Masafuera rayadito (Aphrastura masafuerae)

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Masafuera rayadito
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Masafuera rayadito fact file

Masafuera rayadito description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyFurnariidae
GenusAphrastura (1)

The most endangered bird in the whole of Chile (3), the Masafuera rayadito is a small bird (2), with a dull greyish-buff body. The wings are mainly black, with distinct markings in buff, red and white (4), and its long, black tail feathers become abruptly thin towards the tips, looking almost spine-like, with red markings (3). The forehead of this bird often has a yellow tinge and two pale streaks mark the face, one above and one below the eye (4). The Masafuera rayadito’s bill is strong and long relative to its small size, and its calls are described as including a churring ‘trrrt’ sound (2) (4).

Spanish
Másafuera Rayadito.
Size
Body length: 16 cm (2)
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Masafuera rayadito biology

Eating insects and spiders from fern fronds, moss and lichen, this little bird rarely leaves the safety of the dense vegetation, travelling slowly from place to place by short hops or flights (2) (4). Sometimes it even hangs upside down to forage, similar to tit species (3). The Masafuera rayadito is said to have a skulking habit, being secretive and difficult to see (2).

Pairs of Masafuera rayaditos occupy a territory with a minimum area of four hectares and both sexes use calling to remain in continuous contact (3) (4). The nesting season extends from early at least early December to early February, with fledglings observed in February (2) (3). Clutch size is thought to be around two to three eggs, and both the male and female feed the young, flitting in and out of the nest which is hidden deep within a small, naturally occurring hole in rock (3).

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Masafuera rayadito range

The Masafuera rayadito is found only on Alejandro Selkirk, a small island situated in the Juan Fernández Archipelago, 768 kilometres off the coast of Chile (2) (4). While the total island area is 44.6 square kilometres, the Masafuera rayadito occupies just 11 square kilometres of suitable habitat (2) (5).

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Masafuera rayadito habitat

The preferred habitat of the Masafuera rayadito is dense vegetation of sub-alpine tree-fern forest and alpine fern stands, making it very difficult to study as it rarely leaves its ferny shelter. It prefers areas of undisrupted and moist vegetation, at altitudes of 800 to 1,300 metres (2) (3) (4).

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Masafuera rayadito status

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

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered

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Masafuera rayadito threats

Introduced mammals are the biggest threat to this species, causing damage to its sheltered habitats and increasing predation. Goats and rabbits brought to the island the Juan Fernández archipelago, graze and trample vegetation, creating large areas that are dangerously exposed for the birds (5). Introduced rats, mice and feral cats all probably prey on this species, posing a threat to the eggs, chicks and adults (2). The only native predator of the Masafuera rayadito on Alejandro Selkirk, the red-backed (or Masafuera) hawk (Buteo polyosoma), has increased in numbers since hunting it became illegal and following an increase of introduced mice and rats on which it can feed (6).

Populations of the Masafuera rayadito are thought to be declining, with the most recent surveys showing just 248 individuals within one third to one quarter of the available suitable habitat (6). Not only are they classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, but they are in category two, ‘in danger’, of the Red List of the Terrestrial Vertebrates of Chile; category one is ‘extinct’ (5). In the early 20thcentury the endemic hummingbird that used to share the island with the Masafuera rayadito became the victim of the same threats and is now extinct (3), stressing the seriousness of the situation that the Masafuera rayadito is now in.

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Masafuera rayadito conservation

Despite recognition of the Juan Fernández Islands as an important area for wildlife (they are now a National Park and Endemic Bird Area) (5), population numbers of the Masafuera rayadito may still be declining. Conservation measures have included removing sheep from the island in 1983, and sporadic goat control programmes from 1998 until 2003. Proposed measures prioritise the eradication of introduced mammal species, including goats, rats and cats (2) (3), and this must be followed by preventing the introduction of any new alien species (5). Increased monitoring and understanding of the ecology and threats to this bird will improve conservation efforts, and comparisons with related species, such as the thorn-tailed rayadito (Aphrastura spinicauda) and other endemic species of the archipelago, may help (2) (3).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

To find out more about wildlife conservation in the Juan Fernández Archipelago, see:

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

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Authentication

Authenticated (13/10/10) by Dr Ingo Hahn, Assistant Professor, Institute of Landscape Ecology, University of Muenster.

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Endemic
Native or confined to one particular country or geographic area.
Territory
An area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a colony.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. BirdLife International (January, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org
  3. Hahn, I., Römer, U. and Schlatter, R. (2004) Nest sites and breeding ecology of the Másafuera rayadito (Aphrastura masafuerae) on Alejandro Selkirk Island, Chile. Journal of Ornithology, 145: 93-97.
  4. Hahn, I. and Römer, U. (1996) New observations of the Masafuera rayadito (Aphrastura masafuerae). Cotinga, 6: 17-19.
  5. Hahn, I. and Römer, U. (2002) Threatened avifauna of the Juan Fernández archipelago, Chile: the impact of introduced mammals and conservation priorities. Cotinga, 17: 66-72.
  6. Hahn, I., Römer, U. and Schlatter, R. (2006) Population numbers and status of land birds of the Juan Fernández Archipelago, Chile. Senckenbergiana Biologica, 86: 109-125.
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Image credit

Masafuera rayadito  
Masafuera rayadito

© Peter Hodum

Peter Hodum
Oikonos
P.O. Box 1932
Benicia
CA
94510
United States of America
peter@oikonos.org
http://www.oikonos.org

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