with intensive flooding in the summer and months of drought in the winter. Almost entirely occupied by private cattle ranches, these savannas have undergone hundreds of years of logging, hunting, and cattle ranching. Overgrazing, annual burning to promote new grass growth for cattle, and the planting of exotic grass species have greatly altered this ecosystem, which is now considered critically endangered.
Frequent burning, overgrazing, and timber harvests within forest patches degrade habitat for Blue-throated Macaws and may limit the number and suitability of nesting sites. At Barba Azul, exclusion of cattle is already resulting in the restoration of forest understories, and artificial nest boxes offer hope that Blue-throated Macaws will have more opportunities to breed.
“When we originally purchased the Barba Azul Nature Reserve, it was a habitat that held high abundance of many animals. But once we removed cattle and stopped hunting, net fishing, logging, and uncontrolled grassland burning, the true destructive impact of an overgrazed, poorly controlled ranch could be seen. Everything is rebounding as if the area is recovering from a drought,” said Hennessey.
The Blue-throated Macaw population has declined due to habitat degradation and trafficking for the pet trade. In addition to establishing the reserve, Armonía has worked with local communities in the Beni region to raise awareness of this species and effectively halt illegal trade in this macaw. Additionally, Armonía has provided local communities with beautiful synthetic feather head-dresses for use in traditional festivals as a conservation-friendly alternative to feathers gathered from wild macaws.
Barba Azul is a great place for birdwatchers, wildlife photographers, and researchers, who come from around the world to study birds and mammals based out of the research center on site. Armonía will be building additional cabins for tourists over the coming year. If you are interested in visiting the reserve, please contact BirdBolivia or find more information at ConservationBirding.org. More information about ABC and Armonía’s efforts to conserve the Blue-throated Macaw and Beni savannas is available on their websites.
American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement. We are proud to be a consistent recipient of Charity Navigator’s four-star rating.
Asociación Armonía is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of birds and their natural habitat in Bolivia. Armonía’s conservation actions are based on scientific studies and active involvement of local communities, respecting their culture and knowledge. Asociación Armonía is the Bolivian key partner of American Bird Conservancy, BirdLife International, Loro Parque Fundación, Rainforest Trust, and World Land Trust.
Rainforest Trust is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to purchase and protect threatened tropical forests and save endangered wildlife through community engagement and local partnerships. For 25 years, Rainforest Trust has saved over 7 million acres of critical habitat across the tropics and consistently receives Charity Navigator’s top four-star rating.