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Biota Neotropica

Print version ISSN 1806-129XOn-line version ISSN 1676-0611

Biota Neotrop. vol.11 no.2 Campinas Apr./June 2011 



Birds of the Grota do Angico Natural Monument in the semi-arid Caatinga scrublands of northeastern Brazil


Aves do Monumento Natural Grota de Angico na região de Caatinga ao Nordeste do Brasil


Juan Ruiz-EsparzaI, II, *; Sidney Feitosa GouveiaII, III; Patricio Adriano da RochaII, IV; Raone Beltrão-MendesII; Adauto de Souza RibeiroV; Stephen Francis FerrariV

IGraduate Program in Environment and Development, Universidade Federal de Sergipe - UFS, Av. Marechal Rondon s/n, CEP 49100-000, São Cristóvão - Sergipe, Brazil
IIGraduate Program in Ecology and Conservation, Universidade Federal de Sergipe - UFS, São Cristóvão - SE, Brazil
IIIGraduate Program in Ecology and Evolution, Universidade Federal de Goiás - UFG, Goiânia - GO, Brazil
IVGraduate Program in Biological Science (Zoology), Universidade Federal da Paraíba - UFP, João Pessoa - PB, Brazil
VDepartment of Biology, Universidade Federal de Sergipe - SE, São Cristóvão - SE, Brazil




An inventory of the avian fauna of the Grota do Angico Natural Monument in the Caatinga of northern Sergipe, Brazil, revealed the presence of at least 140 species, including nine that are endemic to the Caatinga and seasonal forest adjacent. Despite the limited scope of the study (two expeditions in July and August, 2008), the species richness recorded at the site appeared to be typical of the region and the Caatinga biome.

Keywords: avian inventory, birds conservation, caatinga, protected areas, Sergipe.


No inventário da avifauna do Monumento Natural Grota de Angico na Caatinga ao norte de Sergipe, Brasil, revelou a presença de pelo menos 140 espécies, incluindo nove endêmicas da Caatinga e florestas sazonais adjacentes. Apesar do alcance limitado do estudo (duas expedições em Julho e Agosto, 2008), a riqueza de espécies registrada no sitio aparentemente pode ser típica da região e do Bioma Caatinga.

Palavras-chave: inventário de aves, conservação de aves, caatinga, unidades de conservação, Sergipe.




The semi-arid scrublands of the Caatinga cover some 800,000 km² of the Brazilian Northeast. Relatively few studies of the avian fauna of this biome are available (Pacheco 2000, Olmos et al. 2005), and even basic parameters such as its overall diversity of species are poorly-defined. Estimates of the total number of bird species found in the Caatinga range from 348 (Pacheco 2004) through 460 (Major et al. 2004) to 510 (Silva et al. 2003). It nevertheless seems likely that all of these values represent underestimates, given the paucity of field studies and data.

The Caatinga has suffered extensive anthropogenic degradation, was has formed a landscape characterized by a mosaic of forest fragments and impacted vegetation within a matrix dominated by cattle ranching (Castelleti et al. 2004). This degradation of natural environments generally has deleterious effects on the diversity of a biome (Brooks & Balmford 1996, Bierregaard Junior et al. 1992), and while the Caatinga has traditionally been considered relatively immune to such impacts, a recent review (Leal et al. 2005) suggests that the Caatinga is as vulnerable as any other biome.

The creation of protected areas is a fundamental step in the conservation of natural resources, and the Sergipe state government has created a number of conservation units since 2007. One of these units is the Grota do Angico Natural Monument, which not only preserves a representative area of arboreal Caatinga on the margin of the São Francisco River, but also has considerable historic and cultural significance as the site of the death of the famous outlaw Virgulino Ferreira da Silva, known as "Lampião".

The aim of the present study was to provide an inventory of the bird species that inhabit a recently-established protected area in the Brazilian Caatinga, and contribute to the understanding of the biological diversity of this biome. As Farias & Pereira (2009) have pointed out, the avian fauna of the Caatinga is poorly-known, and any addition to the knowledge of biodiversity can provide information to develop strategies for conservation of bird species recorded.



The present study was conducted in the Grota do Angico Natural Monument (GANM), which is located on the right margin of the lower São Francisco River in the northern extreme of the Brazilian state of Sergipe (09° 39' S; 37° 40' W). The 2138 ha reserve is located within the Caatinga morphoclimatic domain, as defined by Ab'Saber (1974), and straddles the border between the municipalities of Poço Redondo and Canindé de São Francisco (Figure 1).



The climate of the region is characterized by relatively reduced and infrequent rainfall, with annual precipitation of approximately 500 mm, distributed mainly between April and August, the period known locally as the winter (inverno). Rainfall is minimal during the remaining months, although the quantity and distribution of precipitation may vary considerably among years. Santos & Andrade (1992) classified the region as marginally arid (Köppen's BShw category), although local humidity levels may be influenced by the proximity of the area to the São Francisco River (Figure 1). Temperatures are relatively high throughout the year, with means of around 30 °C during the dry season, but there is also an accentuated diurnal temperature range.

