Galapagos Species Database

The Galapagos Species Database shares the information about the species from our Natural History Collections.

Pyrocephalus nanus Gould, 1838

Pequeño Pájaro Brujo, Little Vermilion Flycatcher

Galápagos Vermilion Flycatcher. Photo: Michael Dvorak, CDF.
Galápagos Vermilion Flycatcher. Photo: Michael Dvorak, CDF.

Males have a distinct and conspicuous red plumage while females are more cryptic with a pale, creamy yellow belly and grey-brownish body. Young males somewhat orange. Forages exclusively on invertebrates. Often catches invertebrates by sallying or pouncing: perches, observes, and then flies to catch prey mid-air or on the ground. Occurs in all habitat zones but has been declining in arid and transition zones from inhabited islands. Needs open areas for hunting for food: open scrubland, woodland, Scalesia forests, and native Zanthoxylum forests, introduced guava forests, can use silvopasture as habitat.

Threats: It suffers high chick mortality caused by the blood sucking larvae of the introduced avian vampire fly Philornis downsi (Leuba et al. 2020, Mosquera et al. 2022). It is especially sensitive to altered access to food sources due to habitat change (e.g., closed understory caused by hill blackberry Rubus niveus invasion) and needs access to bigger prey (e.g., caterpillars, spiders, crickets) during the reproductive period.

Taxonomy

Domain
Eukaryota

Kingdom
Animalia

Phylum
Chordata

Class
Aves

Order
Passeriformes

Family
Tyrannidae

Genus
Pyrocephalus

Species
nanus

Taxon category: Accepted

Acc. name: Pyrocephalus nanus Gould, 1838 (GBIF Secretariat, 2021). Previously, this species species, and San Cristobal Vermilion Flycatcher were considered susbspecies of the Vermilion Flycatcher (Pryrocephalus rubinus). However, new DNA morphological and behavioral indicate that both Pyrocephalus from Galápagos (P. dubius and P. nanus) are valid species (Carmi, et al 2016).

Taxon origin: Endemic

Status

Vulnerable

Ecology

Preference for an altitude zone in Galapagos: Dry zone - high altitude dry zone

Habitat preferences: Bosques abiertos, bosques, zona de Scalesia, bosques nativos de Zanthoxylum, bosques de guayaba introducida.

Feeding type: Insectivorous

Seems exclusively insectivorous.

Feeding preferences: Sit and wait predator, which perches on exposed branches and flies for insects, flies and moths. But it may also hunt for arthropods, such as spiders and caterpillars, ranging from tiny aphids to 4cm large caterpillars.

Trophic role: Carnivorous

Reproduction mode: Exclusively sexual

Reproductive biology: A year-round a territorial species; the male does conspicuous song flights; its song is rather short and weak. Pairs stay together for at least one season. Breeding takes place during the warmer part of the year but has been observed breeding as early as October. Mostly the female builds a cup nest of moss, lichens, and fine fibers, feathers from other species, placed 2 to 10m high in a fork or on a horizontal branch. The female lays 2-3 eggs and incubates while the male helps in feeding her. Both sexes feed the chicks; fledglings stay with their parents approximately 4 weeks after leaving the nest.

Distribution classification: Eutropical

Distribution

Distribution: All large islands except Baltra, Española, Genovesa and San Cristobal. Absent on Santa Fe during a recent survey (2017). Rare and declining on Santa Cruz and Santiago. The population on Santa Cruz dropped to around 30 territories in 2021; there it mainly occurs in the humid zone. Extinct on Floreana.

References

  • Wiedenfeld, D.A. (2006) Aves, the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Check List 2006 2(2): 1-27.
  • Harris, M.P. (1973) The Galápagos avifauna. Condor 75(3): 265-278.
  • Gifford, E.W. (1913) The birds of the Galápagos Islands, with observations on the birds of Cocos and Clipperton Islands (Columbiformes to Pelicaniformes). Expedition of the California Academy of Science, 1905 -1906. Part VIII. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences, ser. 4, 2(1): 1-132.
  • Salvin, O. (1876) On the avifauna of the Galápagos Archipelago. Transactions of the Zoological Society of London 9: 447-510.
  • Sundevall, C.J. (1871) On birds from the Galápagos Islands. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1871: 124-129.
  • Smith, E.A. (1877) Mollusca. In: Günther, A.: Account of the zoological collections made during the visit of H.M.S. "Petrel" to the Galapagos Islands. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1877): 69-73, 91-93.
  • Swarth, H.S. (1931) The Avifauna of the Galapagos Islands. Occ. Pap. Calif. Acad. Sci. 18: 1-299.
  • De Benedictis, P. (1966) The flight song display of two taxa of Vermilion Flycatcher, genus Pyrocephalus. The Condor 68:306-307.
  • Carmi, O. Witt, C.C., Jaramillo, A., Dumbachera, J.P. (In press.) Phylogeography of the Vermilion Flycatcher species complex: Multiple speciation events, shifts in migratory behavior, and an apparent extinction of a Galápagos-endemic bird species. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 102:152-173.
  • Freile, J.F. Santander, T., Jiménez-Uzcátegui, G., Carrasco, L., Cisneros-Heredia, D., Guevara, E., Sánchez-Nivicela, M., Tinoco, B. (2019) Lista Roja de las aves del Ecuador Quito, Ecuador. 97 pp.
  • GBIF Secretariat (2021) GBIF Backbone Taxonomy. Https://doi.org/10.15468/39omei Accessed via https://www.gbif.org/species/5284517
  • Mosquera, D. Fessl, B., Anchundia, D., Heyer, E., Leuba, C., Nemeth, E., Rojas, M.L., & Tebbich, S. (2022) The invasive parasitic fly Philornis downsi is threatening the Little Vermilion Flycatcher on the Galápagos islands. Avian Conservation and Ecology 17(1):6. https://doi.org/10.5751/ACE-02040-170106.
  • Dvorak, M. Nemeth, E., Wendelin, B. & Fessl, B. (2021) More extinctions on the Galápagos Islands? An unsuccessful search for 4 landbirds on Floreana. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 133, pp. 514-518.
  • Leuba, C. Tebbich, S., Nemeth, E., Anchundia, D., Heyer, E., Mosquera, D., Richner, H., Rojas, M., Sevilla, C. & Fessl, B. (2020) Effect of an introduced parasite in natural and anthropogenic habitats on the breeding success of the endemic Little Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephlaus nanus in the Galápagos Journal of Avian Biology 51, doi 10.1111/jav.02438.
  • Fessl, B. Anchundia, D., Carrión, J., Cimadom, A., Cotin, J., Cunninghame, F., Dvorak, M., Mosquera, D., Nemeth, E., Sevilla, C., Tebbich, S., Wendelin, B., and Causton, C. (2017) Galapagos landbirds (passerines, cuckoos, and doves): Status, threats, and knowledge gaps. Galapagos Report 2015-2016. GNPS, GCREG, DCF, GC. (in English and Spanish).
You are welcome to download and use the information found in this page, acknowledging the origin of the data.
This page should be cited as follows:
"Galapagos Species Database, Pyrocephalus nanus", dataZone. Charles Darwin Foundation, https://datazone.darwinfoundation.org/en/checklist/?species=17274. Accessed 25 May 2024.