Yellow-headed Brush-finch (Atlapetes flaviceps): revise global status?

BirdLife species factsheet for Yellow-headed Brush-finch

Yellow-headed Brush-finch (Atlapetes flaviceps) is endemic to Colombia, where it occurs on both slopes of the Central Andes and the Western Andes. It is found between 1,200 and 2,500 m. It inhabits secondary forests and forest borders as well as bushy, open areas, plantations and disturbed habitats (Renjífo et al. 2014, Jaramillo and Sharpe 2020, P. Salaman in litt. 2020). The species is threatened by the loss of habitat. It has been hypothesised that while it mainly occupies secondary vegetation, it possibly still requires the presence of forests within its range (Y. G. Molina-Martínez in Renjífo et al. 2014).  

The population has previously been estimated to number 250-999 mature individuals. However, this is now considered to be a large underestimate, as the species appears to be widespread throughout its range, in which it is recorded regularly (eBird 2020, P. Salaman in litt. 2020). Based on density estimates of congeners and the area of available habitat, the population size has been estimated to number up to 13,000 individuals; but to account for uncertainties the population size has been placed in the band 10,000-13,000 individuals (Renjífo et al. 2014). This roughly equates to 6,500-8,500 mature individuals.

Yellow-headed Brush-finch is currently listed as Endangered under Criteria B1ab(i,ii,iii,v); C2a(ii). However, new information regarding the population size and trend and the distribution range suggests that the species may warrant a change in Red List status. Therefore, it will be re-assessed against all Red List criteria:

Criterion A – The population trend has not been estimated directly. Forest loss over ten years (one generation length being estimated at 3.1 years; Bird et al. 2020*) within the range has been estimated at 11.2% (Renjífo et al. 2014). Given that the species does not depend on forest, but readily tolerates degraded and converted habitats, the rate of population decline is likely considerably lower than the rate of forest loss. The only known threat to the species is habitat loss. Therefore, while we can tentatively suspect that the species is undergoing a slow decline, the rate of decline is too low to meet the threshold for Vulnerable. As such, Yellow-headed Brush-finch may be listed as Least Concern under Criterion A.

Criterion B – The newly calculated Extent of Occurrence (EOO) for this species is 32,000 km2. This value does not meet the threshold for Vulnerable (EOO < 20,000 km2). The Area of Occupancy (AOO) has not been quantified according to the guidelines (IUCN Standards and Petitions Committee 2019). Therefore, Yellow-headed Brush-finch may be listed as Least Concern under Criterion B1.

Criterion C – The population size of Yellow-headed Brush-finch has preliminarily been estimated at c. 6,500-8,500 mature individuals. This meets the threshold for listing as threatened under Criterion C. However, to do so a species must meet further conditions.

It is suspected that the species is undergoing a slow population decline due to habitat loss. A suspected decline, however, precludes a listing as threatened under Criterion C. We have no information on the subpopulation structure, and thus the species cannot be assessed against Criterion C2. Nevertheless, applying a very conservative approach, we can suspect that the rate of decline approaches, but does not meet, 10% over ten years. Therefore, Yellow-headed Brush-finch may be listed as Near Threatened, approaching the threshold for listing as threatened under Criterion C1.

Criterion D – The newly estimated population size is too large to approach the threshold for Vulnerable (1,000 mature individuals). Therefore, Yellow-headed Brush-finch may be listed as Least Concern under Criterion D.

Criterion E – To the best of our knowledge no quantitative analysis of extinction risk has been conducted for this species. Therefore, it cannot be assessed against this criterion.

Therefore, it is suggested that Yellow-headed Brush-finch (Atlapetes flaviceps) be listed as Near Threatened, approaching the threshold for listing as threatened under Criterion C1. We welcome any comments on the proposed listing.

Please note that this topic is not designed to be a general discussion about the ecology of the species, rather a discussion of its Red List status. Therefore, please make sure your comments are relevant to the discussion outlined in the topic. By submitting a comment, you confirm that you agree to the Comment Policy.

*Bird generation lengths are estimated using the methodology of Bird et al. (2020), as applied to parameter values updated for use in each IUCN Red List for birds reassessment cycle. Values used for the current assessment are available on request. We encourage people to contact us with additional or improved values for the following parameters; adult survival (true survival accounting for dispersal derived from an apparently stable population); mean age at first breeding; and maximum longevity (i.e. the biological maximum, hence values from captive individuals are acceptable).

An information booklet on the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here and the Red List Criteria Summary Sheet can be downloaded here. Detailed guidance on IUCN Red List terms and definitions and the application of the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here.


Bird, J. P.; Martin, R.; Akçakaya, H. R.; Gilroy, J.; Burfield, I. J.; Garnett, S.; Symes, A.; Taylor, J.; Šekercioğlu, Ç.; Butchart, S. H. M. (2020). Generation lengths of the world’s birds and their implications for extinction risk. Conservation Biology online first view.

eBird. 2020. eBird: An online database of bird distribution and abundance [web application]. eBird, Ithaca, New York. (Accessed 11 February 2020).

