Tamarugo conebill

Tamarugo conebill
Conirostrum tamarugense

Photo by Gonzalo Gonzalez (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:
tamarugo conebill (en); figuinha-do-tamarugo (pt); conirostre des tamarugos (fr); comesebo de los tamarugales (es); rotstirn-spitzschnabel (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Thraupidae

This species is only found breeding in a few locations within Pampa del Tamarugal, in northern Chile. They migrate north to winter other parts of northern Chile and in south-western Peru.

These birds are 12-13 cm long and weigh about 10 g.

The tamarugo conebill is mostly found breeding in mature tamarugo Prosopis tamarugo plantations, but can also use riverine scrublands, agricultural land and citrus groves. outside the breeding season, it occurs primarily in arid Gynoxys and Polylepis stands. They can be found from sea level up to an altitude of 4.100 m.

They feed mainly on caterpillars, particularly those of Leptotes trigemmatus.

Tamarugo conebills breed in September-December, coinciding with the seasonal blooming of tamarugo flowers which provide food for the caterpillars the birds rely on. They nest in a deep, round cup made of small twigs, feathers, wool and the rachis of tamarugo leaves. The nest is placed in a descending or horizontal branch near the centre of a tamarugo tree, about 3-6 m above the ground. The female lays 3 pale grey eggs with brown spots. There is no available information regarding the incubation and fledgling periods.

IUCN status – VU (Vulnerable)
This species has a relatively small and fragmented breeding range. The global population has been estimated at 19.000-51.000 individuals, but this estimate may by outdated. The population is possibly increasing, owing to the expansion and regeneration of tamarugo forests. Tamarugo was almost extirpated by the time the Chilean government began a replantation programme in the 1930s. The tamarugo is managed mainly for the production of sheep forage and by the 1970s, 146 square quilometres had been reforested, and protected within the Pampa del Tamarugal National Reserve. Potential threats include ongoing attempts to control L. trigemmatus with chemicals or parasitoids, the risk of exhaustion of the aquifers used to water taramugo plantation due to their use to supply the city of Iquique, and the widespread cutting of Polylepis woodland in the wintering areas.

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