Justification of Red List Category
The species is undergoing moderately rapid declines across its main breeding range in Spain. Current trends from what may be a large portion of the breeding range in North Africa are unknown, and indeed the proportion of the population this represents is also unknown. While some threats noted as drivers of the decline in Spain are considered likely to be less severe in North Africa, habitat degradation and loss, and insectivore decline are likely to apply across the range. As such, measured rates of reduction are suspected to apply throughout, and these approach the thresholds for listing the species as threatened. As such, the species is assessed as Near Threatened.
There are two recognised subspecies, C. r. ruficollis breeding in northern Morocco and the Iberian Peninsula and C. r. desertorum in northeast Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The European breeding population is estimated at 101,000-135,000 calling males, which equates to 202,000-270,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2021). Europe holds c. 35% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 575,000-770,000 mature individuals, although occupancy of the North African range could be considerably lower and it is plausible that most of the global breeding population is concentrated within the Iberian Peninsula. Spain alone holds >95% of the European population (C. Camacho and P. Sáez-Gómez in litt. 2020). This population is estimated to be declining at a rate of 2.3% annually (SEO/BirdLife in litt. 2022), hence the species is inferred to be undergoing a continuing decline suspected to be proceeding at a moderately rapid rate.
The population in Spain is estimated to have declined by 28% (13-39%) over the past three generations, based on the mean slope of trend (-2.3%) estimated from monitoring across the country (347 plots with at least two visits) between 2006-2021 (SEO/BirdLife in litt. 2022). Suspected drivers of the decline are habitat destruction through urbanisation and agriculture, disturbance, road collisions and potentially predation and pollution (del Hoyo et al. 1999, Cleere et al. 2020, Keller et al. 2020, Camacho and Sáez-Gómez 2021). With a large part of the range of the species lacking data on trends or population size (and hence relative proportion of the population), it is tentatively suspected that this rate applies to the entire population, although it is noted that some identified threats such as urbanisation may be less severe outside of the Iberian range. However, climate change is altering fire frequency and intensity throughout the range and habitat conversion or degradation impacts may affect this species in many areas. The precise driver of the decline is not certain, and there is no evidence to suggest that the declines will cease imminently. Consequently the current rate for the past five years of monitoring data is projected for Spain over the period from 2016-2030 and for the future three generations from 2023-2037, and is suspected to be the rate of reduction over these periods for the whole population.
The species breeds in Algeria, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, and Tunisia, whilst most appear to winter to the south of the Sahara in West Africa, being common in central and southern Mali but it is likely under-recorded elsewhere (Cleere et al. 2020). There are few records from Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire or Ghana and presence in winter in Burkina Faso and the Lake Chad basin in Nigeria was only recorded at the start of the 21st century (Ottosson et al. 2002, Portier 2002). It is likely to also occur in Guinea-Bissau (Borrow and Demey 2001), but the status is uncertain. It is likely that wintering individuals could be found more widely across West Africa.The relative proportion of the population breeding in the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa is unknown. For the nominate subspecies, which breeds in north Morocco, Spain and Portugal, it is possible that the majority breed in Europe, while the abundance of C. ruficollis desertorum elsewhere in Morocco and in Algeria and Tunisia is uncertain.
The species typically uses lowlands and hillsides, with scattered vegetation and bare ground, in pine woodland, coastal forest, eucalyptus or olive plantations, vineyards, open scrubland with cork oak (Quercus suber), prickly pear (Opuntia) or scattered trees, and dense thickets of broom, gorse (Ulex), bramble (Rubus fruticosus), tree heath (Erica arborea) or pistachio (Pistacea lentiscus) (Cleere et al. 2020). In south-west Spain it is attracted towards the warmth of paved roads during migration and during cool weather (temperature below 20°C) or low temperatures (below 14°C), with paved roads providing significantly warmer substrate than gravelled or sandy areas (Camacho 2013). It breeds from early May to late August in Spain and Portugal and mid-May to August in central Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia (Cleere et al. 2020). It usually lays one to two eggs (Cuadrado and Domínguez 1996). The eggs are laid directly on the ground, on leaf litter or pine needles. It feeds on flying and flightless insects. The species is migratory, wintering in west Africa although the exact range is unclear (Cleere et al. 2020).
The most significant threat is thought to be the loss of habitat due to urbanization (including light pollution that can cause building collisions, affect the circadian rhythm, and reduce occupation of nesting sites [Camacho and Sáez-Gómez 2021]) and due to conversion to agriculture. It is both the loss of breeding areas and destruction of foraging habitat that is impacting the species (Camacho and Sáez-Gómez 2021). New renewable energy development, such as photovoltaic plants, are additionally leading to destruction of suitable habitat across Spain (Camacho and Sáez-Gómez 2021). In the Algarve region of Portugal the species is declining due to habitat loss and disturbance from the tourist industry (Cleere et al. 2020).
Reductions in insect populations due to pesticide use are suspected to have affected the species. Their habit of perching on tarmac in cooler weather makes them vulnerable to collision with vehicles, thought to result in 40-80% of the admissions of the species to wildlife rehabilitation centres in Spain (Cleere et al. 2020, Keller et al. 2020, Camacho and Sáez-Gómez 2021). Sampling efforts have additionally shown that species occurring in mining districts (such as the Murcia region) have high blood concentrations of heavy metals (Espín et al. 2020, Camacho and Sáez-Gómez 2021), albeit the exact impact is unknown. Climate change may be altering fire intensity across much of the breeding range in Spain; although the exact impact also remains unknown.
Domestic or feral dogs may affect nesting areas (Camacho and Sáez-Gómez 2021). The impacts of predation are poorly documented, but in southern Spain eggs and chicks may be taken by lizards (such as the Ocellated Lizard Timon lepidus), snakes and Red Foxes (Vulpes vulpes), but no population impacts are recorded.
Conservation Actions Underway
There are no known current conservation measures for this species.
Conservation Actions Proposed
Research the species' biology and ecology to help inform conservation measures (Forero et al. 2001). Investigate the impacts and extent of predation. Develop specific measures to reduce impact of agricultural activities.
Identify key sites for the species and ensure protection from development and disturbance. Control native, problematic species (such as domestic dogs). Review legal protection of the species. Avoid installation of renewable energy schemes such as photovoltaic plants. Minimise the use of insecticidal products. Regulate artificial lighting (Camacho and Sáez-Gómez 2021).
Text account compilers
Fernando, E., Martin, R.
Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Camacho, C., Ekstrom, J., Escandell, V., Grice, H., Piggott, A., Rutherford, C.A., SEO/BirdLife, Staneva, A. & Sáez Gómez, P.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Caprimulgus ruficollis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/03/2023.