IUCN Standards and Petitions Committee. 2019. Guidelines for using the IUCN Red List Categoreis and Criteria. Version 14.

Jaramillo, A.; Sharpe, C. J. 2020. Yellow-headed Brush-finch (Atlapetes flaviceps). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D. A.; de Juana, E. (eds). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Barcelona, Spain. (Accessed 11 February 2010).

Renjífo, L. M.; Gómez, M. F.; Velásquez-Tibatá, J.; Amaya-Villareal, A. M.; Kattan, G. H.; Amaya-Espinel, J. D.; Burbano-Girón, J. 2014. Libro rojo de aves de Colombia, Volumen I: bosques húmedos de los Andes y la costa Pacífica. Editorial Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and Instituto Alexander von Humboldt. Bogotá, Colombia.

This entry was posted in Americas, South America and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Yellow-headed Brush-finch (Atlapetes flaviceps): revise global status?

  1. High-quality information on this species is scarce and therefore, there is a high degree of uncertainty in any decision regarding whether or not to revise its global status. The most recent and trustworthy published review on the species’ conservation status can be found in Renjifo et al. (2014). Still, information on the species’ ecology, reproductive biology, habitat requirements, and population status is badly needed. I am not sure that a revision could be confidently carried out given the information available.

    Nonetheless, there is valuable information at the website of the Colombian NGO SELVA that I hope can be helpful in further evaluating the conservation status of Yellow-headed Bruschfinch. This information will be soon published in the scientific literature, but in the meantime, it can be accessed in the form of public reports and other documents such as conservation plans. Through its project “Identifying and conserving priority areas for the Tolima Dove (Leptotila conoveri) and Yellow-headed Brushfinch (Atlapetes flaviceps) in Colombia”, funded by American Bid Conservancy, SELVA generated a huge amount of field data that allowed to estimate the species’ AOO based on climatic niche models and occupancy models (estimated at 6880 km2). In addition, density estimates at different localities were reported for the very first time.

    All this information was summarized in a conservation plan for the species. I really hope this document is consulted and considered for taking a more informed decision. The link to the English version of the species’ conservation plan can be found at:

    More documents (in Spanish) with more detailed information can also be found at:

  2. Copiado de / copied from: Alex Cortés, Juan Carlos Luna, Andrea Borrero, y Juan Lazaro Toro (2020) Evaluación de especies de aves amenazadas en Colombia / Evaluation of Threatened Birds Species in Colombia. Conservación Colombiana 27: 3-31.

    “A partir de alrededor de 2010, con una mayor seguridad y seguridad en toda la gama Atlapetes flaviceps del valle del Cauca y el Magdalena (históricamente áreas con conflicto), las actividades de observación de aves y ornitológicas aumentaron significativamente. Por el contrario, hubo una explosión de avistamientos y nuevas ubicaciones para A. flaviceps al igual que con los demás endémicos de la Cordillera Central / Magdalena como Leptotila conoveri, ambos se pueden encontrar simpátricamente y tradicionalmente se consideraban raros y localizados y asignados con el status por IUCN de En Peligro. Ambas especies han tenido extensiones de rango (conformadas por fotos).

    A diferencia de Leptotila conoveri, esta especie tiene un rango más amplio ya que ocurre en ambas vertientes de la Cordillera Central, el valle central del rio Cauca e incluso muchos registros confirmados recientemente en la vertiente oriental de la Cordillera Occidental. En los últimos años, eBird registra 867 listas de verificación que reportan las especies en más de 250 ubicaciones.

    Usando registros publicados en GeoCat, el EOO es 40,253.7 km2 (Casi Amenazado) y estamos de acuerdo con Escudero-Páez & Bayly (2018) del AOO de 6,880 km2 (Casi Amenazado).

    Usando la estimación de población de Atlapetes flaviceps de 80.3 individuos / km2 (Escudero-Páez et al.2018), esto daría una estimación de población de> 550,000 individuos. Consideramos que esta densidad de población es poco probable.

    Un estudio poblacional anterior de A. flaviceps utilizó métodos extensivos e intensivos propuestos por Bibby et al (2000) en dos sitios durante cinco meses (ProAves 2004). Estas encuestas dieron densidades estimadas de 5.1-5.5 ind./km2 (intensivo) y 5.7-10.0 ind./km2 (extenso) con un promedio general de 6.5 individuos / km2. Esta estimación más conservadora daría una población total de> 45,000 individuos que creemos que es más realista.

    Al igual que Leptotila conoveri, esta especie se encuentra predominantemente en bosques secundarios y en las bordes de bosques, así como en áreas arbustivas, abiertas, jardines, cafetales y otros hábitats muy degradados. Incluso hay confirmados (fotos) de registros en las principales zonas urbanas.

