Apolinar's Wren Cistothorus apolinari


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very small population and range. It is thought to be declining rapidly, owing to loss and degradation of its severely fragmented habitat. All subpopulations are suspected to be extremely small, and some have been extirpated over the last few decades. This combination of factors result in its classification as Endangered.

Population justification
There are no new data on population size. 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 (e.g. the lower quartile of such estimates is 8.5 individuals per km2) and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate equates to 667-1,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 600-1,700 mature individuals.

Trend justification
Population decreases continue to be noted, for example in the Sabana de Bogotá (Rosselli and Stiles 2012), with remaining populations threatened by many factors, and no conservation action is known to have been taken. The population is therefore suspected to have experienced a rapid decline over the last ten years.

Distribution and population

Cistothorus apolinari is found locally in the East Andes of Colombia (Boyacá and Cundinamarca). Current strongholds are at Laguna de Tota (Boyacá) and Laguna de Fúquene (Cundinamarca) - the population in each probably exceeding 50 pairs - and several populations of up to 20 pairs are present in the remnant wetlands around Bogotá (F. G. Stiles in litt. 1999). It has been extirpated from at least two sites since 1950, and numbers have fallen at several formerly important sites.


It inhabits tall, dense, emergent vegetation fringing marshes and lakes (mostly reedbeds), between 1,800-3,600 m, but principally above 2,500 m (Renjifo et al. 2002). In páramo habitats, it is limited to areas with riparian vegetation, especially Espletia spp. (Cortes-Herrera & Briceño 2004, O. Cortes in litt. 2007). It gleans aquatic insects from reed stems, and is usually found in pairs or family groups. Breeding seems to occur between February and October, and eggs have been found in July, although nests under construction in the forks of Escallonia myrtilloides trees have been found in December and January (Cortes-Herrera & Briceño 2004).


It is declining rapidly owing to the drainage and burning of wetlands for agriculture, mainly onion cultivation, but also cattle-farming (Wege and Long 1995). Siltation, because of erosion on deforested hillsides in the region (Wege and Long 1995), and pollution by agrochemicals and sewage alter the wetland vegetation, and insecticide use may reduce food availability or directly poison birds. In the Bogotá area, several relict wetlands are threatened by human settlement and highway projects (Wege and Long 1995, F. G. Stiles in litt. 1999). Reed-harvesting and tourism are possibly minor threats, and nest parasitism by Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis may increasingly be a threat (Renjifo et al. 2002, Rosselli and Stiles 2012). Degradation of páramo habitats continues even within protected areas, e.g. El Cocuy National Park (Cortes-Herrera & Briceño 2004, O. Cortes in litt. 2007).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It occurs in El Cocuy National Park, Boyacá, and in Sumapáz National Park, Cundinamarca (F. G. Stiles in litt. 1999, Renjifo et al. 2002).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey and monitor known populations. Census and study the poorly-known páramo population (F. G. Stiles in litt. 1999), especially within national parks (Wege and Long 1995). Protect wetland habitats (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999). Assess the taxonomic status of the páramo population. Control Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis populations at breeding sites (Renjifo et al. 2002, Rosselli and Stiles 2012); without such control, the Sabana de Bogotá population is unlikely to survive (Rosselli and Stiles 2012). Ensure the continued protection of páramo habitats within existing national parks.


12 cm. Small, streaked wren. Buffish with short, grey supercilium. Back and rump streaked black and buff-white. Dingy grey underparts, washed buff on flanks and undertail. Voice Short series of bubbling toe-a-twée interspersed with churrs. Also a scolding churr call.


Text account compilers
Gilroy, J. & Sharpe, C J

Cortes, O., Salaman, P. & Stiles, F.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Cistothorus apolinari. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 29/10/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 29/10/2020.