Pandemic Has Interrupted Conservation Actions for the Mangrove Finch in the Galápagos

Mangrove finches, especially chicks, depend on annual visits from a team of scientists to survive.

August 13, 2020 – 4:23 pm

Scientists from the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) found 14 nesting pairs of mangrove finches (Camarhynchus heliobates) during the short field season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, carried out in early 2020 at Playa Tortuga Negra, Isabela Island. , Galapagos.

Among the pairs, a male mangrove finch was identified, which was ringed in December 2006. This finch was registered again after a few years of not being seen in its territory.

“It could be observed singing and building a nest, together with a female raised in a nest that had been treated with insecticides in 2018, as a strategy to protect those chicks from possible impacts of parasitism by the invasive Philornis downsi fly,” he said via the CDF in a statement.

Francesca Cunninghame, CDF scientist and leader of the Mangrove Finch conservation project mentioned that her team is happy to see the bird “considering it is over 14 years old.”

“During the 2020 monitoring, we were able to verify the presence of four nests that contained eggs, as well as the record of five nests containing chicks, and five nests that, unfortunately, had failed early in the season due to various factors,” he said.

Mangrove finches, especially chicks, depend on annual visits from a team of scientists to survive. This is because both the nests and the chicks need insecticide injections at the base of the nest, to reduce the negative effect of the Philornis downsi fly larvae on the chicks.

Additionally, together with a park ranger from the Galapagos National Park Directorate, rat control actions were carried out in the reproductive habitat area of ​​the mangrove finch.

At the beginning of March 2020, the research team had to suspend its fieldwork activities, due to the health emergency, which forced it to leave the study site, even with five weeks remaining to complete the work planned for the 2020 season.

This caused some conservation activities to be suspended, such as the complete treatment of insecticide injections and complementary actions of supplementary feeding, both necessary to increase the survival of the chicks.

Other activities that they were unable to complete were annual population monitoring, baseline monitoring of mangrove forest health, as well as supplementary feeding trials for the adult population.

“The pandemic is allowing nature to breathe a little and is giving space again to wildlife. But, in the case of mangrove finches, the effects of the pandemic are not so favorable for this species. Like other threatened species, these finches depend on the urgent support of humans to stay alive, “added Cunninghame.

Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2021

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