Temminck’s seedeater (Sporophila falcirostris)

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Temminck’s seedeater fact file

Temminck’s seedeater description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyEmberizidae
GenusSporophila (1)

A diminutive, seed-eating bird, Temminck’s seedeater is a member of the Sporophila genus, a group of birds which are generally small in size and have thick, short beaks. While male Sporophila are usually extremely colourful and brightly patterned and the females are rather drab (3), the difference between males and females is less marked in Temminck’s seedeater, with both sexes being predominantly grey (3). Males have blue-grey plumage, which becomes white towards the abdomen, and a yellow beak. Females have a darker beak and similar, although less bright, plumage (2). Immature individuals are very similar in appearance to adult females, so much so that it can be extremely difficult to differentiate between them (4).    

The scientific name of this species refers to its highly specialised diet, with Sporo meaning ‘seed’ and philos meaning ‘loving’ in Greek (5). Temminck’s seedeater is well adapted to this diet, with the structure of its bill thought to be specifically adapted to feeding on the seeds of certain bamboo plants (6).

Size
Length: 11 cm (2)
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Temminck’s seedeater biology

Temminck’s seedeater has a very specific diet, feeding almost solely on the seeds of bamboo (especially Guadua species) (7). It is not usually observed unless local bamboo populations are seeding, or ‘masting’; this is when the entire bamboo population releases a large number of seeds at the same time (8). It is thought that Temminck’s seedeater moves around its range, following these masting events (7). However, it is also able to cope with the inevitable occasional lack of bamboo seeds, when it has been reported feeding on alternative seeds, as well as pursuing and capturing insects (6).

Little is known about this bird’s breeding habits (7), although mating is believed to occur in spring (September to November) and is linked to bamboo masting (6). Although only one nest of Temminck’s seedeater has ever been found, at the edge of the forest (2), its nests are likely to be similar to other Sporophila species, which are typically flimsy, cup-shaped structures, generally built in a shrub near the ground. Sporophila species typically lay clutches of two or three eggs (9).

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Temminck’s seedeater range

Temminck's seedeater is found in the coastal forests of south-east Brazil, east Paraguay and north-east Argentina (2) (7). Recent sightings of this species are concentrated around Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo (2).

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Temminck’s seedeater habitat

A nomadic species, Temminck's seedeater tends to be found in secondary forest, disturbed forest and forest borders. It is usually found in the canopy layer (2).

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Temminck’s seedeater status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Temminck’s seedeater threats

The main threat to the survival of Temminck’s seedeater is the loss of its habitat, with forests in the region being lost to the development of residential areas, agriculture, and logging (1). Capture for the caged bird trade is also a threat; although it is relatively scarce in the trade, this is probably due to the bird’s rarity rather than a lack of demand (2) (7). Unfortunately, the very specialised diet of Temminck’s seedeater makes it less able to adapt to changes and its nomadic nature means that existing protected areas are not always effective, making its small and rapidly declining population even more vulnerable to extinction (2).

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Temminck’s seedeater conservation

Temminck's seedeater is protected under Brazilian law and it also receives protection through its occurrence in several Brazilian wildlife reserves. In Paraguay it is not protected by law, but does occur in three wildlife reserves / national parks (2). Proposed conservation measures include gathering more long-term data about the bamboo specialist birds of South America’s east coast, an investigation into which bamboo species are preferred, the protection of secondary forests outside nature reserves (to allow nomadic movement), more effective policing of existing reserves, and a ban on capturing wild birds (2)

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

To learn more about wildlife conservation in Paraguay see:

 To find out more about bird conservation in South America and elsewhere 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

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

Genus
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ scientific species name; the second part is the specific name.
Nomadic
A species which roams irregularly from place to place in search of food and water, without returning to a fixed location.
Secondary forest
Forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. BirdLife International (May, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org
  3. Lijtmaer, D.A., Sharpe, N.M.M., Tubaro, P.L. and Lougheed, S.C. (2004) Molecular phylogenetics and diversification of the genus Sporophila (Aves: Passeriformes). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 33(3): 562-579.
  4. Areta, J.I. (2009) Paedomorphosis in Sporophila seedeaters. Bulletin of the British Ornithologist’s Club, 129(2): 98-103.
  5. Holloway, J.E. (2003) Dictionary of Birds of the United States. Timber Press Inc, Portland, Oregon.
  6. Areta, J.I., Bodrati, A. and Cockle, K. (2009) Specialization on Guadua bamboo seeds by three bird species in the Atlantic Forest of Argentina. Biotropica, 41(1): 66-73.
  7. BirdLife International (1992) Threatened Birds of the Americas. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
  8. Kelly, D. (1994) The evolutionary ecology of mast seeding. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 9(12): 465-470.
  9. Meyer de Schauensee, R. (1952) A review of the genus Sporophila. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 104: 153-196.
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Image credit

Front view of a Temminck's seedeater  
Front view of a Temminck's seedeater

© Luiz Claudio Marigo / naturepl.com

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