email a friend
printable version
Cock-tailed Tyrant Alectrurus tricolor

Extensive and continuing habitat loss throughout the range of this species has presumably resulted in rapid population declines. It consequently qualifies as Vulnerable.

Taxonomic source(s)
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

12 cm (male 18 cm including tail). Striking tyrant-flycatcher. Male mostly black above, with grey rump and white shoulder patch. White face and underparts. Black patch on breast sides. Black tail with broad central rectrices, elongated and orientated perpendicular to other rectrices. Female similar to male, but brown instead of black. Whitish below, tinged buff. Normal-shaped, short tail. Similar spp. Both sexes of Strange-tailed Tyrant A. risora have complete breast-band and elongated outer rectrices. Voice Mostly silent, but some inconspicuous calls.

Distribution and population
Alectrurus tricolor has become very scarce and local over a large range in north and east Bolivia, occurring in a few scattered localities in La Paz and Santa Cruz (Parker et al. 1991, Ridgely and Tudor 1994, Brace et al. 1997) and frequently in the pampas of north and west Beni (Parker et al. 1991, Ridgely and Tudor 1994, Brace et al. 1997, M. Herrera in litt. 2007), but being inexplicably absent from large areas (Parker et al. 1991, Brace et al. 1997); central and southern Brazil (R. E. Fernandes Santos in litt. 2011), in Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás, Distrito Federal, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo south to Paraná, where there are few records (Santos 2007, R. E. Fernandes Santos in litt. 2011), and possibly Rio Grande do Sul (Ridgely and Tudor 1994, Machado et al. 1998, L. F. Silveira in litt. 2000); east Paraguay, in Concepción, San Pedro (Robbins et al. 1999, M. B. Robbins in litt. 2000, H. del Castillo in litt. 2007), Cordillera (Lowen et al. 1996), Caazapá (Clay et al. 1998), Itapúa (M. Velázquez in litt. 2000, H. del Castillo in litt. 2007, Codesido and Fraga 2009) and Misiones (H. del Castillo in litt. 2007, Codesido and Fraga 2009), and north Argentina, where a few old specimens were taken in north-east Corrientes and south Misiones (Ridgely and Tudor 1994), but the species has not been recorded since September 1979, despite searches in suitable habitat (Pearman and Abadie 1995). In Brazil it remains locally common only in a few scattered protected areas in Goiás, Distrito Federal and Minas Gerais (Machado et al. 1998), while in Paraguay it is generally very rare (R. Clay in litt. 2011), but locally common and apparently a stable breeding resident at Estancia Laguna Blanca in San Pedro; Estancia La Graciela in Misiones, and Kanguery in San Rafael National Park, Itapúa (H. del Castillo in litt. 2007).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 10,000-19,999 individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size (e.g. the lower end of such estimates is 1 / km2) and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied.

Trend justification
This species's population size is suspected to be declining rapidly in line with rates of habitat loss within its range.

It inhabits seasonally wet and dry grasslands, known as "campo limpo" and "campo sujo" respectively (Parker et al. 1991, Machado et al. 1998, Silveira 1998), favouring areas of taller vegetation (30-100 cm) and, in Bolivia, especially areas of Trachypogon (Parker et al. 1991). In southern Brazil, the species has been recorded in humid grassland dominated by Cyperaceae, as well as Poaceae, species (R. E. Fernandes Santos in litt. 2011). Although it normally disappears from burnt sites (Cavalcanti 1988), it has been observed feeding on the ground in recently burnt areas (Lowen et al. 1996). It is generally insectivorous, though a female has been observed feeding small fruit to two fledglings. In Serra da Canastra it is migratory, arriving between mid-August and September and departing in December and January (Silveira 1998), but it appears to be resident at several sites in Paraguay (H. del Castillo in litt. 2007). Breeding occurs at the start of the wet season in September and October (Parker et al. 1991, M. B. Robbins in litt. 2000). In southern Brazil, it has been recorded nesting on the ground in a very wet area of grassland (R. E. Fernandes Santos in litt. 2011).

Grassland habitats throughout its range are threatened by agricultural development, livestock-farming, plantations and mining (Machado et al. 1998, R. Clay in litt. 2011). Its dependence on tall grasslands make it especially sensitive to intensive grazing, trampling by cattle and frequent burning (Parker et al. 1991, R. Clay in litt. 2011). Afforestation with Eucalyptus, cattle ranching and the introduction of invasive jaragua grasses are key threats to the population at Cerrado Laguna Blanca, Paraguay, where a recently instated reserve has failed to protect the species (H. del Castillo in litt. 2012). Uncontrolled burning and the introduction of exotic grasses are major threats elsewhere in the country (H. del Castillo in litt. 2007, R. Clay in litt. 2011). The conversion of grassland to soy plantations is an on-going threat in Brazil at least (R. E. Fernandes Santos in litt. 2011). In Paraná, Brazil, habitat loss and modification are severe, driven largely by conversion to pine plantations (R. E. Fernandes Santos in litt. 2011). The recently instated Reserva Natural Privada Laguna Blanca in Paraguay, within the IBA Cerrado de Laguna Blanca, failed to protect the species, which is threatened with the continuous conversion of natural grasslands into pastures with exotic African grass and Eucalyptus plantation inside the IBA.

