Pale-headed Brush-finch Atlapetes pallidiceps is currently listed as Critically Endangered under criteria B1a+b(i,ii,iii); B2a+b(i,ii,iii), on the basis that it occupies an extremely small range, and was regarded as threatened by habitat loss and, because of its rarity, brood parasitism by Shiny Cowbirds Molothrus bonariensis.
Thanks to the success of intensive conservation efforts, including land protection, habitat management and control of M. bonariensis (Sornoza Molina 2000, Schmidt and Schaefer 2003, M. Juiña in litt. 2008), the species has very probably been saved from extinction, and it has been increasing, possibly since 1999. In 1999, the number of occupied territories was estimated at 12-22 (N. Krabbe in litt. 2007); this has since increased to an estimated 110-120 occupied territories in 2008 (M. Juiña in litt. 2008), with 113 occupied territories recorded in 2009 (D. Wege in litt. 2009).
The species is believed to have reached saturation point in the available habitat (D. Wege in litt. 2009), and further habitat creation is constrained by high land prices, whilst difficulty in controlling the impact of M. bonariensis will also limit further population growth. Despite these difficulties, there are plans for further land purchases and the establishment of another reserve (N. Krabbe in litt. 2007).
Although the species’s range size meets the thresholds for Critically Endangered under the B criterion, it is stable and will probably increase with continued conservation work, along with the population, which has shown an extremely rapid increase over the last 11 years (three generations); thus the species does not qualify as threatened under the B criterion. It is therefore eligible for downlisting to Endangered under criterion D1, on the basis that it has a population of fewer than 250 mature individuals. Comments are invited on this proposed category change.
Schmidt, V. and Schaefer, H. M. (2003) Pale-headed Brushfinch recovery project in southwestern Ecuador 2002-2003. Final Report.
Sornoza Molina, F. (2000) Fundación Jocotoco: conservation action in Ecuador. World Birdwatch 22: 14-17.