Principal researchers: Juan J. Negro, Jose H. Sarasola

Period: 2010-2011

The Crowned Solitary Eagle (Buteogallus coronatus) is one of the rarest and most severely threatened birds of prey in the Neotropical region. Its range extends from southern Brazil to northern Patagonia, where it inhabits a variety of forested habitats, including woodlands and other savanna-like landscapes. The species is listed as endangered under the IUCN Red List with a declining world population estimated at less than one thousand reproductive individuals. Reduced population size and range contraction of Crowned Solitary Eagles is suspected to be human induced, including habitat, electrocution, as well as shooting.

Possibly, because Crowned Solitary Eagles occurs in low densities in remote and barely explored areas, little is known about the biology of the species and no information exists on the demography and population connectivity between geographic regions. Likewise, there is a lack of knowledge on the extent to which population decline and range contraction have affected levels of genetic diversity in this species. The main goal of this project is evaluate the genetic status of Crowned Solitary Eagles. Specifically, the project focuses on::

1. Estimate the neutral genetic diversity (microsatellites) and investigate the existence of population structure between populations of this endangered species.

2. Evaluate, using historical and contemporary samples, the genetic impact of the demographic reduction experienced by the Crowned Solitary Eagle.

3. Develop monitoring protocols of the species using non-invasive techniques.


Principal researcher: Martin Päckert

Period: 2008-2011

Climate change is one of the major driving forces for adaptive shifts in migration and breeding phenology, and possibly impacts demographic changes if a species fails to adapt sufficiently. In Western Europe, pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) have insufficiently adapted their breeding phenology to the ongoing advance of food peaks within their breeding area, and consequently suffered local population declines. Here, we will test for potential effects of global change on the genetic architecture of populations using two neutral marker sets (mitochondrial control region and microsatellites) and one potentially selectively non-neutral marker (avian clock gene). We will use current and historic samples from six European pied flycatcher populations (Finland, Germany, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands), covering a large part of the species’ breeding range.


Principal researcher: Juan Carlos Senar

Period: 2006-2009

Plumage coloration signals body condition, experience or dominance status of individuals. This is why in many bird species this coloration is used as a main criterium for mate choice or to choose a social companion. Unfortunatelly, most studies up to now have dealt with a single ornament, or have centered only on partial aspects of the problem. The aim of the current research project is to carry out a multidisciplinary approach to the problem of plumage signal evolution, investigating aspects related to behavioural strategies, physiology, biochemestry and genetics. We use as a main hypothesis that different kinds of colours (based on carotenes, melanins and structural) signal different qualities of the individual. We additionally test for the effects of plumage coloration on proceses as local adaptation and gene flow. This project, therefore, allows for the study of the evolution of signals from a new perspective.