First placed on the candidate list: 1982
elfin-woods warbler is not the only Puerto Rican candidate
suffering from lengthy bureaucratic
listing delays. Five others are currently on the
candidate list: the Mona cave shrimp, Calliandra locoensis,
estremerae, Puerto Rico manjack, Island brittleleaf. On
average, they have spent 19 years on the list without protection.
Years waiting for protection: 22
Range: Puerto Rico
Habitat: windswept mountain forests
The Elfin-woods warbler is a striking black and white songbird
from the mountains of Puerto Rico. It was placed on the federal
candidate list for Endangered Species Act protection in 1982.
During its 22 year wait for protection, the warbler has suffered
habitat loss and fragmentation due to logging, coffee plantations,
roads, and telecommunications towers. It is presumed to have
been widely distributed across Puerto Rico, but is now found
only in four scattered populations.
other Caribbean species paid the ultimate price
for bureaucratic listing delays. The
mottled coqui frog (Eleutherodactylus eneidae)
inhabited the forested interior uplands of Puerto
It went extinct in 1990 while waiting unprotected
on the candidate list. The Virgin Islands screech
owl (Otus nudipes newtoni) lived in the U.S.
Virgin Islands immediately east of Puerto Rico.
Acknowledging its slide toward extinction, the
U.S. Department of Interior placed it on the
C.I.T.E.S. list in 1975. This protected it from
international trade, but not habitat loss or
take, and did require initiation of a recovery
plan, critical habitat, or other conservation
efforts. It went extinct in 1980 and was placed
on the candidate list two years later.
Primarily found in the Caribbean National Forest and the
Maricao Commonwealth Forest, the species derives its name
from the short forests which cap Puerto Rico's windblown
mountain tops. Thriving in rainy, cold and windy conditions,
the elfin-woods warbler gleans insects from leaves, conceals
its nest close to tree trunks, and appears to migrate to
lower elevation forests on a seasonal basis.
The fragmentation of the warbler's habitats makes it vulnerable
to natural events such as Hurricane Hugo which in 1989 may
have wiped out one of the four known populations. In addition,
non-native rats have followed human development on Puerto
Rico and may be raiding warbler nests as they do on other