Bearded Wood-partridge Dendrortyx barbatus


Justification of Red List Category
Recent surveys have found this species to be more widespread and numerous than previously thought, but it still has a small range and a population which continues to decline rapidly (Collar et al. 1992, Keane et al. unpubl.). It therefore qualifies as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The total population probably comprises fewer than 5,400 individuals (J. Eitniear in litt. 2000), roughly equivalent to 3,600 mature individuals.

Trend justification
Remaining populations of this species are fragmented and, perhaps with the exception of those in the remote Sierra Gorda, are suspected to be continuing to decline rapidly, owing mainly to habitat loss and degradation.

Distribution and population

Dendrortyx barbatus is confined to the Sierra Madre Oriental and Sierra Madre de Oaxaca in east Mexico. Surveys in 1994-1998 confirmed its presence in several areas. The total population probably comprises fewer than 5,400 individuals (Eitniear et al. 2000). The largest populations are thought to be found in Veracruz (<2,000 individuals), where it occurs from Coatepec west through the Metlac Basin to Orizaba (Howell and Webb 1992, Eitniear et al. 2000, J. C. Eitniear in litt. 2004), and in Querétaro in the Sierra Gorda and adjacent areas (Eitniear et al. 1999, Eitniear et al. 2000, Rojas-Soto et al. 2001, Eitniear and Baccus 2002) (<3,000 individuals), although the extent of suitable habitat here is not known precisely. The species has recently been found at up to 20 new sites in Querétaro, suggesting that it is even more widespread in the state than previously thought (R. Pedraza per J. C. Eitniear in litt. 2007). Small numbers are thought to occur in Hildago (Howell and Webb 1992, Gómez de Silva and Aguilar Rodríguez 1994, J. Eitniear in litt. 2004) (<100 individuals), San Luis Potosi in the Sierra Gorda (J. C. Eitniear in litt. 1999, Eitniear et al. 2000) (<200 individuals) and Puebla (Aguilar-Rodrigues 2000) (<100 individuals). There are also records from the Sierra Mazateca in Oaxaca (Aguilar Rodríguez 1999). The spate of recent records suggests that it is more numerous than previously thought, but remaining populations are fragmented and, perhaps with the exception of those in the remote Sierra Gorda, continuing to decline.


It inhabits humid montane and pine-oak forest at elevations of 900-3,100 m, but has been recorded in older, second-growth forest, and edge and disturbed habitats associated with agriculture including shade coffee (Montejo and Tejeda 1996, Eitniear et al. 1999, Eitniear and Baccus 2002). Many fragmented populations are restricted to vegetation along creeks and rivers (J. C. Eitniear in litt. 1999). Observations of birds breeding in captivity indicate that egg-laying takes place in February-April (Cornejo 2007). The clutch size ranges from four to eight, but normally numbers six, and the incubation period is normally 28-32 days (Cornejo 2007).


Habitat destruction and fragmentation are the result of logging, clearance for agriculture, road-building, tourist developments, intensive urbanisation, sheep-ranching and grazing (Dinerstein et al. 1995). Conversion from shade to sun coffee is a serious threat to some areas of habitat (Eitniear and Baccus 2002, J. C. Eitniear in litt. 2004). Fragmented populations are susceptible to subsistence hunting, predators, genetic retrogression and further human encroachment (J. C. Eitniear in litt. 1999). In Veracruz, there is widespread conversion of habitat to monoculture crops, human settlement and livestock-grazing (Eitniear et al. 1999) and there have been reports of hunting with dogs with little discrimination between species (Eitniear and Baccus 2002, J. C. Eitniear in litt. 2004). In Hidalgo, there is little remaining habitat.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
There are recent records from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve (Eitniear et al. 2000) and near Pico Orizaba National Park (Montejo and Tejeda 1996). There are historical records from areas now within Cofre de Perote and Cañon del Río Blanco National Parks, but the species's current status in these reserves is unknown. Environmental education in Veracruz has included the development of posters and roadway signs (J. Carroll in litt. 1999).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out surveys to obtain an up-to-date total population estimate. Monitor the rates of habitat loss and degradation across its range. Implement a conservation awareness programme for the Sierra Gorda, targeting villages near known populations. Document habitat requirements, especially within the Sierra Gorda. Survey for additional populations in San Luis Potosi, Hidalgo, Veracruz and Oaxaca. Conduct research to determine the level of gene flow between the northern and southern parts of the species's range.


34 cm. Distinctive, long-tailed forest partridge. Bluish-grey head and neck, with brownish crown and crest. Grey streaked rufous on hindneck, mantle and sides of chest. Rest of underparts cinnamon with mottled grey and brown on thighs and flanks, and dark undertail with white tips. Rest of upperparts brownish mottled black and buff. Red legs, bill and orbital ring. Similar spp. Long-tailed Wood-partridge D. macroura has black head markings. Singing Quail Dactylortyx thoracicus is much smaller and shorter tailed. Voice Loud series of whistles three or four syllables ko-orr-ee-ee with emphasis on the last notes. Female softer with more notes.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Capper, D., Keane, A., Sharpe, C J, Taylor, J.

Eitniear, J., Carroll, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Dendrortyx barbatus. Downloaded from on 19/07/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 19/07/2019.