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Yellow Cardinal Gubernatrix cristata
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The trapping of this species for the cagebird market, compounded by habitat loss, has probably resulted in such very rapid declines that it qualifies as Endangered. Remaining populations are now small and fragmented.

Taxonomic source(s)
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

20 cm. Large, strikingly patterned finch. Male has yellow-olive upperparts with blackish streaking on back. Long, black, bushy crest and bib, both broadly bordered yellow. Yellow-olive breast and flanks with yellow centre to belly. Yellow tail with black central rectrices. Female duller above. Grey cheeks, breast, and sides of belly, with paler centre. Some yellow on rear crown but otherwise, crest and black bib bordered white. Voice Loud and musical series of 4-5 whistles.

Distribution and population
Gubernatrix cristata was formerly widespread and common throughout much of Argentina and Uruguay, with a few records from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, as a non-breeder. In Argentina, it is now rare except very locally in San Luis, Buenos Aires, La Pampa and Río Negro, and especially between General Conesa, San Antonio Oeste and Viedma. There are further important populations in Pay Urbe and Estancia San Antonio, Corrientes; the Montiel area, Ceibas and Estancia la Choza, Entre Ríos, and Chancaní, Córdoba (Chebez et al. 1998). There are pre-1975 records from Salta, Tucumán, Santiago del Estero, Santa Fe and San Juan, and it has been listed without details for Formosa, Chaco, La Rioja and, mistakenly, Misiones (Chebez 1996). In Uruguay, it was historically known from 13 departments, but recently from only Paysandú, Río Negro, Florida and Rocha (A. B. Azpiroz in litt. 1999, G. Rocha in litt. 1999). In 1999, the Uruguayan population was estimated at fewer than 300 mature individuals, mostly concentrated in the río Uruguay basin (A. B. Azpiroz in litt. 1999), while any populations in southern Brazil are probably now extinct (C. Martins-Ferreira in litt. 2007). Two specimens collected from Paraguay in 1905 probably refer to escaped cagebirds (Hayes 1995). The total global population was estimated at 1,500-3,000 individuals in 2007 (C. Martins-Ferreira in litt. 2007).

Population justification
The total population is estimated to number 1,500-3,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 1,000-2,000 mature individuals (Martins-Ferreira in litt. 2007).

Trend justification
A very rapid and on-going population decline is suspected owing to chronic exploitation for the bird trade as well as habitat loss and fragmentation.

It inhabits open woodland (including Prosopis woodland), savanna, scrub and shrubby steppe, up to c.700 m. Breeding occurs in the austral spring, with nests containing three eggs found in November.

Constant and chronic exploitation as a songbird for the cagebird market remains the most significant threat (Pessino and Tittarelli 2006). It presumably suffers from timber extraction for firewood and furniture (Chebez 1994) and, especially, rapid afforestation with Eucalyptus plantations (A. B. Azpiroz in litt. 1999). Conversion to cattle pasture may be another potential threat. Hybridisation with Common Diuca-finch Diuca diuca has been recorded (Bertonatti and Guerra 1997, Bertonatti and López Guerra 2001).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. In Argentina, it occurs in Sierra de las Quijadas, Lihue Calel and El Palmar (where it is possibly extinct) national parks, and Chancaní Provincial Reserve (Wege and Long 1995, Chebez et al. 1998). In Uruguay, a captive-breeding programme is being established (A. B. Azpiroz in litt. 1999) and in southern Brazil a captive-breeding programme with specimens seized from poachers is being established (ARKive).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Protect the Montiel area and Pay Urbe (J. C. Chebez in litt. 1999). Designate protected areas in the core of its Argentine range. Protect Prosopis woodlands in west Uruguay (A. B. Azpiroz in litt. 1999). Draft and enforce legal measures against trappers. Organise awareness campaigns to sensitise consumers.  Extend and develop captive breeding efforts.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

ARKive. Yellow cardinal (Gubernatrix cristata). web page. Available at: (Accessed: 06/08/2013).

Bertonatti, C.; Guerra, A. L. 1997. Hibridación entre cardenal amarillo Gubernatrix cristata y diuca común Diuca diuca minor en estado silvestre, en la Argentina. Hornero 14: 235-242.

Bertonatti, C.; Guerra, A. L. 2001. Nuevos registros de híbridos entre Cardenal Amarillo (Gubernatrix cristata) y Diuca Común (Diuca diuca minor). Nuestras Aves 41: 27.

Chebez, J. C. 1994. Los que se van: especies argentinas en peligro. Albatros, Buenos Aires.

Chebez, J. C. 1996. Misiones fauna: a systematic and zoogeographical catalogue of the vertebrate fauna of the Province of Misiones, Argentina. Literature of Latin America, Buenos Aires.

Chebez, J. C.; Rey, N. R.; Barbaskas, M.; Di Giacomo, A. G. 1998. Las aves de los Parques Nacionales de la Argentina. Literature of Latin America, Buenos Aries.

Collar, N. J.; Butchart, S. H. M. 2013. Conservation breeding and avian diversity: chances and challenges. International Zoo Yearbook.

Collar, N. J.; Gonzaga, L. P.; Krabbe, N.; Madroño Nieto, A.; Naranjo, L. G.; Parker, T. A.; Wege, D. C. 1992. Threatened birds of the Americas: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Hayes, F. E. 1995. Status, distribution and biogeography of the birds of Paraguay. American Birding Association, Colorado Springs.

Pessino, M.; Tittarelli, R. F. 2006. The Yellow Cardinal (Gubernatrix cristata): a diagnosis of its situation with reference to illegal trade in the province of La Pampa, Argentina. Gestión Ambiental 12: 69-76.

Wege, D. C.; Long, A. J. 1995. Key Areas for threatened birds in the Neotropics. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from the Threatened birds of the Americas: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 1992). Please note taxonomic treatment and IUCN Red List category may have changed since publication.

Detailed species account from the Threatened birds of the Americas: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 1992). Please note, taxonomic treatment and IUCN Red List category may have changed since publication.

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Recuento detallado de la especie tomado del libro Aves Amenazadas de las Americas, Libro Rojo de BirdLife International (BirdLife International 1992). Nota: la taxonomoía y la categoría de la Lista Roja de la UICN pudo haber cambiado desde esta publicación.

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Capper, D., Mazar Barnett, J., Pople, R., Sharpe, C J, Symes, A., Temple, H., Williams, R., Khwaja, N.

Azpiroz, A., Chebez, J., Martins-Ferreira, C., Rocha, G., Claramunt, C.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Gubernatrix cristata. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016.

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 - Yellow cardinal (Gubernatrix cristata) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Emberizidae (Buntings, American sparrows and allies)
Species name author Vieillot, 1817
Population size 1000-2000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 726,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species