Bahia Tapaculo Eleoscytalopus psychopompus


Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Endangered. It has a very small population which is continuing to decline owing to habitat loss and degradation. It was previously thought to have a very small range however it has recently been found in a further four municipalities, and has been recorded in modified habitats.

Population justification
Birds at Itubera are rare and patchily distributed (P. C. Lima in litt. 2006); the population at Una is estimated to number 64-68 pairs (c. 125 mature individuals), and it is here placed in the band 50-249 mature individuals, equating to 75-374 individuals in total, rounded here to 70-400 individuals. Recent records from a number of new locations, and records in degraded habitats, may lead to an upward revision of the total population estimate in the near future.

Trend justification
The species has undoubtedly undergone major declines in the past as the native lowland forest of Bahia on which it relies has been reduced to c. 10% of its original extent.  Threats to its habitat remain, therefore continuing declines are suspected. However in the Reserva Ecológica Michelin landscape the population is apparently not showing signs of decline (K. M. Flesher in litt. 2013).

Distribution and population

This species was, until recently, known only from three specimens taken at two localities in coastal Bahia, Brazil: a male collected in July 1944 at Ilhéus and a pair obtained in October 1983 at Valença (Collar et al. 1992, Krabbe and Schulenberg 2003). The species is no longer present close to these towns, but it has been found at Reserva Ecológica da Michelin of the Plantações Michelin da Bahia, Igrapiúna municipality, near Ituberá, Bahia, and Una Biological Reserve, Una municipality where small populations survive (C. Gatto in litt. 2006, P. C. Lima in litt. 2006, F. Olmos in litt. 2006, K. Flesher in litt. 2010). During thorough surveys near Ituberá, following the discovery, just four territories were identified (C. Gatto in litt. 2006). Surveys by BirdLife/SAVE Brasil have now recorded the species in a further four municipalities: Ilhéus, Maraú, Taperoá and Valença (C. Gatto in litt. 2006, P. Develey in litt. 2007). The bird is extremely shy and retiring and difficult to detect during surveys; factors that no doubt influence our perception of its status.


This species occurs at 15-200 m and apparently requires mature wet lowland forests in the Una and Igrapiúna areas, although recent records in Reserva Ecológica da Michelin are from degraded pioneer vegetation along waterways (K. Flesher in litt. 2010).  It is restricted to patches in river and stream valleys with small swamps around the main river course or swampy parts of the river itself, up to a maximum of c.50 m from the river channel (C. Gatto in litt. 2006).  Its preferred micro-habitat appears to be areas with dense agglomerates of vines and shrubs, covered by trunks and branches of fallen trees (C. Gatto in litt. 2006).  In the Reserva Ecológica Michelin and surrounding landscape the species has been registered in degraded habitats (K. M. Flesher in litt. 2013).


The destruction of coastal Atlantic forest has been extensive in Bahia, south of Salvador, and only small fragments remain, totalling perhaps 10% of their original extent in the area (Tobias et al. 2006).  The species is presumed to be at great risk from the continuing loss of suitable habitat. 

Conservation actions

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
The species is considered Endangered in Brazil (MMA 2014). The Reserva Ecológica da Michelin covers 3,000 ha and is patrolled by four forest guards who have been effective in reducing hunting pressure significantly and in stopping cutting and clearing of the forest, as well as recording the species (K. Flesher in litt. 2010, 2011). A study was due to begin there in 2011, and will focus on the distribution and ecology of the species within and around the reserve (K. Flesher in litt. 2011). The Una Biological Reserve has recently been enlarged to 7,100 ha (A. De Luca in litt. 2008).

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Continue studying the known populations at Ituberá and Una. Search for the species in other fragments of remaining habitat in the area. Determine its population size and status at the known localities. Study the species's ecology, including habitat requirements, and breeding biology. Effectively safeguard Una Biological Reserve and the habitat at Ituberá. Initiate sustainable development projects within the species's range.


11.5 cm. Contrasting tapaculo. Slaty above with white underparts. Dark slaty-grey head, upperparts and flanks with bluish tinge. White loral spot. Cinnamon-rufous wash to rump and scapulars. White cheeks and throat extending to belly. Inconspicuous scaled effect on belly. Pale cinnamon-rufous sides to belly and vent. Dark slaty thighs tinged bluish. Blackish bill with whitish base of mandible. Pinkish legs. Similar spp. Closely resembles allopatric White-breasted Tapaculo S. indigoticus, but it lacks the flank barring that is conspicuous in that species. It also has bluish-grey colouring at the base of the tibia compared with barred cinnamon plumage in indigoticus. Voice Consists of a sequence of short notes (27-28, nine emissions per second) similar to S. indigoticus, which is a descending and accelerating series of very dry and harsh tchj staccato notes. Also regular, frog-like, slightly ascending call frrrrrrrooww, lasting an average of 3.25 seconds. The alarm call consists of a low frequency short note (0.6-1.3 kHz).


Text account compilers
Harding, M., Pople, R., Symes, A., Butchart, S., Taylor, J., Williams, R., Clay, R.P., Sharpe, C J, Ashpole, J, Bird, J.

Lima, P., Flesher, K., Develey, P., Olmos, F., De Luca, A., Gatto, C.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2018) Species factsheet: Eleoscytalopus psychopompus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/12/2018. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2018) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/12/2018.