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Ecosystem Restoration: Vermilion Flycatcher Population Analysis


Project:         Going, Going, Gone: The gentle slide to extinction of the Vermilion
                          Flycatcher in Galapagos.
Partners:      Godfrey Merlen, Galapagos National Park Service
Status:          In Progress

Vermilion Flycatchers are on the decline in populated areas of Galapagos. (Photo by Michael Perlmutter)


The Vermilion Flycatcher, Pyrocephalus rubinus, is a widely distributed New World species of the Tyrannidae family of birds. It is possible that there are at least 12 forms. IUCN describes the species status as “Least concern”.  This categorization is echoed throughout such web pages as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birdlife, and the Charles Darwin Foundation.

Nevertheless there is strong reason to believe that all populations of this species do not fall into the “Least Concern” category, with some of the populations now extinct or on the verge of extinction. Moreover, other populations are now declining. This group of declining populations is scattered among separate islands of the Galapagos Archipelago.

Researchers are currently reviewing the species taxonomic status. Some scientists believe that the populations are separate species, based on morphology and skeletal examinations. This would suggest evolutionary processes at work. The project will explore the historic data available, especially through the records of the dedicated collecting trips, to demonstrate that the species was abundant just a short time ago.  It will demonstrate that the declining populations are on inhabited islands, and it will validate that the declines have occurred very rapidly and is a pattern being followed by other bird populations.

Scientists will encourage a strong reaction by the management and scientific community alike to address the decline of this species and many others.