email a friend
printable version
Fuerteventura Stonechat Saxicola dacotiae

This species has a moderately small population which approaches the threshold for classification as Vulnerable. It also has a very small range, which is in decline owing to ongoing habitat loss and degradation; however, its population is not severely fragmented, nor is it restricted to 10 locations or fewer. For these reasons it is listed as Near Threatened.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: _the_WP15.xls.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

12 cm. Restricted-range chat. Males have a black head with a short, narrow white supercilium and throat - the latter continues on around the ear-coverts to form a narrow half-collar. Rump dark, remainder of upperparts brown, broadly streaked with black. Orange-buff patch on upper breast, remaining underparts dull white. Female paler, greyer and features more diffused and blurred.

Distribution and population
Saxicola dacotiae is endemic to the Canary Islands, Spain, where it breeds only on Fuerteventura (with occasional records from southern Lanzarote) (Martín and Lorenzo 2001). The subspecies murielae formerly occurred on the islands of Alegranza (where it was fairly common) and Montaña Clara, but these it went extinct in the first half of the 20th century due to a combination of natural factors and predation by introduced mammals (Bibby and Hill 1987, Martín and Lorenzo 2001, Illera et al. 2006). Its population was estimated at 650-850 breeding pairs in 1985 (Bibby and Hill 1987). More recent observations indicate that the current figure may be higher, but this almost certainly reflects differing survey methods, rather than a real increase in numbers. The extrapolation of survey results obtained in 2005-2006 put the population at 14,436 individuals (95% CI: 13,376-15,492) (Seoane et al. 2010). Studies involving more recent fieldwork have provided much lower estimates of 1,035 individuals (95% CI: 832-1,287) (Garcia-del-Rey 2009), which may be an underestimate owing to the methods used (Seoane et al. 2010), and 550-950 pairs, which may have been affected by drought conditions during part of the study period (Nicolai 2010; B. Nicolai in litt. 2011). Further research, involving comprehensive fieldwork, is required in order to obtain a more accurate population estimate. Optimal habitat continues to be impacted by rapid development for tourism, although its rate may have decreased in recent years, and it is likely that the population has declined since 1985, and continues to do so as predation by introduced mammals and excessive grazing continues and increases (Illera 2004; A. Iñigo in litt. 2011).

Population justification
The extrapolation of survey results obtained in 2005-2006 suggests a population size of 14,436 individuals (95% CI: 13,376-15,492), although this figure may be optimistic. Studies involving more recent fieldwork have provided much lower estimates of 1,035 individuals (95% CI: 832-1,287), which may be an underestimate owing to the methods used, and 550-950 pairs, which may have been affected by drought conditions during part of the study period (B. Nicolai in litt. 2011). Until further research is carried out, an estimate of 13,400-15,500 individuals is used here, roughly equivalent to 8,900-10,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
Although the population estimate published by Seoane et al. (2010) greatly exceeds the estimate provided by Bibby and Hill (1987), this is not necessarily indicative of an increase as differences in methodology mean that such estimates are difficult to compare, and the earlier study may not have properly considered detection probability (Seoane et al. 2010). Development for tourism remains a threat but its rate has probably decreased in recent years; however, overgrazing by livestock appears to be increasing and is thought to be impacting the species through habitat degradation (A. Iñigo in litt. 2011), thus the species is suspected to be declining as a consequence of on-going habitat loss and degradation.

It is found on rocky hillsides and "barranco" (= ravine) habitats with shrubby vegetation cover (Illera 2001), typically of aulaga Launaea arborescens, saltwort Salsola vermiculata and box-thorn Lycium intricatum. These habitats support a high abundance of invertebrates, and provide suitable nesting sites and perches from which the species can forage for arthropods (Illera 2001). It also occurs on the edge of vegetated "malpaíses" (= lava flows), dry and flowing watercourses, cultivated areas and gardens (Martín and Lorenzo 2001). Individuals appear to show strong site fidelity, potentially as a consequence of low spatial variance in the habitat characteristics determining reproductive success (Illera and Díaz in press).

