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Mountain Grackle Macroagelaius subalaris
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This species has a very small range, and it is thought to be dependent on oak forest habitats that are severely fragmented and declining in area and quality. Therefore the species is classified as Endangered.

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

30 cm. All black, long-tailed, icterid. Entirely dull bluish-black with chestnut wing linings and axillaries. Long, slightly rounded tail. Conical, black bill. Similar spp. Giant Cowbird Scaphidura oryzivora has longer bill, shiny plumage, neck ruff, and lacks chestnut wing linings. Voice Song is highly variable, including a variety of screeches, whistles and other noises (T. Donegan in litt. 2012), including a ringing "tirititiuu, tirititiuu, tirititiuu" with a frequency range between 8 kHz and 10 kHz (O. Cortes in litt. 2007).

Distribution and population
Macroagelaius subalaris occurs mainly along the west slope of the East Andes in Colombia. There are historical records from south-west Cundinamarca, north to the tip of the East Andes in Norte de Santander, where it also occurred on the west slope south to the upper Zulia valley (M. Alvarez and P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999), and it may have occurred throughout the east slope. However, the only recent records are from Guanentá-Alto Río Fonce Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, Santander, where it has been described as common (D. Uribe per L. M. Renjifo in litt. 1994) and Serranía de los Yariguíes (Donegan et al. 2007). Its range has certainly contracted following complete deforestation in some areas. Surveys recorded the species in 22 localities (including one from which the species was historically known) from La Aguadita in Cundinamarca to Surata in Santander (Velásquez-Tibatá et al. 2005), although follow-up surveys found that many of these sites are being rapidly deforested and the species may have suffered local extinctions (O. Cortes in litt. 2007, 2011, 2012). In surveys of Serranía de los Yariguíes between 2003 and 2006, the species was recorded from three sites. At one of those sites, it was abundant; at the others it was observed less frequently (T. Donegan in litt.2006, Donegan et al. 2007). Surveys in Yariguíes revealed high abundance in forest bordering a wetland, which may constitute an important habitat for the species (Fundación ProAves de Colombia 2011). The Yariguíes mountains probably harbour a population of at least 800 individuals, and they are regarded as the core area for the remaining global population (Fundación ProAves de Colombia 2011).

Population justification
Given that the species is apparently abundant at some sites and a minimum conservative estimate of 800 individuals has been provided for the Yariguíes population (Fundación ProAves de Colombia 2011; although it has been suggested that it could be as low as 150-200, O. Cortes-Herrera in litt. 2012), it is likely that the total population lies between 1,000 and 2,499 individuals. This equates to 667-1,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 600-1,700 mature individuals.

Trend justification
This species's population is suspected to be undergoing at least a slow to moderate decline owing to continued habitat loss and degradation.

It inhabits subtropical and temperate forests at elevations of 2,100-2,900 m (Ridgely and Tudor 1989, Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990,  Jaramillo and Burke 1999, Renjifo et al. 2002, T. Donegan in litt.2012). Studies in the Cordillera Oriental have revealed that it has strongly specialised habitat requirements, being limited to humid oak (Quercus humboltii) forests (Cortes-Herrera and Hernandez-Jaramillo 2007). It is particularly abundant in forest and at forest edge near marshes, and the interface between forests and wetland areas appears to be an important habitat for the species (Fundación ProAves de Colombia 2011). Observations are invariably of small groups in the middle and upper strata, and breeding-condition birds have been collected in September (Ridgely and Tudor 1989, Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990, Jaramillo and Burke 1999). The species breeds co-operatively (Cadena et al. 2002), with colonies generally being located in either Quercus humboltii or Escallonia pendula trees (Cortes-Herrera and Hernandez-Jaramillo 2007) and a breeding season from June-August (O. Cortes-Herrera in litt. 2012). It associates with mixed species frugivore flocks, and has been recorded in flocks of up to 30 individuals in the Yariguíes mountains (T. Donegan in litt.2006).

