The Loss of the San Cristóbal Vermilion Flycatcher Marks the First Recorded Galápagos Endemic Bird Extinction. How Can We Prevent the Next One?

The San Cristóbal Vermilion Flycatcher, a bird species endemic to the Galápagos Islands, has gone extinct. 

The Galápagos Islands are famous for their incredibly high biodiversity. Are they at risk of becoming famous for high extinction rates?

The San Cristóbal Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus dubius) used to fly, sing, forage, and build nests on San Cristóbal Island of the Galápagos Islands. But the days of the San Cristóbal Vermilion Flycatcher are over–this bird, which lived on San Cristóbal Island and nowhere else in the world, has gone extinct. The disappearance of this bird marks the first known extinction of a bird species endemic to the Galápagos Islands.

What made the flycatcher go extinct is unclear, however, according to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, other vermilion flycatchers of the Galápagos are suffering from impacts of invasive rats and an invasive parasitic fly, Philornis downsi. The presence of these invasive species in the Galápagos has severe consequences. Invasive rats prey on chicks and consume unhatched eggs. P. downsi infest nests and attack chicks as soon as they hatch. Once infected, the chicks don’t have a chance at survival.

island conservation galapagos bird nest

A bird nest in the Galapagos. Credit: Island Conservation

With remaining flycatcher species experiencing sharp population declines, there is urgent need for invasive species management. By removing invasive species, we can stop the Galápagos Islands from becoming famous for high extinction rates, and uphold the incredible biodiversity of this iconic region.

Featured photo: A Galapagos Vermilion Flycatcher. Credit: Hugo Arnal
Source: Scientific American

About Sara Kaiser

Sara received a BA in anthropology from UC Santa Cruz in 2014. As a freelance writer and editor, she seeks to produce and highlight stories that support ecological responsibility, body awareness, emotional intelligence, and creative action, and reveal the connections between them.

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