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The Cape Rockjumper is one of South Africa's most sought-after and charismatic endemics. It is one of eight endemic birds (seven passerines and a buttonquail) in the Cape Floristic Region, referred to colloquially as fynbos (see Distribution and Habitat).
The Cape Rockjumper is inextricably linked to its mountain fynbos habitat and is a keystone species within the mountain fynbos. As species strongly associated with a particular habitat type can be useful indicators for the habitat itself (1), it may serve as an indicator species for overall health and biodiversity loss in the fynbos itself.
Recently, the Cape Rockjumper has been used as a case study for examining the potential effects of climate change on range-restricted mountain species (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). It was chosen as a study species for the effects of climate change for a number of reasons. First, it occurs only on continental sky islands (10), making it a range-restricted species. Second, it likely is highly specialized for its habitat and climate (common in mountain endemic birds) (11). Third, it is not able to shift its range as its current habitat becomes climatically unsuitable — it only inhabits the higher peaks of the mountain fynbos, which is on the edge of the African continent, and so it can not move to higher altitudes or cooler latitudes (12). Most worryingly, the Cape Rockjumper currently is declining in warmer parts of its habitat (13), based on occurrence records from South African Bird Atlas Project’s 1 and 2 (1987–1991, and 2007–present, respectively).
In 2017, the Cape Rockjumper was placed on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species in 2017, and in 2021, the Cape Rockjumper was announced as BirdLife South Africa's Bird of the Year. Its placement within the IUCN Red List came from reassessments of its habitat and population (see Conservation and Management), while the nomination for Bird of the Year came from the combination of its sensitivity to climate change, specialized habitat, declining reporting rates, declining habitat, and revered nature among South African birds, which make it a major draw for avitourism.