Skip to main content Accessibility help

Distribution and conservation of Grallaria and Grallaricula antpittas (Grallariidae) in Ecuador



The current ranges of many tropical species of conservation concern are poorly known, yet this information is critical for assessing their conservation status against the IUCN Red List criteria and implementing species-level management. Antpittas in the genera Grallaria and Grallaricula are elusive, ground-foraging insectivores, highly susceptible to a range of threats. For these genera, we combine environmental niche modelling with expert knowledge in order to predict species’ geographic distributions, and we use current estimates of deforestation to evaluate their conservation status in Ecuador. We use BIOCLIM to generate a first pass geographic prediction, which was further aided by expert knowledge of their natural history. This methodology allowed us to assess the conservation status of each species, revising previous assessments at the national level and making recommendations for revision of global IUCN Red List categories. Based on inferred rates of population decline, derived from estimates of loss of suitable habitat, we suggest ranking three species as ‘Endangered’ in Ecuador, one as 'Vulnerable', and three as ‘Near Threatened’. Predicted national ranges vary in size from 56.05 km2 to 112,745 km2. Patterns of range loss were different for each Andean slope, with higher deforestation on the western slope. The combination of niche modelling and knowledge of habitat loss can be a powerful tool to aid conservation efforts in the face of a poor understanding of population demographics, as is the case for many Neotropical taxa. We hope the methodology and results provided here will increase our understanding, and focus future attention on the conservation of this poorly known avian group.

Existe poco conocimiento sobre los rangos actuales de distribución de muchas especies tropicales amenazadas de extinción, aunque esta información es fundamental para evaluar sus estados de conservación mediante los criterios de Listas Rojas de UICN, y para implementar estrategias de manejo. Los tororois de los géneros Grallaria y Grallaricula son aves insectívoras terrestres, de hábitos elusivos, altamente vulnerables a la extinción. Evaluamos el estado de conservación en Ecuador de las especies de Grallaria y Grallaricula empleando modelación de nichos, experticia local y tasas actuales de deforestación, para predecir la distribución geográfica de las especies. Usamos BIOCLIM para generar una primera ronda de predicciones geográficas, la cual fue posteriormente refinada por expertos en la historia natural y distribución de estas especies. Estos métodos nos permitieron estimar de forma más certera el estado de conservación de cada especie y revisar las evaluaciones previas a escala nacional, así como asignar las categorías de conservación de UICN de manera más acertada. Con base en las estimaciones de pérdida de rango, sugerimos categorizar a tres especies como En Peligro, una como Vulnerable y tres especies como Casi Amenazadas en Ecuador. Los rangos de distribución nacionales estimados varían en extensión desde 56,05 km2 a 112 745 km2. Los patrones de pérdida de rangos fueron distintos entre las dos estribaciones andinas, con mayores tasas de deforestación al occidente. La combinación de modelación de nichos y conocimiento sobre pérdida de hábitats puede constituir una herramienta eficiente para apoyar los esfuerzos de conservación frente a panoramas de escaso conocimiento de dinámicas poblacionales, como es el caso para la mayoría de aves neotropicales. Esperamos que la metodología y resultados que proveemos aporten a incrementar nuestro conocimiento y a enfocar futuros esfuerzos de conservación hacia este grupo de aves poco conocidas.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Distribution and conservation of Grallaria and Grallaricula antpittas (Grallariidae) in Ecuador
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Distribution and conservation of Grallaria and Grallaricula antpittas (Grallariidae) in Ecuador
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Distribution and conservation of Grallaria and Grallaricula antpittas (Grallariidae) in Ecuador
      Available formats


Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence; email:


Hide All
Best, B. J., Clarke, C. T., Checker, M., Broom, A. L., Thewlis, R. M., Duckworth, W. and McNab, A. (1993) Distributional records, natural history notes, and conservation of some poorly known birds from southwestern Ecuador and northwestern Peru. Bull. Brit. Orn. Club 113: 108119, 234–255.
BirdLife International (2009) The BirdLife checklist of the birds of the world, with conservation status and taxonomic sources. Version 1.
