Medium Tree Finch given US Endangered Status

July 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Medium Tree FinchBy The Center for Biological Diversity

In response to decades-old listing petitions and a series of lawsuits by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated two rare South American bird species as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act: the black-breasted puffleg, a hummingbird native to Ecuador, and the medium tree finch, one of the famous Galápagos Islands finches studied by Charles Darwin.

A campaign to protect scores of the world’s most imperiled bird species began in the 1980s, when worried ornithologists began submitting Endangered Species Act petitions to protect more than 70 international bird species. Although the Fish and Wildlife Service had determined that most of the species warranted listing by 1994, it illegally delayed responding to the petitions. Center for Biological Diversity lawsuits in 2004 and 2006 jumpstarted the foreign-species listing program, and the Service determined that more than 50 of the bird species warranted listing. So far the Service has listed 14 of the bird species as endangered or threatened and proposed listing for 28 more.

Listing international species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act restricts buying and selling of imperiled wildlife, increases conservation funding and attention, and can add scrutiny to development projects proposed by U.S. government and multilateral lending agencies such as the World Bank that would destroy or alter their habitat.

The medium tree finch (Camarhynchus pauper) is endemic to the island of Floreana in the Galápagos, where it inhabits moist highland forests. It is one of the 14 species of Darwin’s finches, collectively named in recognition of Charles Darwin’s work on the theory of evolution. The species is threatened by habitat loss and degradation due to agriculture and ranching, and habitat alteration and predation by introduced species.

The black-breasted puffleg (Eriocnemis nigrivestis) inhabits humid temperate and elfin forests in Ecuador, and is named for its distinctive white leg plumage. The single puffleg population has declined by more than 50 percent the past 12 years, and fewer than 250 pufflegs are known to remain. The species is threatened by habitat loss and destruction due to deforestation for agriculture and grazing, oil development and road development.

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