Justification of Red List Category
There have been moderately rapid declines in range and reporting rates of this species based on data from Southern African Bird Atlas Projects, and these declines may continue into the future. The rate of decline is not thought to meet the threshold for Vulnerable, but it is precautionarily considered to approach this threshold and hence the species is listed as Near Threatened.
Lee and Barnard (2016) estimate the population at 395,257-831,202 individuals. This roughly equates to 263,500-554,130 mature individuals, placed here in the range 250,000-600,000 mature individuals.
Based on its dispersal ability and ability to tolerate burned Fynbos (Taylor et al. 2015), it is assumed that this species functions as one subpopulation.
The species is thought to be undergoing a moderately rapid decline, as implied by range and reporting rate reductions between Southern African Bird Atlas Projects (SABAP). Lee and Barnard (2016) place the range and reporting rate reduction between SABAPs (SABAP1 1987-1992; SABAP2 2007-ongoing) as 32%, though Lee et al. (2017) place the range decline at 24%. These rates are equivalent to a rate of decline of c.11-15% over 3 generations. The species is also likely experiencing habitat degradation from the spread of alien vegetation within the Fynbos biome, and from increases in temperature and changes in fire patterns due to climate change (Lee and Bernard 2016). It therefore suspected that the rate of decline overall falls in the band of 20-25%, and this decline is suspected to continue into the future as climate change continues.
Crithagra leucoptera is endemic to the mountain Fynbos of South Africa, in the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces (Taylor et al. 2015). The species breeds in mature Fynbos, but can be seen readily in areas that have been recently burnt as a result of the release of seeds (Taylor et al. 2015).
The species is predominantly found in mature Fynbos, but can be found in large numbers in areas of recent burning as a result of seed release by Protea species (Lee and Barnard 2014). The species may also be found in other habitats such as tall shrubs, semi-arid scrub and woodland patches (Clement and Sharpe 2017).
Recent declines are unlikely to have been driven by agriculture expansion, as most arable land in this species's habitat having already been converted before the start of the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (see Lee and Barnard 2016). The main threat to this species is considered to be climate change (see Huntley and Barnard 2012; Taylor et al. 2015; Lee and Barnard 2016). Climate change will not only impact upon the temperature and rainfall regime in this species's range (temperatures in South Africa have been reported to be rising [van Wilgen et al. 2016]), but it could also have a significant impact on burning cycles, with subsequent impacts on the growth of mature Fynbos vegetation (such as Protea) (see Taylor et al. 2015). The spread of alien vegetation within the Fynbos biome may be another threat (Lee and Barnard 2016).
Conservation Actions Underway
This species occurs in several protected areas. There is a programme underway that is tackling invasive vegetation in the Fynbos biome (Working for Water) (Turpie et al. 2008).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct targeted repeat surveys to better understand population dynamics and ecology. Attempt to assess and implement the most appropriate burning regimes that allow for the required release of food resources for the species, while maintaining sufficient breeding habitat (Taylor et al. 2015). Continue work to remove invasive vegetation from the Fynbos biome (Taylor et al. 2015).
Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Clark, J., Ekstrom, J., Westrip, J.R.S.
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Crithagra leucoptera. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/12/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/12/2022.