The present study was based on two excursions in 2008, between the 14th and 18th of July, and the 4th and 7th of August, 2008. This period corresponds to the late wet season at the study site.

1. Mist-netting

Birds were captured using 100 m-long mist nets with a 35 mm mesh, which were set along existing trails during morning (5:00-12:00 AM) and afternoon/evening sessions (4:00-10:00 PM). The specimens were removed carefully from the nets and placed in cloth bags for removal to the field laboratory for processing, where they were identified according to the field guides of Major et al. (2004) and Sigrist (2007), weighed and measured (standard parameters), see Brasil (1994), and then released at the capture sites. Specimen collection was authorized by the Brazilian Environment Institute (IBAMA), through special license number 15900-1, issued by SISBIO. Specimens were collected only when the animal died during capture. All specimens were taxidermized and deposited in the ornithological collection being established at the Federal University of Sergipe in São Cristóvão.

2. Observation

Additional records were collected using the active search procedure (Ambrose 1989), for the identification of large, conspicuous or aquatic birds. Observations were conducted using a pair of 8 × 40 binoculars, and the field guides of Sigrist (2007) and Major et al. (2004). This procedure was conducted during the earliest daylight hours, when birds tend to be most active. Species nomenclature followed the Brazilian Committee for Ornithological Records (Comitê... 2010).



A total of 140 bird species belonging to 42 families were recorded during the course of the study (Table 1). This total corresponds to almost half (42%) of the species recorded for the state of Sergipe by Sousa (2009). The Tyrannidae was represented by the largest number of species (17), followed by the Thraupidae (nine species) and the Columbidae, Furnariidae and Emberizidae, each with eight species. Fourteen of the species recorded here are endemic to Brazil, and nine are endemic to the Caatinga (Figure 2), according to Stotz et al. (1996). One of these endemic species, the Pectoral Antwren (Herpsilochmus pectoralis), is listed as vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN (International... 2009).



While July is part of the peak period of bird migrations in the Caatinga (Lima et al. 2003, Ruiz-Esparza 2010), nine migratory species (Zenaida auriculata, Coccyzus melacoryphus, Elaenia chilensis, Euscarthmus meloryphus, Empidonomus varius, Tyrannus melancholicus, Tyrannus savana, Turdus amaurochalinus and Sporophila lineola) was recorded during the present study (based on the classification of Stotz et al. 1996). This single species contrasts with the nine and six migratory species recorded, respectively, in July and August, 2009, at the Serra da Guia, some 40 km south of the present study site, by (Ruiz-Esparza 2010). While more migratory species were recorded at this site, no waterbirds (e.g. Anhinga anhinga, Egretta thula, Jacana jacana, and Phalacrocorax brasilianus) were observed, presumably because of the absence of aquatic habitats at this higher altitude location. Despite these differences in taxonomic composition, and the much longer study period at Serra da Guia (one year), the two studies recorded the same number of species (140).

Other inventories within the same geographical region have returned similar numbers of taxa. Roos et al.  (2006) recorded 145 bird species at the Sobradinho Reservoir (Caatinga), for example, located further upstream on the São Francisco River in Bahia state, whereas D'Horta et al.  (2005) recorded 123 species in the Serra de Itabaiana National Park (mixed Caatinga), in southern Sergipe. At Raso da Catarina, Bahia, west and north of the present study site, Lima et al. (2003) recorded a total of 191 bird species in caatinga scrub and semideciduous forest.

Further afield, while the results of some surveys in the Caatinga were similar to those of the present study, others have reported larger numbers of species. For example, Santos (2004) recorded only 115 bird species in the caatinga of Piauí, while Telino-Júnior et al.  (2005) recorded 145 species in Santa Terezinha, Paraíba. Similarly, Nascimento (2000) recorded only 116 species at the Seridó Ecological Station in Rio Grande do Norte, and 154 species at the Ajuba Ecological Station in Ceará, while Farias et al. (2010) found 162 species in the Negreiros National Forest in Pernambuco. By contrast, Nascimento et al. (2000) reported a total of 193 species from the Araripe Plateau, located in the contact zone between the states of Pernambuco, Ceará, and Piauí, Olmos (1993) recorded 208 in the Serra da Capivara National Park in Piauí, and Farias et al. (2006) found a total of 249 species in areas of caatinga habitat in Pernambuco, Paraíba, and Ceará considered to be high priority for conservation.

While it seems likely that the full complement of species found in the Grota do Angico Natural Monument was not recorded here, due primarily to the relatively short duration of the study, this comparison among studies suggests that the estimate of species richness was relatively reliable, by regional standards.



We thank the Sergipe state environment ministry (SEMARH) for logistic support, FAPITEC-Sergipe (JMREA) and CAPES (PAR, RBM) for graduate stipends, and CNPq (project numbers 302747/2008-7 and 476064/2008-2). We are especially grateful to Manoel Messias Nazaré, 'Seu Didi', Eduardo Santos Marques Jr, Crizanto Brito and Evellyn Freitas for their assistance in the field, and to two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the original manuscript.



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Recebido em 26/10/2010
Versão reformulada recebida em 06/01/2011
Publicado em 04/05/2011



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