Recent rapid increases in infrastructural development, such as tourist and residential centres, road building, industrial plants, mineral operations and golf courses, are destroying the habitat of this species (particularly on the Jandía peninsula in the south of Fuerteventura) (Illera 2004). Additional threats include excessive and increasing livestock grazing (A. Iñigo in litt. 2011), including cattle and extensively-ranched, semi-feral "coastal" goats (which accelerates desertification and reduces vegetation cover and food availability (Illera and Díaz 2006)), and nest predation by feral cats Felis catus (Medina and Nogales 2009) and other introduced mammals, such as rats Rattus spp. (Illera 2004; Illera and Díaz 2006). High fidelity to particular sites may exacerbate the problem of the destruction and degradation of optimal habitats (Illera and Díaz in press).

Conservation Actions Underway
An action plan was produced in 1999 (Illera 1999). Various studies of the species's habitat usage (Illera 2001; Illera et al. 2006), breeding biology (Illera and Díaz 2006) and dispersal (Illera and Díaz in press) have been undertaken since 1998. Conservation Actions Proposed
Develop, approve and implement a national Conservation Plan for the species (Illera 2004). Conduct a complete population census and remap the species's distribution (Illera 1999, 2004). Develop a monitoring programme (Illera 1999, 2004). Identify and protect key areas of optimal habitat for the species, and reduce the number of "coastal goats" in these areas (Illera 1999, 2001, 2004). Raise awareness of the species among the resident and tourist populations, particularly the threat from off-road driving and introduced mammals (Illera 1999, 2004). Attempt to control predators at key sites where their impact on breeding success is particularly severe (Illera 2004).

Bibby, C. J.; Hill, D. A. 1987. Status of the Fuerteventura Stonechat Saxicola dacotiae. Ibis 129: 491-498.

Garcia-del-Rey, E. 2009. The status of the Fuerteventura Stonechat Saxicola dacotiae: a new evaluation using distance sampling and GIS. Bird Conservation International 19(2): 165-173.

Illera, J. C. 1999. EU action plan for the Canary Island Stonechat (Saxicola dacotiae).

Illera, J. C. 2001. Habitat selection by the Canary Islands Stonechat (Saxicola dacotiae) (Meade-Waldo, 1889) in Fuerteventura Island: a two-tier habitat approach with implications for its conservation. Biological Conservation 97: 339-345.

Illera, J. C. 2004. Tarabilla Canaria Saxicola dacotiae. In: Madroño, A., González, C., Atienza, J.C. (ed.), Libro Rojo de las Aves de España, pp. 327-328. Dirección General para la Biodiversidad & SEO/BirdLife, Madrid.

Illera, J. C.; Díaz, M. 2006. Reproduction in an endemic bird of a semiarid island: a food-mediated process. Journal of Avian Biology 37(5): 447-456.

Illera, J. C.; Díaz, M.; Nogales, M. 2006. Ecological traits influence the current distribution and range of an island endemic bird. Journal of Biogeography 33: 1192-1201.

Illera, J.C. and Diaz, M. 2008. Site fidelity in the Canary Islands stonechat Saxicola dacotiae in relation to spatial and temporal patterns of habitat suitability. Acta Oecologica 34(1): 1-8.

Martín, A.; Lorenzo, J. A. 2001. Aves del Archipiélago Canario. Francisco Lemus Editor, La Laguna.

Medina, F. M.; Nogales, M. 2009. A review of the impacts of feral cats (Felis silvestris catus) in the Canary Islands: implications for the conservation of its endangered fauna. Biodiversity and Conservation 18(4): 829-846.

Nicolai, B. 2010. Der Kanarenschmätzer Saxicola dacotiae auf Fuerteventura - Status einer endemischen Vogelart. Limicola 24: 1-28.

Seoane, J.; Kouri, A.; Illera, J. C.; Palomino, D.; Alonso, C. L.; Carrascal, L. M. 2010. New data on the population, distribution and habitat preferences of the Canary Islands Stonechat Saxicola dacotiae. Ardeola 57(2): 387-405.

Tucker, G. M.; Heath, M. F. 1994. Birds in Europe: their conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Further web sources of information
Action Plan

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Text account compilers
Capper, D., Derhé, M., O'Brien, A., Pople, R., Taylor, J. & Khwaja, N.

Arcos, J., Illera, J., Iñigo, A., Oro, D. & Nicolai, B.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Saxicola dacotiae. Downloaded from on 23/07/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/07/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Fuerteventura stonechat (Saxicola dacotiae) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Muscicapidae (Chats and Old World flycatchers)
Species name author (Meade-Waldo, 1889)
Population size 8900-10000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 1,400 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species