Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The remarkable feeding behaviour demonstrated by the woodpecker finch involves the use of twigs and cactus spines to push, stab or lever insects and spiders from tree-holes and crevices (3). Displaying extraordinary behavioural adaptability, this species will not only seek out a variety of different feeding implements, but will also manipulate them to make them more manageable, for example by shortening cactus spines with its bill (7). Although the woodpecker finch's use of tools enables it to access inaccessible sources of food, particularly those with the high energy content such as spider egg sacs, it incurs a significant cost by being a relatively time consuming foraging technique. Therefore, it is a behaviour most commonly exhibited by woodpecker finches in the arid zone during the dry season, when easily accessible food supplies are scarce. In contrast, during the Arid Zone wet season, and throughout the year in the Scalesia Zone, invertebrate prey are generally abundant and easily accessible, hence the woodpecker finch is more reliant on its specialised, pointed bill to probe amongst moss and bark for prey, and rarely uses tools (3). Darwin's finches usually breed during the hot, wet season when food is most abundant. Monogamous, lifelong breeding pairs are common, although mate changes and breeding with more than one partner have also been observed. Breeding pairs maintain small territories, in which they construct a small dome-shaped nest with an entrance hole in the side. Generally a clutch of three eggs is laid, which are incubated by the female for about twelve days, and the young brooded for a further two weeks before leaving the nest. The short-eared owl (Asio flammeus), frequently preys on the nestlings and juvenile Darwin's finches, while adults are occasionally taken by Galapagos hawks (Buteo galapagoensis) and lava herons (Butorides sundevalli) (2).
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Description

Perhaps the most famous of Darwin's finches, the woodpecker finch has attracted popular and scientific attention for its remarkable usage of tools to assist feeding (2) (3). Like the other Darwin's finches, this species has evolved a specialised beak form, enabling it to exploit a particular habitat and diet (2). In the case of the woodpecker finch, its beak is long and pointed, allowing it to probe deeply into cavities in search of food (4). Adults and juveniles both have dull, uniform, light greyish-olive plumage (5), with the only distinguishing feature being beak colouration, which changes from pink to black as this species matures (3).
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Distribution

Range

The woodpecker finch is endemic to the Galapagos Archipelago, where it occupies the islands of Isabela, Fernandina, Santiago, Pinzón, Santa Cruz, and San Cristóbal (6).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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The woodpecker finch is mostly found in the Scalesia Zone, a lush, humid evergreen forest dominated by the daisy tree (Scalesia pedunculata), which is found between elevations of 300 and 700 metres. This species also occurs in the lowland Arid Zone, which is dominated by deciduous trees, shrubs and cacti, but is much rarer in this habitat (3).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
Although this species may have a small range, it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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Status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).
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Population

Population
The global population size has not been quantified, but this species is described as 'uncommon' (Stotz et al. 1996).

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Like other bird species endemic to the Galapagos, the woodpecker finch is affected by ongoing habitat destruction, invasive species, and introduced diseases, such as avian pox (8). Nevertheless, despite being uncommon in some parts of its range, the global population of this species is not considered to be small enough, nor undergoing a sufficiently significant decline, to warrant a threatened classification (9).
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Management

Conservation

The majority of the Galapagos archipelago forms part of the Galapagos National Park, a World Heritage Site. A management plan is in place for the islands, and the Ecuadorian government and non-governmental organisations are working to conserve the unique biodiversity of the Galapagos (10). More specifically, scientists at the Charles Darwin Research Station are working to improve our understanding of Darwin's finches to ensure their conservation. This includes monitoring of populations and investigating introduced diseases (8).
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Wikipedia

Woodpecker Finch

The Woodpecker Finch (Camarhynchus pallidus) is a species of bird in the Darwin's finch group of the tanager family Thraupidae. Woodpecker Finches occur widely in the Galapagos Islands, from sea level to high elevations.

CactornisPallidaPZSL1870.jpg

It has gained fame due to its capability of using a twig, stick, or cactus spine as a tool so it has been nicknamed the carpenter finch.[2] The tool is used as compensation for its short tongue. The finch manipulates the tool to dislodge invertebrate prey such as grubs from trees. The same tool can be used many times on many different trees. Scientists have observed that the finches may shorten the stick or spine to make it more manageable. The finches may also try various sticks or spines at one site before finding just the appropriate one that can reach and extract the prey item.

During the dry season, Woodpecker Finches use tools during half their foraging time to acquire up to 50% of their prey. This means they obtain even more food via tool use than chimpanzees, the most proficient non-human primate tool users. Another bird with a somewhat similar capability of tool use is the New Caledonian Crow.

References[edit]

  • Tebbich, S., Taborsky, M., Fessl, B. & Dvorak, M. 2002. The ecology of tool use in the woodpecker finch (Cactospiza pallida). Ecology Letters, 5, 656-664.


Diet

The woodpecker finch is so-named because it feeds on small insects and grubs located within trees and shrubs. Its habit of pecking at branches is similar to a woodpecker's drumming on a tree trunk.

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