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30/08/2016 Island restoration

Conserving the critically endangered Floreana Mockingbird

The Floreana mockingbird (Mimus trifasciatus) is one of four endemic species of mockingbirds in Galapagos, and exists only in Galapagos on Champion Islet and Gardner Islet in incredibly low numbers.

Photograph of Clare Simm

Clare Simm

Former Communications Manager at Galapagos Conservation Trust

This very rare bird is currently listed at critically endangered on the ICUN Red list. Formerly found on Floreana, the bird became extinct  between 1868 and 1880 due to large scale habitat modification and the introduction of grazers, cats and rats by early settlers. The Floreana mockingbird is a rather plain bird, of beige, white and dark brown feathers. Small in size and weight with no ornaments, no elaborate plumes and no colourful skin patches. Yet this bird is an obsession many bird enthusiasts, scientists, conservationists share. The mocking bird has been a subject of numerous studies, ranging from specific studies on the biology of the species, annual population estimates and local to international outreach campaigns.

mockingbird 3

Since 2013, a project headed by Luiz Ortiz-Catedral and part funded by GCT, has been underway on Champion and Gardener Islets. This report is the result of the recent efforts and results from the project, which aims to conserve, protect, increase population numbers and eventually, reintroduce the critically endangered Floreana mockingbird to the lowlands of Floreana Island within the next five years.

 ©Luiz Ortiz-Catedral

©Luiz Ortiz-Catedral

Throughout the project, the single most difficult and limiting factor for the reintroduction of the species to overcome is the presence of introduced rodents and feral cats across the bird’s previous habitats. A definite date for the eradication of these species has not yet been set. The last two years work have been focused on monitoring the birds and increasing the population numbers. The Floreana mockingbird has also been the subject of local and global audiences, raising awareness and funds to help the conservation of the species, as well as the Archipelago.

mockingbird 4

©Luiz Ortiz-Catedral

The reintroduction plan has, so far, focussed on counting exactly how many mockingbirds exist on the two islets. The data collected from the project indicates that the inter-annual variation in the number of mockingbirds is less dramatic than previously thought, and that in the absence of intense management (i.e. supplementary feeding, nest protection, etc.) makes the total population of around 500 individuals.


©Luiz Ortiz-Catedral

The study has discovered that an ageing population on such small islet is likely to experience greater changes in genetic diversity than a larger population. For example; a large proportion of the population members of Gardener Islet are likely to die or stop reproducing at approximately the same time, therefore the natural life cycle of the bird will have strong effects on the species data. This issue is an ongoing subject within the research. Once the lab analyses are complete and have been returned to the team in the coming months, this and other potential problems and scenarios will be discussed. The final results of the lab analysis will form the basis of the Floreana mockingbird Action Plan launching in 2016 and working all the way through to 2020.

In the last two years, the project has focused strongly on park ranger training, as well as wildlife conservation. A large amount of time, effort and funds have been dedicated to training the rangers extensively on capture and survey techniques for mockingbirds, in order to transfer the skills to the local communities in order to better the residents understanding of the importance of Galapagos, encourage citizen science, and to enable the rangers to work alone effectively during future research and recordings.

mockingbird 5

©Luiz Ortiz-Catedral

The team also continued to explore other areas of community outreach such as technical meetings with staff from the Galapagos National Park and mentoring of Ecuadorian biologists in the field, especially students. GCT has part funded the project of ongoing training for rangers in the field in the hope that all future conservation efforts are fully supported by the local community.

If you would like to support the future work of GCT concerning the critically endangered Floreana Mockingbird, please head over to our projects page to donate. Donations are essential to helping us preserve some of the most endangered species in the world.

The Floreana Mockingbird pin available to buy in our shop. It is a great way to support and promote GCTs work on the preservation of the iconic Floreana Mockingbird.

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