Sao Tome grosbeak (Neospiza concolor)

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São Tomé grosbeak
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Sao Tome grosbeak fact file

Sao Tome grosbeak description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyFringillidae
GenusNeospiza (1)

Prior to its rediscovery in 1991, the São Tomé grosbeak was known from just a single specimen collected in the late 19th century (2) (3) (4) (5). At around 18 centimetres, the São Tomé grosbeak is relatively large for a finch, with a plump body, and a massive, greyish-buff bill, with which it effortlessly crushes seeds. The plumage is uniformly rusty brown, but is slightly darker on the head, wings and tail (2)

Also known as
Sao Tome canary, Sao Tome goldfinch.
French
Grosbec de São Tomé.
Size
Length: 18 cm (2)
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Sao Tome grosbeak biology

As may be expected for such a historically elusive species, very little has been reported on the natural history of the São Tomé grosbeak. Aside from its small population size, one of the possible reasons this species is so rarely seen is that it keeps to the canopy and rarely makes much noise. It appears to move about in pairs, or alone, and descends to the understorey to feed on seeds (2).

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Sao Tome grosbeak range

The São Tomé grosbeak is endemic to the island of São Tomé in the Gulf of Guinea, 255 kilometres off the coast of Gabon. It was rediscovered close to the rio Xufexufe in the south-west of the island, and has been reported from this locality on several occasions since, as well as the from other sites in the centre and southeast of the island (2) (3).

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Sao Tome grosbeak status

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

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered

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Sao Tome grosbeak threats

Forest clearance began on São Tomé in the late 15th century, when early colonisers made space for the cultivation of sugar cane. In the 1800s, the rate of deforestation accelerated dramatically, first with the production of coffee and later with cocoa. At one stage in the early 20th century, São Tomé was the world’s largest producer of cocoa, with an estimated 42 percent of the island being devoted to its production. The crash in the price of cocoa, and the island’s conversion to independence in 1975, put a stop to forest clearance but not before almost all the island’s lowland primary forest had been destroyed (3). Naturally, this had a devastating impact on much of the endemic wildlife, including the São Tomé grosbeak population (2) (3). Today, the population is estimated at less than 50 individuals, restricted to habitat under increasing pressure from land privatisation (2) (4). Furthermore, road developments along the east and west coasts are increasing access to previously remote areas, while introduced rats, monkeys, weasels and civets are all potential predators (2) (3).

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Sao Tome grosbeak conservation

Primary forest is protected as a Zona Ecologica and within Obo Natural Park, but there is no law enforcement within these areas, and owing to the lack of information on the São Tomé grosbeak’s ecological requirements, it is not known how much it benefits from its occurrence within these areas. Fortunately, this species mainly occurs in a relatively remote part of the island, visited only by hunters, who do not pose a threat to it.  Recently, the Associação dos Biólogos Santomenses has been offering training course to the local community in order to raise awareness, and involve people in the monitoring and conservation of São Tomé’s endemic birds. Further research into this Critically Endangered species’ population size, distribution and ecological requirements is now needed to refine conservation measures. Proposals have also been made to ensure the effective protection of designated areas, and to list the São Tomé grosbeak as a protected species under national law (2) (5).

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

For further information on the São Tomé grosbeak see:

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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

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Primary forest
Forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2010):
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. BirdLife International (February, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/
  3. Peet, N. and Atkinson, P. (1994) Biodiversity and conservation of the birds in São Tomé and Príncipe. Biodiversity and Conservation, 3(9): 851 - 868.
  4. Perrins, C. (2009) The Encyclopedia of Birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Hirschfeld, E. (2008) Rare Birds Yearbook 2009. MagDig Media Limited, UK.
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Image credit

São Tomé grosbeak  
São Tomé grosbeak

© Nik Borrow

Nik Borrow
n.borrow@btinternet.com
http://web.mac.com/nikborrow

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