Justification of Red List Category
This species is suspected to have a small population size with a single subpopulation. It is suspected to be undergoing a continuing decline at a rate of at least 10% over three generations as a result of trapping and habitat loss, largely due to conversion to agriculture and encroachment of invasive grasses. During the breeding season, it occupies a small range, in which habitat is thought to be declining in extent and quality. For these reasons, the species is listed as Near Threatened.
This species is described as locally common (Malacco 2018). Based on the experience of researchers working within the species's breeding area, it is suspected that the population size is less than 10,000 mature individuals (Malacco 2018). The population size is therefore placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals. The species has a small breeding range and is assumed to form a single subpopulation.
There are no data on population trends. A moderate population decline is suspected to be occurring, owing to trapping pressure and habitat loss within the breeding area and along the migration route (Malacco 2018).
Sporophila melanogaster occurs in south-east Brazil, where it breeds in Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, migrating north during the non-breeding season to São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Distrito Federal. It is locally common in suitable habitats (Malacco 2018).
This species is found in grassland habitats adjacent to wetland habitats (Ridgely and Tudor 1989, Parker et al. 1996, Malacco 2018). It occurs at 700-1,000 m and lower altitudes in the non-breeding season (Ridgely and Tudor 1989, Parker et al. 1996). It feeds on grass seeds (Malacco 2018). It is migratory, migrating north between February/March and October/November (Malacco 2018).
The main threats to the species are illegal capture as a cagebird and habitat loss due to conversion to agriculture (for crops, including soybeans and Pinus spp., and grazing pasture) (Malacco 2018). The species is captured to be kept as a cagebird and traded locally in Rio de Janeiro (Malacco 2018). Invasive grasses are degrading the habitat and pesticides may be detrimental (Malacco 2018). Habitat is being lost both within the breeding areas and along the migration route. At Campos de Cima da Serra, within the breeding area, fields and wetland areas have been destroyed for the cultivation of apples and garlic (Malacco 2018). Other areas where the species has been recorded have been destroyed by dam construction. Habitat within the wintering area has been lost through extraction of clay (Malacco 2018).
Conservation Actions Underway
The species is listed as nationally Vulnerable in Brazil (ICMBio 2018). It is listed in the National Action Plan for the Conservation of the Birds of the Southern Grasslands and in the National Action Plan for the Conservation of the Birds of the Cerrado and the Pantanal (ICMBio 2017, 2019). It is present in several protected areas. There are plans to develop genetic tests for the parentage of captive birds to facilitate law enforcement against illegal capture and trade (Malacco 2018).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to determine the full extent of the range, particularly during the non-breeding season. Determine its ecological requirements and the extent of tolerance of agricultural habitats. Study its demographics and its migration route, including staging sites. Effectively protect significant areas of suitable grassland habitat at key sites. Create a wet grassland protected area in the headlands of the rivers Uberabinha and Claro and Mandaguari stream (Malacco 2018). Improve enforcement of laws against capture and trade. Control invasive grasses.
Text account compilers
Gilroy, J., Butchart, S., O'Brien, A., Sharpe, C.J., Wheatley, H.
Di Giacomo, A. & Olmos, F.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Sporophila melanogaster. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 24/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 24/03/2023.