Bonaccorso, E., Santander, T., Freile, J. F., Tinoco, B. and Rodas, F. (2007) Avifauna and conservation of the Cerro Negro-Cazaderos area, Tumbesian Ecuador. Cotinga 27: 6166.
Chaves, J. A., Pollinger, J. P., Smith, T. B. and LeBuhn, G. (2007) The role of geography and ecology in shaping the phylogeography of the speckled hummingbird (Adelomyia melanogenys) in Ecuador. Mol. Phyl. Evol. 43: 795807.
Collar, N. J., Gonzaga, L. P., Krabbe, N., Madroño Nieto, A., Naranjo, L. G., Parker, T. A. and Wege, D. C. (1992) Threatened birds of the Americas. Cambridge, UK: International Council for Bird Preservation.
Cresswell, W., Hughes, M., Mellanby, R., Bright, S., Catry, P., Chaves, J., Freile, J., Gabela, A., Martineau, H., MacLeod, R., McPhie, F., Anderson, N., Holt, S., Barabas, S., Chapel, C. and Sánchez, T. (1999) Densities and habitat preferences of Andean endemic birds in pristine and degraded habitats in northeastern Ecuador. Bird Conserv. Int. 9: 129145.
Dobbs, R. C., Martin, P. R. and Kuehn, M. J. (2001) On the nest, eggs, nestlings, and parental care of the Scaled Antpitta (Grallaria guatimalensis). Ornitol. Neotrop. 12: 225233.
Dobbs, R. C., Martin, P. R., Batista, C., Montag, H. and Greeney, H. F. (2003) Notes on egg laying, incubation and nestling care in Scaled Antpitta Grallaria guatimalensis. Cotinga 19: 6570.
Elith, J., Graham, C. H., Anderson, R. P., Dudik, M., Ferrier, S., Guisan, A., Hijmans, R. J., Huettman, F., Leathwick, J. R., Lehmann, A., Li, J., Lohmann, L. G., Loiselle, B. A., Manion, G., Moritz, C., Nakamura, M., Nakazawa, Y., Overton, J. M., Peterson, A. T., Phillips, S. J., Richardson, K. S., Scachetti-Pereira, R., Schapire, R. E., Soberón, J., Williams, S., Wisz, M. S. and Zimmermann, N. E. (2006) Novel methods improve prediction of species’ distributions from occurrence data. Ecography 29: 129151.
Fjeldså, J. and Krabbe, N. (1990) Birds of the high Andes. Copenhagen: Apollo Books.
Freile, J. F. (2000) Patrones de distribución y sus implicaciones en la conservación de los géneros Grallaria y Grallaricula (Aves: Formicariidae) en Ecuador. Graduate thesis. Quito: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador.
Freile, J. F. (2004) Range extensions and other note-worthy bird records from mainland Ecuador. Bull. Brit. Orn. Club 124: 188202.
Freile, J. F. and Renjifo, L. M. (2003) First nesting records of the endangered Moustached Antpitta, Grallaria alleni. Wilson Bull. 115: 1115.
Freile, J. F. and Santander, T. (2005) Áreas importantes para la conservación de las aves en Ecuador. Pp. 283470 in: Boyla, K. and Estrada, A., eds. Áreas importantes para la conservación de las aves en los Andes tropicales. Sitios prioritarios para la conservación de la biodiversidad. Quito: BirdLife International and Conservation International. (BirdLife International Conservation Series No. 14).
Gärdenfors, U., Hilton-Taylor, C., Mace, G. and Rodríguez, J. P. (2001) The application of IUCN Red List Criteria at regional levels. Conserv. Biol. 15: 12061212.
Gärdenfors, U., Rodríguez, J. P., Hilton-Taylor, C., Hyslop, C., Mace, G., Molur, S. and Poss, S. (1999) Draft guidelines for the application of IUCN Red List criteria at national and regional levels. Species 31-2: 5870.
Gelfand, A. E., Schimdt, A. M., Wu, S., Silander, J. A., Latimer, A. and Rebelo, A. G. (2005) Modelling species diversity through species level hierarchical modelling. Appl. Statis. 54: 120.
Graham, C. H., Ferrier, S., Huettman, F., Moritz, C. and Peterson, A. T. (2004) New developments in museum-based informatics and applications in biodiversity analysis. Trends Ecol. Evol. 19: 497503.
