Endemic Eye-ringed Thistletail
One of my favorite birds on the Satipo road, where I just been with Hadoram Shirihai and David Beadle is the Eye-ringed Thistletail Schizoeaca palpebralis. If you look at distribution maps of the birds of Peru and look up Eye-ringed Thistletail, you shall see it is only a small dot on the map. It has got very limited distribution and currently is easiest found in bamboo thickets in near Puente Carrizales in the upper part of Pampa Hermosa valley on the old Satipo road. It is perhaps the most beautiful of all Thistletails with bright rufous upperparts and a prominent white eyering. Puente Carrizales area is the most accessible + site where one can see one. Although mentioned also in literature around the village Comas – I never found it there. In spite of the limited distribution, the species is not listed in any threat category by BirdLife International.
So is it threatened? It may seem safe, as it occurs in the bamboo which is plentiful at the site. However, it must be taken into consideration that this area which was de-populated during the Shining Path terror in Central Peru and consequently saw an increase of bamboo thickets when the old pastures and fields were deserted and overgrown. The people in the area are slowly regaining their lost lands. Fortunately, the pace of re-covering land is slow and has not been considered a threat. But new more rapid conversion to pastures and potato fields may be imminent.
- Compensation to victims of terrorism. Peru has recently started delivering funds to communities and individuals that were effected by terrorism. These funds are often invested in agricultural or livestock projects.
- The Mineral Resource-Derived Income Tax – Canon Minero – levied on the mining companies in Peru is redistributed in communities in Peru as a way to fight poverty. While, this certainly is well received in many areas, it also means many ecologically poorly planned projects.
Both these possibilities are currently discussed among the local authorities and pressure is being put for large investments in livestock and potato fields in the highlands which may well put immediate threat on the Thistletail. It is likely that the species occur in not yet surveyed areas, but since no detailed studies have been made and the species is listed as least concerned by BirdLife International, such studies are not likely to happen before the threats already become urgent and action may be too late.
In light of this, it is urgent to make a thorough distribution study of the Eye-ringed Thistletail and while the true status is not known at least precautionary change the status to Endangered, due to the restricted range and the real threats that are piling up.
Birding tourism to the area, will also help highlighting the need for conserving the habitat.
Acknowledgement: Special thanks to Hadoram Shirihai and the “AC &Black Shirihai&Jörnvall – Photographic Handbook to the Birds of the World” project for the use of the photos in this blogpost. Top photo by Gunnar Engblom
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