Apurimac Spinetail Synallaxis courseni


Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Vulnerable because it is known from just a few locations and has a very small total population. If disturbance and small-scale tree felling at the Ampay National Sanctuary is found to be causing a population decline, the species may warrant uplisting to Endangered in the future.

Population justification
The population within the Ampay National Sanctuary has been estimated to number almost 1,000 individuals. Although there are records outside of the sanctuary, it is not thought to be present in significant numbers in these areas (J. Valenzuela in litt. 2010). Therefore, a population band of 1,000-2,499 individuals is currently assumed, though a full population census may revise the figure upwards. This estimate equates to 667-1,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 600-1,700 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The Ampay National Sanctuary is currently thought to be the stronghold of the species, where some disturbance and cutting of Podocarpus trees occurs. However, there is no evidence of a population decline, as the population in the sanctuary was previously estimated at 600-800 individuals and is now thought to hold nearly 1,000 individuals (Collar et al. 1992, J. Valenzuela in litt. 2010).

Distribution and population

Synallaxis courseni is known from several locations in south-central Peru. It was previously thought to be restricted to the Ampay National Sanctuary, where it was thought to have a population of 600-800 mature individuals (Collar et al. 1992). However, there have been several sightings outside the sanctuary, including at Huayrapata, Pacaypata, Cerro Turronmocco (above Quisuar) and above Yanama town in the Vilcabamba Mts on the way to Toruyocpampa (C. Aucca in litt. 2007, H. Lloyd and B. Walker in litt. 2007). The species has been described as common on Ampay Massif and on the road leading to Huanipaca (J. Fjeldså in litt. 2007, H. Lloyd and B. Walker in litt. 2007, H. Lloyd in litt. 2010), and its current population is thought to be roughly 1,000 individuals within the sanctuary (J. Valenzuela in litt. 2010). The population size in other areas is unknown.


It inhabits dense undergrowth, vines and bamboo in Podocarpus woodland, as well as adjacent shrubbery, mainly at elevations of 2,450-3,500 m. It is usually found in pairs or family groups, foraging for insects in dense vegetation near the ground. Adults in breeding condition have been recorded in December, and immatures have been seen in March (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). Records from highly fragmented cloud forest landscape dominated by agriculture (H. Lloyd in litt. 2007, H. Lloyd and B. Walker in litt. 2007) indicate that the species may be tolerant, to a degree, of anthropogenic habitat fragmentation and degradation.


Podocarpus trees continue to be cut on the Nevada Ampay (T. Valqui in litt. 1999). Large numbers of people visit the sanctuary at the weekend, some with slingshots, and disturbance is considerable (T. Valqui in litt. 1999). Grazing is an additional threat, with livestock farming commonplace even inside the protected area (J. Valenzuela in litt. 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The Podocarpus forest above Abancay, Apurímac, is protected as the Ampay National Sanctuary. Reforestation is underway, but threats to the forest are yet to be alleviated (T. Valqui in litt. 1999, W.-P. Vellinga in litt. 1999).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor the population. Assess the impact of current activities on the status of this species. Develop a conservation education programme at Ampay National Sanctuary and erect signposts to discourage damaging activities (T. Valqui in litt. 1999). Conduct further surveys for the species outside the sanctuary. Complete a full population census.


18.5 cm. Slender, grey-and-rufous spinetail. Dark grey forehead. Dark rufous crown. Grey face and underparts, paler on centre of belly. Darker throat, stippled whitish. Grey-brown upperparts, greyer on rump. Largely rufous wings. Long, dusky brown tail. Voice Nasal keet-weet.


Text account compilers
Calvert, R., Isherwood, I., Pople, R., Sharpe, C J, Stuart, T., Symes, A., Khwaja, N.

Vellinga, W., Valqui, T., Lloyd, H., Valenzuela, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Synallaxis courseni. Downloaded from on 21/09/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/09/2021.