Graham, C. H., Moritz, C. and Williams, S. E. (2006) Habitat history improves prediction of biodiversity in rainforest fauna. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 103: 632636.
Granizo, T., Pacheco, C., Ribadeneira, M. B., Guerrero, M. and Suárez, L., eds. (2002) Libro rojo de las aves del Ecuador. Quito: Simbioe, Conservación Internacional, EcoCiencia, Ministerio del Ambiente and UICN.
Graves, G. R. (1987) A cryptic new species of antpitta (Formicariidae: Grallaria) from the Peruvian Andes. Wilson Bull. 99: 313321.
Graves, G. R. (1988) Linearity of geographic range and its possible effect on the population structure of Andean birds. Auk 105: 4752.
Graves, G. R., O’Neill, J. P. and Parker, T. A. (1983) Grallaricula ochraceifrons, a new species of antpitta from northern Peru. Wilson Bull. 95: 16.
Greeney, H. F. and Gelis, R. A. (2006) Observations on parental care of the Moustached Antpitta (Grallaria alleni) in northwestern Ecuador. Ornitol. Neotrop. 17: 313316.
Greeney, H. F. and Martin, P. R. (2005) High in the Ecuadorian Andes: the nest and eggs of the Tawny Antpitta (Grallaria quitensis). Ornitol. Neotrop. 16: 567571.
Greeney, H. F. and Sornoza, M. F. (2005) The nest and egg of the Slate-crowned Antpitta (Grallaricula nana), with observations on incubation behavior in southern Ecuador. Ornitol. Neotrop. 16: 137140.
Greeney, H. F., Dobbs, R. C., Martin, P. R. and Gelis, R. A. (2008) The breeding biology of Grallaria and Grallaricula antpittas. J. Field Ornithol. 79: 113129.
Greeney, H. F., Hannelly, E. C. and Lysinger, M. (2004) First description of the nest and vocalizations of the Peruvian Antpitta Grallaricula peruviana with a northward range extension. Cotinga 21: 1417.
Heinz, M. (2002) Ecology, habitat, and distribution of the Jocotoco Antpitta (Formicariidae: Grallaria ridgelyi) in south Ecuador. BSc. Thesis. Münster, Germany: Institute of Landscape Ecology, University of Münster.
Heinz, M., Schmidt, V. and Schaefer, M. (2005) New distributional record for the Jocotoco Antpitta Grallaria ridgelyi in south Ecuador. Cotinga 23: 2426.
Hernández, P. A., Graham, C. H., Master, L. L. and Albert, D. L. (2006) The effect of sample size and species characteristics on performance of different species distribution modeling methods. Ecography 29: 773785.
Instituto Geográfico Militar (1978–1982) Índices toponímicos del Ecuador. Quito: Ins-tituto Geográfico Militar, IGM.
Kattan, G. H. and Beltrán, J. W. (1999) Altitudinal distribution, habitat use, and abundance of Grallaria antpittas in the central Andes of Colombia. Bird Conserv. Int. 9: 271281.
Kattan, G. H. and Beltrán, J. W. (2002) Rarity in antpittas: territory size and population density of five Grallaria spp. in a regenerating habitat mosaic in the Andes of Colombia. Bird Conserv. Int. 12: 231240.
Kattan, G. H., Franco, P., Rojas, V. and Morales, G. (2004) Biological diversification in a complex region: a spatial analysis of faunistic diversity and biogeography of the Andes of Colombia. J. Biogeogr. 31: 18291839.
Krabbe, N. (2008) Arid valleys as dispersal barriers to high-Andean forest birds in Ecuador. Cotinga 29: 2830.
Krabbe, N. and Coopmans, P. (2000) Rediscovery of Grallaria alleni (Formicariidae) with notes on its range, song and identification. Ibis 142: 183187.
Krabbe, N., Agro, D. J., Rice, N. H., Jácome, M., Navarrete, L. and Sornoza, M. F. (1999) A new species of antpitta (Formicariidae: Grallaria) from the southern Ecuadorian Andes. Auk 116: 882890.
