Archived 2011-2012 topics: Watkins’s Antpitta (Grallaria watkinsi): uplist to Near Threatened?

Initial deadline for comments: 31 January 2012 [note that this has been moved back by about two months].

BirdLife species factsheet for Watkins’s Antpitta

Watkins’s Antpitta Grallaria watkinsi is a Tumbesian endemic, restricted mainly to western and south-western Ecuador, with some occurring in north-western Peru, where it inhabits semi-deciduous forest (Stotz et al. 1996), forest edge (I. Isherwood and J. Willis verbally 1998) and regenerating secondary scrub (Ridgely and Tudor 1994). Although it also occurs in areas of dry deciduous forest, it tends to keep to the greener, denser vegetation in narrow ravines (Parker et al. 1995). It is currently listed as Least Concern on the basis that it was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN criteria.

Although this species has a small range, it was not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence [EOO] of less than 20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appeared to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (at least a 30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (fewer than 10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be at least 10% over ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure).

Remapping of the species’s range with reference to a map of suitable habitat produced through BIOCLIM modelling (Freile et al. 2010) has resulted in a new EOO estimate of 16,600 km2, suggesting that the species meets the range size threshold for Vulnerable under criterion B1. However, the species is known from more than 10 locations and its habitat is not considered severely fragmented (over 50% in patches too small to support viable populations). Of the 18 antpitta species studied by Freile et al. (2010), G. watkinsi had experienced the greatest extent of habitat loss in Ecuador, at 63%. Despite its ability to survive in secondary habitats, the critical degree of habitat degradation that has occurred throughout its range in recent decades has reportedly resulted in the complete devastation of all vegetation cover in large areas (Freile et al. 2010). The species can inhabit dense regenerating scrub and secondary forest, indicating a moderate to high tolerance of habitat degradation and disturbance; however, it is absent from areas described as completely modified or forest patches frequented by livestock. In western Ecuador, remnant forests are generally small and the level of habitat protection is regarded as limited (Freile et al. 2010).

Updated BirdLife range map for Watkins's Antpitta (click on map to see larger version)

With this information in mind, on-going declines are thought to be taking place in the EOO, Area of Occupancy, and area, extent and quality of habitat. This suggests that the species qualifies as Near Threatened on the basis that it has an EOO of less than 20,000 km2, but is known from more than 10 locations and its habitat is not severely fragmented.

Freile et al. (2010) also predict a population decline of 10-30% over the next three generations, estimated by BirdLife to be 11 years, based on the likely rate of habitat loss (c.290-870 km2 over 10.5 years), thus the species may qualify as Near Threatened under criterion A3c (typically a 20-29% decline over three generations). Comments are invited on the proposal to uplist this species to Near Threatened, and further information is requested.


Freile, J. F., Parra, J. L. and Graham, C. H. (2010) Distribution and conservation of Grallaria and Grallaricula antpittas (Grallariidae) in Ecuador. Bird Conserv. Int. 20: 410-431.

Parker, T. A., Schulenberg, T. S., Kessler, M. and Wust, W. H. (1995) Natural history and conservation of the endemic avifauna in north-west Peru. Bird Conserv. Int. 5: 201-231.

Ridgely, R. S. and Tudor, G. (1994) The birds of South America. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press.

Stotz, D. F., Fitzpatrick, J. W., Parker, T. A. and Moskovits, D. K. (1996) Neotropical birds: ecology and conservation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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4 Responses to Archived 2011-2012 topics: Watkins’s Antpitta (Grallaria watkinsi): uplist to Near Threatened?

  1. I concur that the species should be listed as near-threatened. In Loma Alta, G. watkinsi is very dependent on riparian forests and these are in poor condition and are over-grazed and are often completely cleared away during El Ninyo events. G. watkinsi needs a good understory and with increased clearing for agriculture and by livestock reduces habitat quality for them.

  2. I agree this species should be uplisted to NT. It should also be noted in the BirdLife factsheet that it occurs within Funcacion Jocotoco’s Jorupe Reserve in Ecuador and within El Angolo Reserve in Peru (as well as other protected areas).

  3. Andy Symes says:

    Dr. Dusti Becker has provided the following comment: At Loma Alta Ecological Reserve this species seems less abundant as the years pass, during Christmas Counts and surveys, so I would support the NT status.

  4. Fernando Angulo says:

    This species has been recorded in Parque Nacional Cerros de Amotape (Walker, B. 2002. Observations from the Tumbes Reserved Zone, dpto. Tumbes, with notes on some new taxa for Peru and a checklist of the area. Cotinga 18: 37-43) and in Coto de Caza El Angolo, both protected areas located in the cordillera de los amotapes, NW Peru. Myself have recently recorded this species in El Angolo (dic. 2011) near Hacienda Sauce Grande, where was a common bird over the 900 m in dense dry-forest, with some individuals as low as 600 m. Is worth to say that this portion of the El Angolo (6500 has aprox.) is fenced avoiding the entrance of goats but cows, mules and donkeys are allowed to use the forests.
    Also, it has been recorded as far south as Central Lambayeque (at Laquipampa (Angulo et al. en prep. Notes on the birds of Laquipampa Wildlife Refuge (Lambayeque, Peru)), being known also from Frejolillo, the site for watching the wild White-winged Guans. This records extends the known distribution area further south (at least 250 km) from what is shown on BL map on this page.
    Watkins’s Antpitta can occur in areas used by livestock (El Angolo, Frejolillo, Laquipampa), at least in Peru. But its habitat is suffering from reduction and quality reduction, especially outside protected areas. I agree that the species deserves some degree of attention over other more dense and widespread species, but for the species assessment, all available data must be considered.

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