Fuerteventura Stonechat Saxicola dacotiae


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a moderately small population which approaches the threshold for classification as Vulnerable. It also has a very small range, which is in decline owing to ongoing habitat loss and degradation; however, its population is not severely fragmented, nor is it restricted to 10 locations or fewer. For these reasons it is listed as Near Threatened.

Population justification
The extrapolation of survey results obtained in 2005-2006 suggests a population size of 14,436 mature individuals (95% CI: 13,376-15,492).  Studies involving more recent fieldwork have provided much lower estimates of 1,035 individuals (95% CI: 832-1,287), which may be an underestimate owing to the methods used, and 550-950 pairs, which may have been affected by drought conditions during part of the study period (B. Nicolai in litt. 2011).  Until further research is carried out, an estimate of 13,400-15,500 mature individuals is used here.

Trend justification
Although the population estimate published by Seoane et al. (2010) greatly exceeds the estimate provided by Bibby and Hill (1987), this is not necessarily indicative of an increase as differences in methodology mean that such estimates are difficult to compare, and the earlier study may not have properly considered detection probability (Seoane et al. 2010).  Development for tourism remains a threat but its rate has probably decreased in recent years; however, overgrazing by livestock appears to be increasing and is thought to be impacting the species through habitat degradation (A. Iñigo in litt. 2011), thus the species is suspected to be declining as a consequence of on-going habitat loss and degradation.

Distribution and population

This species is endemic to the Canary Islands, Spain, where it breeds only on Fuerteventura (with occasional records from southern Lanzarote) (Martín and Lorenzo 2001).  The subspecies murielae formerly occurred on the islands of Alegranza (where it was fairly common) and Montaña Clara, but there it went extinct in the first half of the 20th century due to a combination of natural factors and predation by introduced mammals (Bibby and Hill 1987, Martín and Lorenzo 2001, Illera et al. 2006).  Its population was estimated at 650-850 breeding pairs in 1985 (Bibby and Hill 1987).  More recent observations indicate that the current figure may be higher, but this almost certainly reflects differing survey methods, rather than a real increase in numbers.  The extrapolation of survey results obtained in 2005-2006 put the population at 14,436 mature individuals (95% CI: 13,376-15,492) (Seoane et al. 2010).  Studies involving more recent fieldwork have provided much lower estimates of 1,035 individuals (95% CI: 832-1,287) (Garcia-del-Rey 2009), which may be an underestimate owing to the methods used (Seoane et al. 2010), and 550-950 pairs, which may have been affected by drought conditions during part of the study period (Nicolai 2010; B. Nicolai in litt. 2011).  Further research, involving comprehensive fieldwork, is required in order to obtain a more accurate population estimate.  Optimal habitat continues to be impacted by rapid development for tourism, although its rate may have decreased in recent years, and it is likely that the population has declined since 1985, and continues to do so as predation by introduced mammals and excessive grazing continues and increases (Illera 2004, A. Iñigo in litt. 2011).


It is found on rocky hillsides and barranco (= ravine) habitats with shrubby vegetation cover (Illera 2001), typically of aulaga Launaea arborescens, saltwort Salsola vermiculata and box-thorn Lycium intricatum.  These habitats support a high abundance of invertebrates, and provide suitable nesting sites and perches from which the species can forage for arthropods (Illera 2001).  It also occurs on the edge of vegetated malpaíses (= lava flows), dry and flowing watercourses, cultivated areas and gardens (Martín and Lorenzo 2001; Seoane et al. 2010).  Individuals appear to show strong site fidelity, potentially as a consequence of low spatial variance in the habitat characteristics determining reproductive success (Illera and Díaz 2008).

The breeding season is typically from mid-December to late March but is linked to the timing and extent of winter rains so can be as early as November (Illera and Díaz 2006, J. C. Illera in litt. 2016).  The nest is a firm cup of plant stems and roots, incorporating much Salsola and lined with goat hair and occasionally feathers (Illera and Seoane 2012).  Generally placed on the (usually sloping) ground among stones and rocks, in cactus thickets, under shrubs (e.g. L. intricatum) or bushy grass clumps, or low down (below 0·5 m) in a wall or side of barranco and often sheltered by an overhanging stone or bush.  Clutch size can be two to five but usually three-four eggs (Illera and Díaz 2006).  It feeds on invertebrates, including caterpillars, ants, ichneumon flies, flies, centipedes, beetles and spiders (Nicolai and Grimm 2009).  The species is sedentary although there have been reports of birds possibly dispersing to other islands in the past (Collar 2005), e.g. the bird may have been seen in Lanzarote (Martín and Lorenzo, 2001), although this may be confusion with the Common Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus rubicola) (Illera and Seoane 2012).


Recent rapid increases in infrastructural development, such as tourist and residential centres, road building, industrial plants, mineral operations and golf courses, are destroying the habitat of this species (particularly on the Jandía peninsula in the south of Fuerteventura) (Illera 2001, 2004).  Additional threats include excessive and increasing livestock grazing (Illera 2001, A. Iñigo in litt. 2011), including cattle and extensively-ranched, semi-feral coastal goats (which accelerates desertification and reduces vegetation cover and food availability (Illera 2001, Illera and Díaz 2006), and nest predation by feral cats Felis catus (Illera and Diaz 2006, Medina and Nogales 2009) and other introduced mammals, such as rats Rattus spp. (Illera 2004, Illera and Díaz 2006).  High fidelity to particular sites may exacerbate the problem of the destruction and degradation of optimal habitats (Illera and Díaz 2008).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II.  EU Birds Directive Annex I.  An action plan was produced in 1999 (Illera 1999) and partially updated in 2002 (Illera 2002).  Various studies of the species's habitat usage (Illera 2001, Illera et al. 2006), breeding biology (Illera and Díaz 2006) and dispersal (Illera and Díaz 2008) have been undertaken since 1998.  It is fully protected under Spanish law, but lacks a Conservation Plan (J. A. Lorenzo in litt. 2016).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Develop, approve and implement a national Conservation Plan for the species (Illera 2004).  Conduct a complete population census and remap the species's distribution (Illera 1999, 2004).  Develop a monitoring programme (Illera 1999, 2004, Garcia-del-Ray 2015).  Identify and protect key areas of optimal habitat for the species, and reduce the number of coastal goats in these areas (Illera 1999, 2001, 2004).  Raise awareness of the species among the resident and tourist populations, particularly the threat from off-road driving and introduced mammals (Illera 1999, 2004).  Attempt to control predators at key sites where their impact on breeding success is particularly severe (Illera 2004).


12 cm. Restricted-range chat. Males have a black head with a short, narrow white supercilium and throat - the latter continues on around the ear-coverts to form a narrow half-collar. Rump dark, remainder of upperparts brown, broadly streaked with black. Orange-buff patch on upper breast, remaining underparts dull white. Female paler, greyer and features more diffused and blurred.


Text account compilers
Derhé, M., Taylor, J., Pople, R., Capper, D., O'Brien, A., Ashpole, J, Westrip, J., Khwaja, N., Martin, R

Nicolai, B., Lorenzo, J., Iñigo, A., Oro, D., Arcos, J., Illera, J., Garcia-del-Ray, E.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Saxicola dacotiae. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/08/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/08/2022.