Krabbe, N., Skov, F., Fjeldså, J. and Petersen, I. K. (1998) Avian diversity in the Ecuadorian Andes. An atlas of distribution of Andean forest birds and conservation priorities. Rønde, Denmark: Centre for Research on Cultural and Biological Diversity of Andean Rainforests (DIVA). (DIVA Technical Report No. 4).
Lande, R. (1998) Anthropogenic, ecological and genetic factors in extinction. Pp. 2951 in: Mace, G. M., Balmford, A. and Ginsberg, J. R., eds. Conservation in a changing world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Loiselle, B. A., Howell, C. A., Graham, C. H., Goerck, J. M., Brooks, T., Smith, K. G. and Williams, P. H. (2003) Avoiding pitfalls of using species distribution models in conservation planning. Conserv. Biol. 17: 15911600.
Long, A. J., Crosby, M. J., Stattersfield, A. J. and Wege, D. C. (1996) Towards a global map of biodiversity: patterns in the distribution of restricted-range birds. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 5: 281304.
López, F., Torres, M. and Beltrán, R. (2003) La minería en el Parque Nacional Podocarpus: consideraciones legales y ambientales. Loja, Ecuador: Fundación Arcoiris.
Lowery, G. H. and O’Neill, J. P. (1969) A new species of antpitta from Peru and a revision of the Subfamily Grallarinae. Auk 86: 112.
Manne, L. L., Brooks, T. M. and Pimm, S. L. (1999) Relative risk of extinction of passerine birds on continents and islands. Nature 399: 258261.
Martin, P. R. and Dobbs, R. C. (2004) Description of the nest, egg and nestling of Watkin’s Antpitta Grallaria watkinsi. Cotinga 21: 3537.
McGarigal, K., Cushman, S. A., Neel, M. C. and Ene, E. (2002) FRAGSTATS: spatial pattern analysis program for categorical maps. Available at:
Moritz, C. (2002) Strategies to protect biological diversity and the evolutionary processes that sustain it. Syst. Biol. 51: 238254.
Nilsson, J., Jonsson, R. and Krabbe, N. (2001) First record of Bicoloured Antpitta Grallaria rufocinerea from Ecuador, with notes on the species’ vocalisations. Cotinga 16: 105106.
Nix, H. A. (1986) A biogeographic analysis of Australian elapid snakes. Pp. 415 in: Anon., ed. Atlas of Australian elapid snakes. Canberra: Bureau Flora Fauna.
Parker, T. A. and Carr, J. L., eds. (1992) Status of forest remnants in the Cordillera de la Costa and adjacent areas of southwestern Ecuador. Washington DC: Conservation International. (RAP Working Papers 2).
Parra, J. L., Graham, C. H. and Freile, J. F. (2004) Evaluating alternative data sets for ecological niche models of birds in the Andes. Ecography 27: 111.
Paynter, R. A. (1993) Ornithological gazetteer of Ecuador, 2nd edition. Cambridge, MS: Museum of Comparative Zoology.
Paynter, R. A. and Traylor, M. A. (1977) Ornithological gazetteer of Ecuador. Cambridge, MS: Museum of Comparative Zoology.
Peterson, A. T. (2001) Predicting species geographic distributions based on ecological niche modeling. Condor 103: 599605.
Phillips, S. J., Anderson, R. P. and Schapire, R. E. (2006) Maximum entropy modeling of species geographic distributions. Ecol. Model. 190: 231259.
Poulsen, B. O. (1993) Change in mobility among crepuscular ground-living birds in an Ecuadorian cloud forest during overcast and rainy weather. Ornitol. Neotrop. 4: 103105.
Poulsen, B. O. and Krabbe, N. (1998). Avian rarity in ten cloud forest communities in the Andes of Ecuador: implications for conservation. Biodiv. Conserv. 6: 13651375.
Price, E. R. (2003) First description of the nest, eggs, hatchlings, and incubation behavior of the White-bellied Antpitta (Grallaria hypoleuca). Ornitol. Neotrop. 14: 535539.
Remsen, J. V., Cadena, C. D., Jaramillo, A., Nores, M., Pacheco, J. F., Robbins, M. B., Schulenberg, T. S., Stiles, F. G., Stotz, D. F. and Zimmer, K. J. (2008) A classification of the bird species of South America. American Ornithologists’ Union. Available at:
Renjifo, L. M. (2001) Effect of natural and anthropogenic landscape matrices on the abundance of Subandean bird species. Ecol. Appl. 11: 1431.