    Por lo tanto, hemos revisado las especies aquí contra los criterios relevantes de la Lista Roja;

    Criterio A – Atlapetes flaviceps podría ser catalogado como Casi Amenazado

    Criterio B: los nuevos cálculos de EOO y AOO (que aumentan con el conocimiento), consideran que Atlapetes flaviceps se enumerarían como Casi Amenazados en el Criterio B1.

    Criterio C: no se percibe una disminución, por lo que se enumeraría como Preocupación Menor.

    Criterio D: no se percibe una población pequeña o restringida, por lo que se enumeraría como Preocupación Menor.

    Creemos que es seguro decir que la especie no está amenazada por la pérdida de hábitat y se ha adaptado a bosques secundario y a hábitats no boscosos, por lo que la especie amerita un cambio en el estado de la Lista Roja a Casi Amenazado.

    ProAves (2004) Aportes al conocimiento de la Historia Natural del Atlapetes flavíceps, Ave Endémica de Colombia. Informe de 13 páginas no publicado presentado por Arias Buenaventura Ivón, octubre de 2004.”

  3. Copiado de / copied from: Alex Cortés, Juan Carlos Luna, Andrea Borrero, y Juan Lazaro Toro (2020) Evaluación de especies de aves amenazadas en Colombia / Evaluation of Threatened Birds Species in Colombia. Conservación Colombiana 27: 3-31.

    “From around 2010 with increased security and safely across Atlapetes flaviceps range of the Cauca and Magdalena valley (historically areas with conflict), birding and ornithological activities significantly increased. Conversely, there was an explosion of sightings and new locations for A. flaviceps as with the other Central Cordillera / Magdalena valley endemic Leptotila conoveri – both can be found sympatrically and both were once considered rare and localized and assigned IUCN Endangered status. Both species have had range extensions (conformed by photos).

    Unlike Leptotila conoveri, this species has a wider range as it occurs on both slopes of the Central Cordillera, the central Cauca river valley and even many recent confirmed records on the eastern slope of the Western Cordillera. In recent years, eBird records 867 checklists recording the species at more than 250 locations.

    Using published records in GeoCat, the EOO is 40,253.7 km2 (Near Threatened) and we agree with Escudero-Páez & Bayly (2018) of the AOO of 6,880 km2 (Near Threatened).

    Using the population estimate of A. flaviceps of 80.3 individuals/km2 (Escudero-Páez et al. 2018), this would give a population estimate of >550,000 individuals. We consider this population density unlikely.

    An earlier population study of A. flaviceps used extensive and intensive methods proposed by Bibby et al (2000) at two sites for five months (ProAves 2004). These surveys gave estimated densities of 5.1-5.5 ind./km2 (intensive) and 5.7-10.0 ind./km2 (extensive) with an overall average of 6.5 individuals/km2. This more conservative estimate would give a total population of >45,000 individuals which we believe is more realistic.

    Like Leptotila conoveri this species is predominantly encountered in secondary forests and forest borders as well as bushy, open areas, gardens, coffee plantations and other heavily degraded habitats. There are also confirmed (photos) of records in major urban areas.

    Therefore, we have reviewed the species here against relevant Red List criteria;

    Criterion A – Atlapetes flaviceps would be listed as Near Threatened.

    Criterion B – The newly calculated EOO and AOO recommend Atlapetes flaviceps be listed as Near Threatened under Criterion B1.

    Criterion C –there is no perceived decline, so would be listed as Least Concern.

    Criterion D – there is no perceived small or restricted population, so would be listed as Least Concern.

    We believe it is safe to say the species is not threatened by habitat loss and has adapted to non-primary forest and non-forest habitats, so the species warrants a change in Red List status to Near Threatened.”

  4. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to this discussion. We greatly appreciate the time and effort invested by so many people in commenting. The window for consultation is now closed. We will analyse and interpret the new information and post a preliminary decision on this species’s Red List status on this page in early July.

    Thank you once again,
    BirdLife Red List Team

  5. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Preliminary proposal

    Based on available information that the species is not threatened by habitat loss and incurs a large population size (Fundación ProAves in litt. 2020), it is no longer tenable to list the species at a near-threatened status. Thus, our preliminary proposal for the 2020 Red List would be to list the Yellow-headed Brush-finch as Least Concern.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline in mid-July, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from the initial proposal.

    The final 2020 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2020/January 2021, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  6. Sara Lara says:

    Thank you for proposing the adjusted status of this species, but we note that moving it from Endangered to Least Concern instantly is too extreme. We recognize this is a marginal line case and again my team recommends that it be prudent to consider the species as Near-threatened for now.

Leave a Reply

You have to agree to the comment policy.

All comments must follow the rules of usage.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.