Cape Rockjumper Chaetops frenatus Scientific name definitions

Krista N. Oswald
Version: 2.0 — Published May 17, 2021

Conservation and Management

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Currently considered Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species in 2017. The Cape Rockjumper was uplisted to nationally Near Threatened in South Africa in 2015 (42), when it was suggested that it satisfied the criteria for consideration as globally Vulnerable (31). It was placed on the IUCN list predominantly due to reassessment of its population metrics (12) combined with threats to its habitat (31).

Effects of Human Activity

Habitat Loss and Degradation

A combination of poor growing conditions, difficult accessibility, and appreciation of the unique biome mean much of the Cape Rockjumper habitat is conserved (see Demography: Population Regulation). Core habitats of fynbos are well protected within a large network of provincial nature reserves, with most of the Cape Rockjumpers habitat conserved either privately or in CapeNature reserves designed to protect water catchment areas (31). In addition, the Cape Rockjumper does well in open habitat resulting from frequent fires, which are predicted to increase with climate change (see Habitat).

The Mediterranean regions are famous for wine production and coastal development, and face threats from urban and agricultural expansion. Alien vegetation infestation (especially Pinus and Hakea) is a major threat to remaining natural vegetation to mountain fynbos. In other areas of their habitat (such as Sir Lowry's Pass), human recreational activities such as ATV use and paragliding occur, causing potential damage to habitat and stress to birds. fynbos is a fire-driven ecosystem, and fires ideally occur every 10–25 years. However, near human settlements fires are suppressed, while in remote regions they now occur more frequently (43).

Other Human/Research Impacts

The historically stable climate of the fynbos is partially responsible for the remarkable floristic diversity of the region, and so any major change in climatic patterns is likely to have adverse effects on plants and their dependent species. Climate change scenarios for 2050 predict a 51–65% reduction of the geographical extent of the fynbos biome (33), resulting in dramatic reductions in specific habitat for the inhabitants of this already rather small area. Projected increases in drought and fire due to climate change likely will result in a feedback cycle where the floral community structure does not advance past the early successional stage. The historically stable climate of the fynbos is partially responsible for the remarkable floristic diversity of the region, and so any major change in climatic patterns is likely to have adverse effects on plants and their dependent species.

The effects of more frequent fires on the fynbos ecosystem are as yet undetermined, for while the fynbos thrives on a frequent fire regime means, introduced non-native species (such as Pinus and Eucalyptus) often dominate post-fire communities in areas of fynbos — especially in areas of fynbos directly adjacent to plantations (44; 43). There is also increasing agriculture from a growing Honeybush tea industry.

Changes to fire regimes, recreational activities, and agricultural expansion will likely result in negative impacts to biodiversity, with the fynbos biome (and all Mediterranean biomes) all considered biodiversity hotspots, and as such all areas of high conservation concern (35).

Increasing temperatures also affect the rockjumper's behavior and breeding success; while interpretations of the effect of temperature on behavior remain unclear, there is direct evidence of negative impacts from higher temperatures on nest success ( 4; 5; 9).

Breeding success seems unaffected by on-site research activity. There is no evidence that adults have abandoned nests due to researcher presence. Adults always returned to nests within 20 minutes of any researcher activity at the nests, including camera setup and banding of nestlings (9 ; 5).

In addition, there were no short-term or long-term negative effects recorded for rockjumpers implanted with PIT-tags or given radio tags attached with leg-loop harnesses (3; 2; 4; 7).


Conservation Measures and Habitat Management

By far the population most affected by human disturbance are those birds found at Rooi Els near Cape Town, as this population is the most easily accessible. In the last few years, there has been some worry over the effect of human disturbance on these birds. In July of 2020, signs along the road were put in place by a partnership of Birding Africa Tours, the Rooi Els Conservancy and Cape Bird Club with artwork donated by Faansie Peacock — these signs are meant not only protect to the Cape Rockjumper, but also the Fynbos habitat.

It will mainly be important to ensure the continued conservation of its habitat, especially those parts of their habitat that are on land which is currently under private ownership. For now, these areas are not under threat from human impacts as the land is difficult to develop for agriculture, and is mostly considered of low quality for animal husbandry. It will also be important to control (or in some cases continue controlling) the expansion of alien vegetation. While some reserves make an effort to control invasive species, this is often not the case. The spread of such vegetation is most easily seen with Pinus pinea, as the tall pine trees stand out against an otherwise low vegetation landscape.

As yet there is no information on direct impacts of invasive vegetation. There is also no information on effects of invasive mammals (such as rats, cats, or dogs) around Cape Town where dense human habitation occurs directly against theoretically good Cape Rockjumper habitat. Whether these species have an impact, possibly even being one reason for the extirpation of the rockjumper from the Table Mountain range, is an area of interest for future study.

Recommended Citation

Oswald, K. N. (2021). Cape Rockjumper (Chaetops frenatus), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (T. S. Schulenberg and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.rufroc1.02