Renjifo, L. M., Franco, A. M., Kattan, G. H., Amaya, J. D. and Gómez, M. F., eds. (2002) Libro rojo de las aves amenazadas de Colombia. Bogotá: Instituto Alexander von Humboldt.
Ridgely, R. S. and Greenfield, P. J. (2001) Birds of Ecuador. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press.
Ridgely, R. S. and Tudor, G. (1994) The birds of South America, Volume II: the suboscine passerines. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Ridgely, R. S., Allnut, T. F., Brooks, T., McNicol, D. K., Mehlman, D. W., Young, B. E. and Zook, J. R. (2003) Digital distribution maps of the birds of the western hemisphere. Version 1.0. Washington DC: Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, The Nature Conservancy, NatureServe, Wildspace, and WWF.
Robbins, M. B., Krabbe, N., Rosenberg, G. H., Ridgely, R. S. and Sornoza, M. F. (1994) Notes on the natural history of the Crescent-faced Antpitta. Wilson Bull. 106: 169173.
Schulenberg, T. S. and Williams, M. D. (1982) A new species of antpitta (Grallaria) from northern Peru. Wilson Bull. 94: 105113.
Sekercioglu, C. H., Ehrlich, P. R., Daily, G. C., Aygen, D., Goehring, D. and Sandí, R. F. (2002) Disappearance of insectivorous birds from tropical forest fragments. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 99: 264267.
Sierra, R. (1999) Vegetación remanente del Ecuador continental. circa 1996. 1:1,000.000. Quito: Proyecto INEFAN/GEF-BIRF and Wildlife Conservation Society.
SPSS Inc. (2001) SPSS for Windows rel. 11.0.1. Chicago: SPSS Inc.
Stattersfield, A. J., Crosby, M. J., Long, A. J. and Wege, D. C. (1998) Endemic birds areas of the world. Priorities for biodiversity conservation. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International.
Steward, R. and Gibson, D. (1995) Environmental and economic development consequences of forest and agricultural sector policies in Latin America: a synthesis of case studies of Costa Rica, Ecuador and Bolivia. In: Cortés-Salas, H., de Camino, R. and Contreras, A., eds. Readings of the workshop on government policy reform for forestry conservation and development in Latin America. San José, Costa Rica: Interamerican Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture.
Stiles, F. G. (1992) A new species of antpitta (Formicariidae: Grallaria) from the eastern Andes of Colombia. Wilson Bull. 104: 389399.
Stouffer, P. C., Bierregaard, R. O., Strong, C. and Lovejoy, T. E. (2006) Long-term landscape change and bird abundance in Amazonian rainforest fragments. Conserv. Biol. 4: 12121223.
Tewksbury, J. J., Garner, L., Garner, S., Lloyd, J. D., Saab, V. and Martin, T. E. (2006) Alternative hypotheses of landscape influence on nest predation and brood parasitism in fragmented ecosystems. Ecology 87: 759768.
Tsoar, A., Allouche, O., Steinitz, O., Rotem, D. and Kadmon, R. (2007) A comparative evaluation of presence-only methods for modelling species distribution. Divers. Distrib. 13: 397405.
UICN (2001) Categorías y criterios de la lista roja de la UICN: versión 3.1. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: IUCN Species Survival Commission.
UICN (2003) Directrices para emplear los criterios de la lista roja de la UICN a nivel regional: versión 3.0. Gland and Cambridge: Comisión de Supervivencia de las Especies de la UICN.
U. S. Board on Geographic Names (1957) Gazetteer No. 36: Ecuador. Washington DC: Office of Geography, Department of the Interior.
Vallejo, E. A. (2003) Modernizando la naturaleza: desarrollo sostenible y conservación de la naturaleza en la Amazonia ecuato-riana. Quito: Simbioe.
Wetmore, A. and Phelps, W. H. (1956) Further additions to the list of birds of Venezuela. Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash. 69: 110.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Distribution and conservation of Grallaria and Grallaricula antpittas (Grallariidae) in Ecuador



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.