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Plain-tailed Warbling-finch Poospiza alticola
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This species probably has a very small population. Remaining habitat is declining, and all severely fragmented subpopulations are considered to be very small (Collar et al. 1992). As a result, the species is listed as Endangered.

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

15.5 cm. Grey-and-rufous finch. Dark slaty head with long eyebrow and white moustache. Whiter throat and underparts, with rufous sides of breast becoming cinnamon on sides of belly and crissum. Grey-brown upperparts. Duskier wings and tail. Pale edging to wing-coverts and flight feathers. Juvenile dusky upperparts, throat and breast. Less rufous underparts. Similar spp. Chestnut-breasted Mountain-finch P. caesar has rufous breast. Voice A high pitch harsh cheet-weet cheet-weet.

Distribution and population
Poospiza alticola is restricted to the high Andes of north-central Peru (south Cajamarca, east La Libertad and east Ancash), where it is largely rare to uncommon (Clements and Shany 2001). Most reports are from the Cordillera Blanca, Ancash, where it is common at Morococha (G. Servat in litt. 1999, W.-P. Vellinga in litt. 1999) and within Huascarán National Park (Clements and Shany 2001, G. Engblom in litt. 2001). High-altitude woodlands are now highly fragmented and diminishing (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996). Even in apparently optimal habitat, this species usually occurs at low densities (1-4 individuals per day have been recorded at several sites), and the population is probably very small (Frimer and Møller Nielsen 1989).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 1,000-2,499 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, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 667-1,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 600-1,700 mature individuals.

Trend justification
Recent data on population size and trend are lacking, but on-going active threats imply that population declines are likely to be continuing at a slow rate.

It occupies shrubby forest and mixed Polylepis-Gynoxys woodland at 3,100-4,600 m (Schulenberg et al. 2007), rarely to 2,900 m (Clements and Shany 2001), and in some areas it is apparently a Gynoxys (Compositae) specialist, or even dependent on the plant (G. Servat in litt. 1999). The species's abundance is apparently not related to forest extent (G. Servat in litt. 1999), nor to the abundance of Tit-like Dacnis Xenodacnis parina, an apparent competitor. It feeds on sugary secretions (although this is disputed [G. Servat in litt. 1999]) and insects from the undersides of Gynoxys leaves (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996, G. Servat in litt. 1999), and from Polylepis and Alnus (G. Servat in litt. 1999). Breeding probably occurs in December-February.

Cutting for firewood and a lack of regeneration, caused by burning and intensive grazing, are reducing mixed Polylepis-Gynoxys woodlands (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996). Gynoxys itself has been variously described as unpalatable, favoured for grazing (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996), and particularly vulnerable to grazing of shoots, which prevents regeneration (G. Servat in litt. 1999). Other factors include the change from camelid to sheep- and cattle-farming, and erosion and soil degradation caused by agricultural intensification, road construction and the inadequacy of afforestation projects (particularly the use of exotic tree species) (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996).

Conservation Actions Underway
High-altitude forests have been surveyed and conservation measures taken (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996), although they have yet to deliver any benefits to the species (H. Lloyd in litt. 2007). It occurs in Huascarán National Park, Ancash, but habitat degradation continues, even within this reserve (Frimer and Møller Nielsen 1989, Fjeldså and Kessler 1996). Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey to determine its distribution and population size (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996 (G. Servat in litt. 1999), especially on the east slope of the Cordillera Blanca (W.-P. Vellinga in litt. 1999). Survey the extent and degree of isolation/connectivity of Polylepis-Gynoxys in north-central Peru, and determine the effect of fragmentation on this species (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996 (G. Servat in litt. 1999). Improve and clarify the management plan for Huascarán National Park (Frimer and Møller Nielsen 1989, Fjeldså and Kessler 1996, H. Lloyd in litt. 2007). Encourage local people to take a leading role in land-use management and restoration schemes (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996 (G. Servat in litt. 1999).

Clements, J. F.; Shany, N. 2001. A field guide to the birds of Peru. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Collar, N. J.; Gonzaga, L. P.; Krabbe, N.; Madroño Nieto, A.; Naranjo, L. G.; Parker, T. A.; Wege, D. C. 1992. Threatened birds of the Americas: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Fjeldså, J.; Kessler, M. 1996. Conserving the biological diversity of Polylepis woodlands of the highland of Peru and Bolivia. NORDECO, Copenhagen.

Frimer, O.; Mo1ller Nielsen, S. 1989. The status of Polylepis forests and their avifauna in Cordillera Blanca, Peru. Technical report from an inventory in 1988, with suggestions for conservation management.

Schulenberg, T. S.; Stotz, D. F. ; Lane, D. F.; O'Neill, J. P.; Parker III, T. A. 2007. Birds of Peru. Prnceton University Press, Prnceton, NJ, USA.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from the Threatened birds of the Americas: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 1992). Please note taxonomic treatment and IUCN Red List category may have changed since publication.

Detailed species account from the Threatened birds of the Americas: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 1992). Please note, taxonomic treatment and IUCN Red List category may have changed since publication.

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Recuento detallado de la especie tomado del libro Aves Amenazadas de las Americas, Libro Rojo de BirdLife International (BirdLife International 1992). Nota: la taxonomoía y la categoría de la Lista Roja de la UICN pudo haber cambiado desde esta publicación.

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Gilroy, J., Pople, R., Sharpe, C J

Engblom, G., Lloyd, H., Servat, G., Vellinga, W.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Poospiza alticola. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016.

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 - Plain-tailed warbling-finch (Poospiza alticola) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Emberizidae (Buntings, American sparrows and allies)
Species name author Salvin, 1895
Population size 600-1700 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 9,900 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species