Alagoas Foliage-gleaner Philydor novaesi


Justification of Red List Category
This species is considered Critically Endangered because it is confined to two sites containing extremely small and fragmented patches of severely threatened forest. There have been no confirmed sightings since 2011, and unless there is urgent conservation action, if it is not already extinct it is likely to become so very shortly.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 50-249 mature 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 75-374 individuals in total, rounded here to 70-400 individuals.

Trend justification
The species is thought to have declined rapidly owing to the widespread and ongoing clearance of forest through logging, felling for charcoal and for conversion to sugarcane plantations and pastureland.

Distribution and population

Philydor novaesi has only ever been recorded at two sites in Alagoas and Pernambuco, north-east Brazil. It was first discovered at Murici (Alagoas) in 1979, when it was described as relatively conspicuous and easy to locate. Subsequent surveys found the species to be rare, and there were no confirmed records between 1992 and 1998. Single individuals were found in 1998 and 1999 (A. Whittaker in litt. 1999), four birds in 2000 (J. Goerck in litt. 1999, 2000), a further individual in early 2007 and television footage of one individual in 2009 (P. Develey in litt. 2007, 2008, 2009), indicating that the species is (barely) extant. It was discovered at Frei Caneca Private Reserve (Pernambuco) in April 2003 (Cotinga 2003 20:13, Mazar-Barnett et al. 2005), and at the adjacent Jaqueira (Frei Caneca) Reserve (recently purchased by SAVE Brasil) where two individuals were observed in 2007/2008 (P. Develey in litt. 2007, 2008, 2009) and the species could still be located there in late 2010 and early 2011 (WikiAves undated). These two areas are located on the Serra do Urubu (P. Develey in litt. 2007, 2008, 2009). Despite extensive searches in both Frei Caneca and Murici the species was last ever confirmed sighting was in 2011 at Frei Caneca (Pereira et al. 2014). Consequently Pereira et al. (2014) and Lees et al. (2014) consider the species likely to be extinct and it is officially designated as Extinct at the national level in Brazil (MMA 2014).


It inhabits the edges of clearings in interior upland forest at 400-550 m, from the understorey to the subcanopy, and has been observed in selectively logged and old secondary forests. Birds have been found singly, in pairs or small groups, and often join mixed-species flocks. Food is gleaned from leaves, bark, crevices and debris, and consists of insects, including larvae taken from dead wood, beetles, grasshoppers and ants. Observations suggest the species preferentially forages on bromeliads (Lees et al. 2014). There is little breeding information, but an immature was collected in January, and birds in February were moulting (Ridgely and Tudor 1994). One of the individuals at the Jaqueira (Frei Caneca) Reserve in 2007/2008 was observed in secondary forest (P. Develey in litt. 2007, 2008, 2009).


Forest at Murici has been reduced from 70 km2 in the 1970s, to c. 30 km2 of highly disturbed and fragmented habitat in 1999 (J. Goerck in litt. 1999, 2000), largely as a result of logging and conversion to sugarcane plantations and pastureland. In January 1999, new logging roads were evident and such forest fragments are severely threatened by fires spreading from adjacent plantations (A. Whittaker in litt. 1999, J. Goerck in litt. 1999, 2000). The Frei Caneca private reserve and adjacent SAVE Brasil protected area are still suffering from ongoing illegal charcoal exploitation (P. Develey in litt. 2007, 2008, 2009). The massive clearance of Atlantic forest in Alagoas and Pernambuco has left few other sites likely to support populations of this species. The species is thought to preferentially forage on bromeliads which have also suffered as a result of forest loss (Lees et al. 2014). Having a montane distribution that is close to the maximum altitude within its range, this species is potentially susceptible to climate change (BirdLife International unpublished data).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is protected under Brazilian law. International and national efforts to ensure the effective protection of Murici resulted in the creation of the Murici Ecological Station in 2001, encompassing 6,116 ha (J. Goerck in litt. 1999, 2000). Frei Caneca is a private reserve protecting 630 ha of forest (Cotinga 2003 20:13). SAVE Brasil purchased a property adjacent to the Frei Caneca Private Nature Reserve, increasing the area of protected forest at the Serra do Urubu to 1,000 ha (J. M. Goerck in litt. 2005, P. Develey in litt. 2007, 2008, 2009). A population census of the species at Serra do Urubu was planned for early 2008 (P. Develey in litt. 2007, 2008, 2009). Efforts to begin environmental education initiatives and to provide local people with a viable alternative to charcoal production are underway. There is no captive population (Anon. 2013).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey any remnant patches of upland Atlantic forest in Alagoas (such as Usina Serra Grande) and Pernambuco for this species. Ensure the de facto protection of Murici Ecological Station and forest on the Serra do Urubu. Estimate the population on the Serra do Urubu (Frei Caneca and SAVE Brasil protected area). Study the species's ecology and breeding biology. Implement environmental education programmes. Monitor population trends at known sites.


18 cm. Plain rufous-brown furnariid. Dull ochraceous forehead and lores, scaled black. Blackish-brown crown, scaled dark olive-brown. Narrow buffy-cinnamon supercilium and subocular stripe. Dull chestnut eye-stripe. Blackish stripe from mandible to auriculars, spotted chestnut. Olivaceous-chestnut nape and rest of upperparts. More rufous rump and tail. Pale rufous underparts, tinged olive on sides of belly and crissum. Similar spp. Black-capped Foliage-gleaner P. atricapillus is much more rufous, with darker head pattern. Voice Slightly descending series of whistles uü-uü-uü and a thürr alarm call.


Text account compilers
Bird, J., Capper, D., Mahood, S., Pople, R., Sharpe, C J, Symes, A. & Ashpole, J

Develey, P., Goerck, J. & Whittaker, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Philydor novaesi. Downloaded from on 18/10/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 18/10/2019.