Justification of Red List Category
This species qualifies as Critically Endangered because its tiny population, known from just one locality in the 1990s following over 100 years without a confirmed record, is likely to be continuing to decline owing to extensive habitat loss and fragmentation within its tiny range.
The single known remaining population, rediscovered in 1996 after more than 100 years, is assumed to be tiny (fewer than 50 individuals and mature individuals).
The species is suspected to be declining at an unknown rate, owing to ongoing forest loss within its historic range. The degree to which it can tolerate secondary growth and its ecological requirements are poorly known.
Calyptura cristata has apparently declined to near-extinction within a very restricted range to the north of Rio de Janeiro city, Brazil. From the evidence of skins and one sight record, it was not uncommon, even in secondary habitat, in the mid-19th century. However, although there have been several rumours and unverified reports, the species was unrecorded during the 20th century until two birds were observed in the Serra dos Órgãos on several days in October 1996 (Pacheco and Fonseca 2001). There have been no reliable records of the species since 1996 despite searches in the Reserva Ecologica Guapiaçu, the Teresopolis area, the foothills of the Serra do Mar, Ubatuba and between Nova Friburgo and Soumidoura in September to November 2006, which investigated several unconfirmed reports (F. Olmos in litt. 2003; Lambert 2007, Lambert and Kirwan 2010). A specimen of this species, purported to have been collected somewhere in the state of São Paulo between May 1819 and April 1820, was discovered in the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, in 2007 and could potentially extend the area over which the species is known to have at least formerly occurred (Stopiglia et al. 2009); however, its true provenance has not been satisfactorily established (Rêgo et al. 2013).
It is apparently restricted to foothill forest, but tolerates secondary habitats, and the 1996 birds were in secondary growth (Lambert 2007). However, secondary growth supports far fewer epiphytic plants and bromeliads (which retain quantities of suspended water that significantly alter the microclimate within a forest); hence large areas of secondary forest may be unsuitable for the species (Lambert 2007). Seasonal altitudinal movements are suspected, which might explain the lack of post-1996 records in the Serra dos Órgãos. This tiny, inconspicuous species is probably easily overlooked, perching in the canopy where it actively explores clumps of bromeliads, apparently avoiding treetops. It has been recorded eating fruit, seeds and insects, though the 1996 sightings suggest that it may specialise on mistletoe (C. E. Carvalho verbally 1998).
Deforestation appears to have brought this species to the brink of extinction - historically driven by gold and diamond mining and the creation of coffee plantations in areas where the species was initially collected (Lambert 2007). If it is an altitudinal migrant, the lack of remaining forest below 1,000 m is likely to be a particular threat. Development within forest around the edges of the Serra dos Órgãos National Park, particularly at the site of the 1996 rediscovery, is concerning (C. E. Carvalho verbally 1998). The harvesting of bromeliads, mistletoes and orchids from the forest of the region may further threaten the species by reducing food supply, but also by altering habitat structure and microclimate (Lambert 2007). Climate change could also have an impact on the species, particularly through habitat shifting (Şekercioğlu et al. 2012).
Conservation and Research Actions Underway
It is protected by Brazilian law. The sightings in 1996 were on the edge of the Serra dos Órgãos National Park. Some areas of apparently suitable habitat are protected within the park, and there are adjacent tracts of forest to elevations of c. 50 m. Suitable habitat also occurs within the Reserva Ecologica Guapiaçu (Lambert 2007).
8 cm. Minute, yellowish cotinga. Bright yellowish-olive above. Yellow forehead and rump. Very short tail and dusky wings, the latter with two white wing-bars and tip to tertials. Bright yellow below with olive wash on breast. Long red feathers of the mid-crown, surrounded by black, often raised to form crest. Voice Sharp notes have been reported.
Text account compilers
Sharpe, C.J., Symes, A., Williams, R., Westrip, J., Capper, D., Clay, R.P., Mahood, S., Bird, J., Pople, R.
Lambert, F. & Olmos, F.
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Calyptura cristata. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 20/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 20/10/2021.