Since the 17th century, the west slope of the East Andes has been extensively logged, burned and cleared for conversion to agriculture (Stiles et al. 1999). This species's dependence on oaks Quercus humboltii make it highly susceptible to the effects of logging, cutting for firewood and grazing by cattle, which is thought to limit oak forest to marginal relict patches on steep and rocky areas (Cortes-Herrera and Hernandez-Jaramillo 2007). However, in some areas above 2,500 m, forest cover remains more extensive (Stiles et al. 1999). Landscape changes accelerated during the 20th century, especially after 1960, although in some areas habitat regeneration is beginning following the abandonment of marginal land (Stiles et al. 1999). Deforestation is also taking place for mining operations, principally gold mining (O. Cortes in litt. 2011). Pastures dominate the valley below Guanentá-Alto Río Fonce, but the forest is mostly intact from 1,950-2,200 m upwards. However, the lower tracts are still affected by selective logging. Landslides, following the loosening of soils after deforestation, present a threat to relict patches of forest on slopes (Cortes-Herrera and Hernandez-Jaramillo 2007).

Conservation Actions Underway
Guanentá-Alto Río Fonce Fauna and Flora Sanctuary protects 100 km2 of forest at 2,200-3,900 m. The highest elevations of Serranía de los Yariguíes National Park remain largely inaccessible and fall within the new national park boundaries. Reserva Páramo La Floresta probably harbours at least 100 individuals (Fundación ProAves de Colombia 2011). This species's ecology is being studied in Soatá (Cortes-Herrera and Hernandez-Jaramillo 2007). Conservation Actions Proposed
Ascertain the status of birds and habitat throughout its former range, especially areas that have not been visited recently. Conduct studies to determine whether the species is dependent on oak forest throughout its range (Cortes-Herrera and Hernandez-Jaramillo 2007). Increase the area of suitable habitat that has protected status. Search for the species in other areas containing marshes adjacent to forest (Fundación ProAves de Colombia 2011).

Cadena, C. D.; Devenish, C.; Silva, N. 2002. First observations on the nesting behavior of the Colombian Mountain-Grackle (Macroagelaius subalaris), a probable cooperative breeder. Ornitologia Neotropical 13: 301-305.

Cortes-Herrera, J. O.; Hernández-Jaramillo, A.; Cháves-Portilla, G.; Laverde, O.; Gamba-Triviño, C.; Chavarro, D. X. V.; Alarcón-Bernal, S. 2007. Nuevos registros de poblaciones de aves amenazadas en Soatá (Boyacá), Colombia. Cotinga: 74-77.

Donegan, T. M.; Avendaño, J. E. 2006. Estudio de las aves de la SerranÍa de los YariguÍes y su conservación. In: Huertas, B. C.; Donegan, T. M. (ed.), Proyecto YARÉ: investigación y evaluación de las especies amenazadas del la SerranÍa de los YariguÍes, Santander, Colombia, BP Conservation Programme.

Donegan, T. M.; Avendano, J. E.; Briceno, E. R.; Hertas, B. 2007. Range extensions, taxonomic and ecological notes from Serrania de los Yariguies, Colombia's new national park. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 127(3): 172-213.

Fjeldså, J.; Krabbe, N. 1990. Birds of the high Andes. Apollo Books, Copenhagen.

Fundación ProAves de Colombia. 2011. Notes on the status of various threatened birds species occurring in Colombia. Conservacion Colombiana 15: 22-28.

Hilty, S. L.; Brown, W. L. 1986. A guide to the birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Jaramillo, A.; Burke, P. 1999. New World blackbirds: the icterids. Christopher Helm, London.

Renjifo, L. M.; Franco-Maya, A. M.; Amaya-Espinel, J. D.; Kattan, G. H.; López-Lans, B. 2002. Libro rojo de aves de Colombia. Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt y Ministerio del Medio Ambiente, Bogot, Colombia.

Ridgely, R. S.; Tudor, G. 1989. The birds of South America. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.

Stiles, F. G.; Rosselli, L.; Bohórquez, C. I. 1999. New and noteworthy records of birds from the middle Magdalena valley of Colombia. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 119: 113-129.

Velasquez-Tibata, J.; Ruiz-Ovalle, J.M.; Guerrero, F.; Delgado, D. P.; Pcana, E.; Daza, A.; Gil, S.V.; Silva, N. 2005. Proyecto corredor norandino: evaluacion del papel del los bosques de roble y un sistema de areas protegidas en la conservacion de aves amenazadas.

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

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

Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Gilroy, J., Isherwood, I., Pople, R., Sharpe, C J, Taylor, J.

Alvarez, M., Cortes, O., Donegan, T., Renjifo, L., Salaman, P., Uribe, D.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Macroagelaius subalaris. 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.

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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 - Mountain grackle (Macroagelaius subalaris) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Icteridae (New World blackbirds)
Species name author (Boissonneau, 1840)
Population size 600-1700 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 640 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species