Chestnut-capped Piha (Lipaugus weberi): does it qualify as Critically Endangered?

This discussion was first published as part of the 2012 Red List update, but remains open for comment to enable reassessment in 2014.

BirdLife species factsheet for Chestnut-capped Piha

Chestnut-capped Piha Lipaugus weberi is restricted to pre-montane forest on the northern slope of the Central Andes of Colombia. It is listed as Endangered under criteria B1a+b(i,ii,iii,iv); C2a(i), on the basis that it occupies a very small and declining range, with an Extent of Occurrence (EOO) estimated by BirdLife at only c.42 km2, in which it is known from five locations, and has a very small population, placed in the band 1,000-2,499 individuals, of which the largest sub-population numbers fewer than 250 individuals (Cuervo et al. 2001), and which is suspected to be in decline overall.

In the Colombian Red List assessment for birds (Renjifo et al. 2002), this species was listed as Critically Endangered under criterion C1 on the basis that its declining population was estimated at fewer than 250 mature individuals and it was thought that the future rate of habitat loss could exceed 80% over 10 years (implying the species should also be listed at Critically Endangered under A3c; A4c, as suggested in the text, but not given with the national category; Renjifo et al. 2002). The same population estimate has also led to the recommendation that it be listed as Critically Endangered under criterion C2a(i) (Fundación ProAves de Colombia 2011).

There is evidently some confusion over the level of habitat fragmentation relevant to this species. According to the IUCN criteria, habitat fragmentation is regarded as severe when over 50% of suitable habitat is in patches too small to support viable populations. Given the extremely small range size of this species, the incorporation of severe fragmentation into the Red List assessment would likely qualify the species for Critically Endangered under criterion B1 (cf. Fundación ProAves de Colombia 2011).

The reassessment of this species is further necessitated by the improving political stability of this region of Colombia, which is facilitating the resumption of agricultural expansion, as well as increased gold mining and exploration, which is also driven by increases in the value of gold (Fundación ProAves de Colombia 2011). Three major hydro-electric dams are under development along the río Porce and new roads are being constructed in the species’s range (Fundación ProAves de Colombia 2011).

Comments are invited on the potential uplisting of this species to Critically Endangered and further information is requested on the level of habitat fragmentation and estimated population size.


Cuervo, A. M., Salaman, P. G. W., Donegan, T. M. and Ochoa, J. M. (2001) A new species of piha (Cotingidae: Lipaugus) from the Cordillera Central of Colombia. Ibis 143: 353-368.

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

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

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  3. Archived 2011-2012 topics: White-mantled Barbet (Capito hypoleucus): downlist to Vulnerable?
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7 Responses to Chestnut-capped Piha (Lipaugus weberi): does it qualify as Critically Endangered?

  1. The in press ProAves paper cited above has been published with the following data:
    “Chestnut–capped Piha Lipaugus weberi
    The species is highly restricted to remnant patches of
    subtropical forest on the northern slope of the Central
    Cordillera (Cuervo et al. 2001). It has historically been
    borderline EN/CR, with the latter rating adopted in the
    national red list (Cuervo & Renjifo 2002) and considered
    once by BirdLife in the past. Until recent years, the species’
    range was politically unstable (discouraging human
    activities) and farms had been abandoned, with a net gain in
    forest cover. However, increased political stability in the
    region in recent years plus major infrastructure projects
    underway in the middle of the species’ last population area
    (a series of three major hydro–electric dams being
    completed along the Rio Porce by EPM and new highways)
    have reversed the future prospects for this species. The few
    remaining patches of forest are under immediate threat. The
    expanding agriculture frontier has raised the possibility of
    extinction whilst gold mining and exploration have also
    increased as the area has become safe and with increases in
    the value of gold.
    Only one small protected area – Arrierito Antioqueño Bird
    Reserve (10 km2 and adjacent La Forzosa Reserve – 3.5 km2
    – totaling 1,353 ha (13.5 km2) protects the global stronghold
    of the species. Lipaugus weberi occurs locally on just 15–
    30% of that protected area. While the population in the
    protected area is secure in the immediate future with an
    estimated population of <100 mature individuals and AOO
    of 80% over 12–15 years (3 generations), so meeting criteria
    Critically Endangered (CR) A4a+c, B1a+b(i,ii,iii,iv); C2a(i).”

