Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The global population size has not been quantified. In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 5,100-10,300 pairs, which equates to 10,100-20,500 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015), but Europe forms <5% of the global range.
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.
This species is found in alpine and subalpine areas with stunted and sparse vegetation, montane and submontane plateaux, usually above the rhododendron (Rhododendron) zone, in barren, desolate and windswept hillsides, around rock faces and valleys with occasional dwarf birch (Betula), juniper (Juniperus) and willow (Salix) thickets and boulder-strewn and rock-strewn screes. It also occupies the edges of glaciers and ice-fields, alpine meadows, and open fields at edges of cultivation. Outside of the breeding season it is found at lower levels in similar habitat. The breeding season is from late May to the end of August (Clement 2016), in Europe breeding is from July to August (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997). The nest is constructed mainly from thin twigs, plants stalks and root fibres, grass, moss, animal hair, wool and feathers. It is set in a crevice in a rock face or in a low bush on cliff face and exceptionally in a deserted building. Clutches are four to five eggs. The diet is chiefly seeds, buds, shoots and flowers of small alpine plants but it sometimes takes berries and small insects as well. The species is resident and an altitudinal migrant, moving to lower levels from October to March (Clement 2016).
In Europe, declines are attributed to the destruction of habitats rich in Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) scrub and predation by Alpine Couch (Pyrrhocorax graculus) (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997). During the winter and increasing number of the species are being trapped as cagebirds (Tucker and Heath 1994). The size of the European population could also render it susceptible to the risks affecting small populations (Birdlife International 2004). The Caucasus breeding population has declined possibly as a result of habitat destruction (Clement 2016).
Conservation Actions Underway
There are currently no known conservation measures for this species.
Conservation Actions Proposed
Essential, is the conservation of winter habitats rich in Hippophae rhamnoides, especially in the river valleys bordering the Kabardino-Balkarian and North Ossetian highland reserves, where the majority of the species winters. Sustainable exploitation of Hippophae berries should also be ensured. A complete ban on catching and keeping birds should be implemented until its effects can be investigated. Accurate monitoring of the species and its population trends should also be undertaken as well as an assessment of the impacts of predation by Alpine Chough (Tucker and Heath 1994).
Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J.
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Carpodacus rubicilla. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/09/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/09/2019.