Conservation Actions Underway
In Brazil, it is locally common in Emas National Park in Goiás (Machado et al. 1998, R. E. Fernandes Santos in litt. 2011), Gama-Cabeça de Veado Environmental Protection Area, Brasília National Park in Distrito Federal, Serra da Canastra National Park and São Miguel Wildlife Sanctuary in Minas Gerais (Machado et al. 1998). In Paraguay it is protected by law, and occurs in San Rafael National Park (where Guyra Paraguay protects the site at Kanguery), Serranía San Luis National Park, Tapytá Private Nature Reserve (Clay et al. 1998), Morombi Private Reserve and on a protected private estancia at La Graciela (H. del Castillo in litt. 2012). In 2008, Asociación Armonía, with the support of the American Bird Conservancy and World Land Trust-U.S., created the Barba Azul Nature Reserve in Beni Province, Bolivia, protecting habitat occupied by the species in the Beni savanna (BirdLife International 2008). A tiny population in Jaguariaíva County, Paraná state, where the species is rare, was monitored in 2007-2008, and will be searched for in the future (R. E. Fernandes Santos in litt. 2011). Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey to clarify status. Define seasonal abundance within protected areas. Control dry season burning within and close to protected areas. Encourage farmers to set aside areas of tall grass. Secure San Rafael National Park, Paraguay. Review farmers' expansion plans and secure other private properties away from current protected areas, inside the Cerrado Laguna Blanca IBA (H. del Castillo in litt. 2012).

Brace, R. C.; Hornbuckle, J.; Pearce-Higgins, J. W. 1997. The avifauna of the Beni Biological Station, Bolivia. Bird Conservation International 7: 117-159.

Cavalcanti, R. B. 1988. Conservation of birds in the cerrado of central Brazil. In: Goriup, P.D. (ed.), Ecology and conservation of grassland birds, pp. 59-66. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Clay, R. P.; Capper, D. R.; Mazar Barnett, J.; Burfield, I. J.; Esquivel, E. Z.; Fariña, R.; Kennedy, C. P.; Perrens, M.; Pople, R. G. 1998. White-winged Nightjars Caprimulgus candicans and cerrado conservation: the key findings of project Aguará Ñu 1997. Cotinga: 52-56.

Codesido, M.; Fraga, R. M. 2009. Distributions of threatened grassland passerines of Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay, with new locality records and notes on their natural history and habitat. Ornitologia Neotropical 20: 585-595.

Lowen, J. C.; Bartrina, L.; Clay, R. P.; Tobias, J. A. 1996. Biological surveys and conservation priorities in eastern Paraguay (the final reports of Projects Canopy '92 and Yacutinga '95). CSB Conservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Machado, A. B. M.; da Fonseca, G. A. B.; Machado, R. B.; Aguiar, L. M. De S.; Lins, L. V. 1998. Livro Vermelho: das espécies ameaçadas de extinça1o da fauna de Minas Gerais. Fundaça1o Biodiversitas, Belo Horizonte.

Parker, T. A.; Castillo, U. A.; Gell-Mann, M.; Rocha, O. O. 1991. Records of new and unusual birds from northern Bolivia. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 111: 120-138.

Pearman, M.; Abadie, E. I. Undated. Mesopotamia grasslands and wetlands survey, 1991--1993: conservation of threatened birds and habitat in north-east Argentina.

Ridgely, R. S.; Tudor, G. 1994. The birds of South America. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.

Robbins, M. B.; Faucett, R. C.; Rice, N. H. 1999. Avifauna of a Paraguayan Cerrado locality: Parque Nacional Serranía San Luis, Depto. Concepción. Wilson Bulletin 111: 216-228.

Santos, R. E. F. 2007. Novo registro documentado do galito Alectrurus tricolor (Vieillot, 1816) para o estado do Paraná, Brasil. Atualidades Ornitológicas: 12-13.

Silveira, L. F. 1998. The birds of Serra da Canastra National Park and adjacent areas, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Cotinga 10: 55-65.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Capper, D., Clay, R., Pople, R., Sharpe, C J, Symes, A., Taylor, J., Williams, R., Khwaja, N.

Clay, R., Fernandes Santos, R., Herrera, M., Robbins, M., Silveira, L., Velásquez, M., del Castillo, H.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Alectrurus tricolor. Downloaded from on 01/08/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 01/08/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Cock-tailed tyrant (Alectrurus tricolor) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Tyrannidae (Tyrant-flycatchers)
Species name author (Vieillot, 1816)
Population size 6000-15000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 626,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species