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Range contraction and conservation of the endangered Yellow Cardinal

Reales, Fabricio, Sarquis, Juan Andrés, Dardanelli, Sebastián, Lammertink, Martjan
Journal for nature conservation 2019 v.50 pp. 125708
Gubernatrix cristata, altitude, conservation areas, ecoregions, grasslands, habitat destruction, habitats, indigenous species, land cover, savannas, shrublands, trade, woodlands, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay
The Yellow Cardinal (Gubernatrix cristata) is distributed in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, inhabiting environments of xerophytic woodland and savannah; it is considered globally Endangered since 1994. Populations are under pressure from loss and modification of habitat and from capturing for the cage bird trade. We compared in a geographical analysis the past (1826–1994) and recent (1995–2018) distributional ranges of the Yellow Cardinal and its affinities to ecoregions, land use cover and presence in protected areas, and assessed continuity vs. fragmentation of the current distribution using the method of Medium Propinquity. We used 1191 location records from reviewed sources and our field observations. We found a reduction of the original distribution to areas where native savannahs are still in good condition. In Argentina, the species has disappeared from 8 out of 16 provinces. The altitudinal range of the species extends up to 1100 m, rather than 700 m as reported in earlier reviews. It is clearly associated with savannah, shrubland, and grassland land cover categories. In regions where it disappeared, suitable habitat remained at 33% of points where it was formerly present, with capturing for the cage bird trade as a likely cause of disappearance. Medium propinquity analysis showed as yet little fragmentation in the current distribution, except for a separation between northern and southern populations. The Yellow Cardinal is distributed mainly outside protected areas; it is found in 31 Important Bird Areas, 22 of which are not protected and are under threat from habitat loss through the expansion of agriculture. We urge improved control of illegal capturing and the maintaining of native vegetation in population strongholds of the Yellow Cardinal.