Mangrove finch (Camarhynchus heliobates)

loading
Perched male mangrove finch
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Mangrove finch fact file

Mangrove finch description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyEmberizidae
GenusCamarhynchus (1)

Poised on the brink of extinction, the diminutive mangrove finch is not only the most endangered of Darwin’s finches, but is also one of the rarest birds worldwide (3) (4). Like the other twelve species of Darwin’s finches endemic to the Galapagos Islands, this species has evolved a specialised beak shape, enabling it to exploit a particular habitat and diet (3). In the case of the mangrove finch, the beak is long and pointed, with a down-curved culmen, enabling this species to lift scales of tree bark, and pick off insect prey (2). Plumage is dull brownish above, becoming olive on the rump, while the underparts are whitish with faint streaking (2) (5). Males can be distinguished by the black colouration that develops on the head and neck over the course of several annual moults (5) (6).

Size
Length: 14 cm (2)
Weight
18 g (3)
Top

Mangrove finch biology

The mangrove finch mainly feeds upon adult insects, grubs and spiders, which are obtained by foraging through the leaf litter, or by using its powerful beak to prise off bark from dead wood. As an alternative, particularly when food is scarce, this species employs a more ingenious method of feeding. Like the woodpecker finch (Camarhynchus pallidus), this species is known to use cactus spines and twigs to prise out inaccessible grubs from tree hollows and cavities (2).

The mangrove finch normally breeds throughout the hot, wet season, commencing in December or January and lasting until May (5). Darwin’s finches usually form monogamous, lifelong breeding pairs, although mate changes and breeding with more than one partner have also been observed. Generally a clutch of three eggs is laid, which are incubated by the female for about twelve days, and the young brooded for a further two weeks before leaving the nest (3).

Top

Mangrove finch range

Historically, the mangrove finch was known to occupy at least six mangrove patches on the islands of Fernandina and Isabela in the Galapagos Archipelago. Today, however, this species is extinct on Fernandina, and breeding populations are only recorded at two locations on the north-west coast of Isabela (5).

Top

Mangrove finch habitat

The mangrove finch has highly specific habitat requirements, and will only occupy dense mangrove swamps that are separated from the sea, where a large amount of leaf litter and dead wood is able to accumulate, instead of being carried away by currents (5).

Top

Mangrove finch status

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered

Top

Mangrove finch threats

With a declining population of less than 100 adult birds (3) and a breeding range of around one square kilometre (5), the mangrove finch’s situation is critical. The exact cause of this species’ decline is unclear, but, natural factors such as the El Niño cycle, introduced species, and human activities may all be involved (2). As a result of introduced predators such as black rats, cats and the smooth-billed ani preying on eggs and chicks, and high levels of nest infestation by the blood sucking parasite, Philornis downsi, causing the death of nestlings, the mangrove finch’s breeding success is low (2). Concerted conservation action is necessary if this species is to be saved from extinction.

Top

Mangrove finch conservation

For over a decade, the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) has been working to conserve the mangrove finch (2). At present, extensive research is being conducted to better understand this species’ breeding biology and to determine the causes of its decline (2) (5). In the meantime, active protection of the remaining breeding populations is being employed through predator and nest parasite control (5). Despite these measures, the mangrove finch remains extremely vulnerable due to its limited range. In order to address this, the CDF and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust are currently working together towards a captive breeding and translocation programme. If successful, their efforts will help to ensure a future for this remarkable species (5) (7).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Top

Find out more

To learn more about the conservation of the mangrove finch visit:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

Top

Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

Top

Glossary

Culmen
A ridge along the upper bill of a bird, from the tip of the bill to the forehead.
El Niño
A natural phenomenon that happens every 4 to 12 years, and lasts for several months, when upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water does not occur. This causes the warming of ocean surface water off the western coast of South America and causes die-offs of plankton and fish. It also affects Pacific jet stream winds, altering storm tracks and creating unusual weather patterns in various parts of the world.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Monogamous
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
Translocation
The movement of a species, by people, from one area to another.
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Charles Darwin Foundation (February, 2009)
    http://www.darwinfoundation.org/files/species/pdf/mangrove-finch-en.pdf
  3. Hau, M. and Wikelski, M. (2001) Darwin’s Finches. In: Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester. Available at:
    http://www.els.net
  4. Hirschfeld, E. (2008) BirdLife International: Rare Birds Yearbook. MagDig Media Limited, Shrewsbury.
  5. Birdlife International (February, 2009)
    http://www.birdlife.org
  6. Kleindorfer, S. (2007) Nesting success in Darwin's small tree finch, Camarhynchus parvulus: evidence of female preference for older males and more concealed nests. Animal Behaviour, 74: 795 - 804.
  7. Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (February, 2009)
    http://www.durrell.org/Animals/Birds/Mangrove-finch
X
Close

Image credit

Perched male mangrove finch  
Perched male mangrove finch

© Greg Lasley

Greg Lasley
Greg Lasley Nature Photography
305 Loganberry Ct.
Austin
Texas
78745-6527
United States of America
Tel: (512) 441-9686
http://www.greglasley.net

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Mangrove finch (Camarhynchus heliobates) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog RSS