Skip navigation
Go to home page > News > Our blog > What is being done to save the little vermilion flycatcher?
Little vermilion flycatcher
22/04/2024 Biodiversity loss Invasive species

What is being done to save the little vermilion flycatcher?

With its striking red plumage and distinctive call, the little vermilion flycatcher is instantly recognisable. Sadly, this colourful species is under threat, just like many of the Islands’ land birds.

Hannah Rickets

Communications and Marketing Officer

What are the threats facing little vermilion flycatchers?

On inhabited islands, little vermilion flycatcher populations have been declining rapidly as their Scalesia, Tournefortia and Zanthoxylum forest homes are cleared to make way for agriculture and a growing human population on the Islands.

Especially in Santa Cruz and Isabela, their remaining habitat is being altered by the introduced hill raspberry plant (Rubus niveus). With its dense, spiny thickets, the plant prevents the little vermilion flycatcher from foraging for food on the ground.

Invasive species such as the parasitic fly, Philornis downsi, feed on tiny chicks and the blood of nesting birds, which almost always results in nestling mortality but can also cause deformed beaks, reduced growth rates and anaemia.

Luckily, several conservation actions are underway to restore their habitat and eradicate invasive species.

Left: The hill raspberry plant (Rubus niveus) © Ian Dunn. Right: Philornis downsi larvae in a nest © A. Muth / CDF
Philornis © Jen Jones

How do we solve the problem of invasive species in Galapagos?

Discover what we are doing to protect the native species of Galapagos.

Learn more

Removing invasive species

Led by our partners at the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), the Saving the Little Vermilion Flycatcher project, which GCT has been supporting since 2019, is targeting the parasitic Philornis downsi by fumigating little vermilion flycatcher nests with the insecticide Permacap. Early trials on Isabela island have shown positive signs, with the team now looking to implement the technique on a broader scale across multiple islands.

On Floreana, restoration of the island’s ecosystem is now underway following the eradication of invasive species at the end of 2023. This is exciting news for the little vermilion flycatcher, which is locally extinct on the island and one of 12 species scientists will reintroduce to Floreana over the next few years.

Floreana highlands, Galapagos
Floreana highlands © Just Janza
Treatment of little vermilion flycatcher nest © Agustin Gutierrez / CDF

Saving the little vermilion flycatcher

We are working to save the little vermilion flycatcher, one of the most charismatic and colourful birds in Galapagos, from invasive species on Santa Cruz island.

Discover more

Collecting health data

To help inform management and reintroduction plans, the team at CDF has been busy collecting critical baseline health data on little vermilion flycatchers. In 2023, samples were taken from over 400 birds of different species living in the same environment from five islands (Santa Cruz, Floreana, Isabela, Pinzon and Rabida) to detect the presence of several diseases, including adenovirus, herpesvirus, and mycoplasmosis.

Mapping the distribution and prevalence of diseases throughout the Archipelago provides the team with a better understanding of potential threats to the health of wild and domestic birds and the health of humans.

The CDF team collecting samples © Agustin Gutierrez
The CDF team collecting samples © Agustin Gutierrez, CDF

Studying the health of land birds

Gislayne Mendoza Alcívar, laboratory technician at the Charles Darwin Foundation, shares her experience studying the health of some of the Islands’ most endangered birds.

Read more

Thank you for your support

We are thrilled to share that we have raised over £29,000 from our Red Alert appeal. Thanks to your overwhelming generosity, we can continue to fund the groundbreaking work being done to bring the little vermilion flycatcher back from the brink of extinction.

While this is a phenomenal result, there is a continued need to support these critical projects, which is why we are participating in the Big Give Green Match Fund campaign. Every donation you make between 18 and 25 April will be doubled, helping us to reach our target of £20,000. The money we raise will fund work to control invasive species, restore habitats and support the reintroduction of the little vermilion flycatcher to its rightful home.

Vermilion flycatcher © Rees Griffiths
Vermilion flycatcher © Rees Griffiths
Galapagos giant tortoise in pond

Support our Rewilding Galapagos Appeal

Help secure a safe future for the little vermilion flycatcher.

Donate now

Help the wildlife of Galapagos survive and thrive

There are many ways to support our vision for a sustainable Galapagos: why not adopt an animal, become a GCT member or donate today?

Related articles

Galapagos giant tortoise in pond
18th Apr 2024
Island restoration Rewilding

Double your donation to rewild Galapagos with the Big Give

We're taking part in the Big Give Green Match Fund campaign, raising money to rewild the Galapagos Islands. For one week only, every donation you make will be doubled, up to an amazing £10,000!
Read more
American flamingo in Galapagos
15th Nov 2023
Wildlife facts

5 of the most colourful birds in Galapagos

Visitors to Galapagos are sometimes surprised to discover the relative lack of colourful bird plumage on display, given the Islands’ location on the Equator.
Read more
Galapagos Day 2023 speakers
30th Oct 2023
Events Rewilding

Galapagos Day 2023: Rewilding Galapagos

On Thursday 19 October we gathered once more at London’s historic Royal Geographical Society for Galapagos Day, our biggest event of the year.
Read more
Galapagos giant tortoise amongst vegetation
12th Sep 2023
Island restoration Rewilding

Rewilding Galapagos: Giving nature a helping hand

What does rewilding mean in the context of Galapagos, where 97% of the land is already a protected National Park?
Read more

Get the latest news from Galapagos

Join our mailing list to receive our monthly email newsletter, bringing you the latest news on Galapagos and our work to protect the Islands.

Share This Page