Help us save the Rufous-tailed scrub-robin

The rufous-tailed scrub-robin (Erythropygia galactotes) is an insectivore bird easily identifiable by its long, reddish tail, which it frequently shakes and spreads. In Spain it only occurs during the breeding season in woody crops in warm, dry areas of the south. It frequents the ground and lower branches of shrubs and bushes.

It occupies open areas with scattered trees and bushes. In Spain, it occurs at the highest densities in olive groves and vineyards where biocidal products are not abused. It can also be found in pine forests of Aleppo pine, almond groves, orange groves and other groves surrounded by prickly pear, rock rose or mastic tree.


The rufous-tailed scrub-robin, a specie declared “Endangered” according to the “Red Book of Birds in Spain”.

Traditional vineyards and rufous-tailed scrub-robin

In 2013, SEO/BirdLife launched a project to study biodiversity associated with the traditional dry farmed vineyards around Doñana, with a especial focus on one of the most peculiar species of this area: the rufous-tailed scrub-robin

Our last studies indicate that the vineyards of the “Condado de Huelva”, most of which are included in the Biosphere Reserve of Doñana, are the last refuge of the rufous-tailed scrub-robin in Huelva. Home to one of the most numerous (and healthy) populations in Andalusia and the Iberian peninsula, these traditional vineyards function as an key refuge for the rufous-tailed scrub-robin at the regional level, as the species does not even appear in the Doñana Natural Space.

Habitat loss and degradation (land transformation, presence of irrigated lands, abandonment of farming, etc) are the most prominent threats to the species.

The traditional dry farmed vineyard in Doñana is the key to the preservation of the local population of this species. The strong association with the rufous-tailed scrub-robin makes the vineyards an agrosystem of high environmental value, which is an additional reason for the local, regional, and national authorities to be actively involved in its preservation.

Rufous-tailed scrub-robin (Cercotrichas galactotes) (c) Carlos Molina

SEO/BirdLife volunteers censing the rufous-tailed scrub-robin. ©SEO/BirdLife

With the project “Help us save the Rufous-tailed scrub-robin”, from SEO/BirdLife we want to know the causes of the decline of this species and ultimately reverse this negative trend.

Project resources

Because of the exhaustive nature of the planned sampling, we need to cover the entire distribution are of the species in the Huelva province. Hence, it is of paramount importance to tag a great, representative sample of specimens, not only with rings but also with miniaturized telemetry devices, such as VHF transmitters and data loggers, which would allow us to ascertain the exact position of each individual without the need to capture it again.

Of course, in addition to the valuable help provided by the many volunteers that collaborate with us, we need the assistance of at least one qualified technician, who will supervise the census and tracking activities. Last, but not least, we should cover the running costs of the project itself, including fuel, maintenance, and ringing and tagging materials.

Project objectives

  • Rufous-tailed scrub-robins are considered a reliable indicator of the environmental quality of vineyards. Even though it is a poorly known species, the current data indicate that their populations are suffering a generalized decline over the last few decades, as it is the case with most farmland bird populations in developed countries like Spain.
  • The data obtained through the project will represent an invaluable tool that will add further value and visibility to the traditional dry farmed vineyards of the “Condado de Huelva”. In addition, the project will help promoting birdwatching tours in areas of high cultural and landscape value. Traditional vineyards are areas of high ornithological interest because, besides the rufous-tailed scrub-robin, are characterized by the regular presence of cornerstone species of the European avifauna, such as the European bee-eater, the Lesser kestrel, and the Red-necked nightjar.

Rufous-tailed scrub-robin in olive grove (Cercotrichas galactotes) (c) Carlos Molina

Rufous-tailed scrub-robin’s nest (Cercotrichas galactotes) (c) Carlos Molina

How are we going to allocate your donations?

We need a total of 4.250 € that breaks down as follows:

·       VHF equipment and/or data loggers: 3000 €

·       Ringing material: 500€

·       Car fuel: 750 €

Rufous-tailed scrub-robin (Cercotrichas galactotes) (c) Carlos Molina

Ringed rufous-tailed scrub-robin (Cercotrichas galactotes)

About the rewards:

For all pledgings:

  • Certificate of collaboration

For pledges of 20€ or more, the previous plus:

  • A mini-guide of the Common Birds of Spain, illustrated by Juan Varela, containing the 111 species most easily identified on the field in Spain. This guide is specially recommended for beginners in birdwatching.

For pledges of 50 € or more, all the previous plus:

  • Poster “European Birds of Prey”: Large format (70×100) poster with the 36 most common species of diurnal birds of prey in Europe.
  • Poster “Terrestrial birds of Spain”: Large format (70×100) poster with the 168 most common species of passerines in Spain.
  • Poster “Waterbirds I”: Large format (70×100) poster with 59 species of waterbirds found in Europe (anatidaes, grebes, coots), including wandering and rare species.
  • Poster “Waterbirds II”: Large format (70×100) poster with 56 species of waterbirds found in Europe (ardeidas, waders, ciconiiformes), including wandering and rare species.

For pledges of 100 € or more, all the previous plus:

  • Nest box: A box with the standard measurements of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Environment. Particularly fitted for insectivore and backyard birds.

Nest box anti-woodpeckers

Mini guide of “Common birds of Spain”

SEO/BirdLife posters collection

More information:

You can find more information on SEO/BirdLife on our website or by following us on our social media profiles!

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