  2. I agree with Thomas. Continued forest degradation and clearance for
    construction, agriculture and commercial plantations
    in this region are having profound and long-term
    environmental impacts on populations the Chestnut-capped Piha

  3. A. M. Cuervo says:

    The paper “Avifauna of the northern Cordillera Central of the Andes, Colombia. Ornitología Neotropical (2008) 19: 495–515” reports all the known localities as of today of Chestnut-capped Piha as a result of a long-term study across its distributional range, which is restricted to cloud-forests between 1400 and 1925 m in Amalfi and Anorí, Department of Antioquia.

    From that paper (p. 495): “Sixteen species of conservation concern have healthy populations in these cloud forests; for instance, we report all the 16 localities known for the Chestnut-capped Piha (Lipaugus weberi) whose range is entirely confined to our study region”.

    (p. 499): “Furthermore, Lipaugus weberi is exclusively known from the sixteen localities reported in this paper, twelve more since its description in 2001. Although this cotinga may indeed be restricted to the cloud forests of Anorí and Amalfi, ornithological exploration is poor in adjacent areas like Yolombó, Campamento, Yarumal, the northern Cordillera Occidental, and Serranía de San Lucas.”

    “There are no national parks in the northern Cordillera Central, but three small reserves were recently established based on our studies: Bosque Guayabito (c. 1000 ha), La Forzosa (c. 350 ha), and Arrierito Antioqueño (i.e., Alto El Chaquiral, c. 110 ha). Although only the Anorí region was identified as an Important Bird Area (Franco & Bravo 2005), realistic conservation impact of the IBA program on the cloud forest habitats of the region is still to be seen. We believe that a network of reserves owned by local farmers would cradle long-term, sustainable conservation of the lower Porce and upper Nechi forests, which are now threatened by ongoing land use changes and increasing human colonization.”

    During a study on the effects of forest fragmentation in birds in this region “Assemblage and population-level consequences of forest fragmentation on bilateral asymmetry in tropical montane birds. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (2007) 92: 119-133 – and Supplementary material” the bird was found to thrive in small to medium-size fragments (20-70 ha) provided some forest cover and connectivity at the landscape level. This piha is a forest-restricted bird but based on anecdotal observations and capture-recapture data (unpublished) individuals may have ample home ranges and use forested ravines and small patches in the matrix as corridors. Whether it best fit the CR vs. EN category, I don’t know.

  4. Fundación ProAves says:

    Nota: Herrera-Echeverri & Lara-Vásquez (2009) Algunas aves de la Reserva Natural de las Aves Arrierito Antioqueño (Anorí) y en el Bosque El Guayabito (Amalfi) en El Cucarachero
    Página 6: “Realizamos tres recorridos, dos en la Reserva Natural Arrierito Antioqueño y uno en el Bosque El Guayabito. …… En ninguna ocasión tuvimos algún tipo de contacto con Lipaugus weberi,…” Translation says Lipaugus weberi was not found in either area surveyed. However we know the species occurs in both sites, just locally distributed, uncommon and hard to find without knowledge of distinct vocalizations.

    We have no information that “Bosque Guayabito” is a protected area, either a reserve or otherwise. It is mostly forest but evidence of deforestation in Bosque Guayabito is online: and Bosque Guayabito needs protection.

  5. Joe Taylor says:

    The following comments were received from Fundación ProAves de Colombia on 3 September 2012:

    please note the climate change assessment article on threatened and endemic birds to Colombia ( shows weberi as the only Colombian endemic outside of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta that is predicted to have a high probability of extinction. Also in core range of weberi, the Porce 4th dam has been approved and work is starting that has attracted 9,000 people to invade the region to farm and seek compensation. Hundreds of families need to be relocated adding further stress to limited forest of the area

  6. Joe Taylor says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2014 Red List is to pend the decision on Chestnut-capped Piha Lipaugus weberi and keep this discussion open until early 2015, while leaving the current Red List category unchanged in the 2014 update.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 March, after which recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  7. Andy Symes says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there has been no change to our preliminary proposal for the 2014 Red List status of this species.

    This discussion will remain open for further comments and information until early 2015, and the current Red List category will remain unchanged in 2014.

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