Black-fronted Wood-quail Odontophorus atrifrons


Justification of Red List category
This species qualifies as Vulnerable owing to its small range and population, both of which must be declining in response to habitat loss. The range is small and fragmented with recent records from only one area.

Population justification
The population estimate of 2,500-9,999 individuals is derived from P. G. W. Salaman in litt. (1997, 2000). This equates to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
A slow and on-going population decline is suspected on the basis of rates of habitat loss and hunting pressure.

Distribution and population

Odontophorus atrifrons has three disjunct populations: the nominate subspecies in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, north-east Colombia, subspecies navai in the Sierra de Perijá on the Colombia-Venezuela border, and subspecies variegatus in the northern East Andes of Colombia (Norte de Santander and Santander) (Hilty and Brown 1986, Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). The only recent records in Colombia are of the nominate subspecies (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999), possibly owing to a lack of fieldwork in the other areas, but navai has been recorded in recent years in the Sierra de Perijá in Venezuela (Sharpe in litt. 2011). It appears to be declining, with total numbers likely to be below 10,000 individuals (McGowan et al. 1995, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999).


It inhabits montane humid forests at elevations of 1,200-3,100 m (McGowan et al. 1995, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999). Half of its original habitat has been lost in Venezuela (Sharpe and Lentino 2008). It is wary and secretive, foraging in dense undergrowth (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). However subspecies atrifrons has been recorded in forest fragments and shade coffee plantations (Strewe & Navarro 2004, Strewe et al. 2010) as well as primary forest. Two breeding-condition males and one laying female have been found in August, with an immature in July (Hilty and Brown 1986).


The Colombian East Andes have been subject to four centuries of extensive degradation, with progressive deforestation of the lower montane slopes (Forero 1989, Stiles et al. 1999). In Boyacá and Santander, however, where forest loss was gradual until the 1960s and 1970s, some sizeable tracts remain, and habitat is beginning to regenerate owing to land abandonment (Stiles et al. 1999). The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is threatened by agricultural expansion, logging and burning (Dinerstein et al. 1995). On the west slopes, marijuana plantations expanded widely in the 1980s, and were sprayed by the government with herbicides in the early 1990s (L. G. Olarte in litt. 1993, L. M. Renjifo in litt. 1993). The Sierra de Perijá is heavily deforested up to 2,000 m, by cattle-ranching at lower elevations and narcotics cultivation higher up (C. J. Sharpe in litt. 1997, 2000). It is hunted at least in some parts of its range (C. J. Sharpe in litt. 1997, 2000). It is considered Vulnerable in both Colombia and Venezuela (Renjifo et al. 2002, Sharpe 2008).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Although it occurs in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Biosphere Reserve, Colombia, and Sierra de Perijá National Park, Venezuela, neither of these formal designations provide adequate protection (Wege and Long 1995, C. J. Sharpe in litt. 1997, 2000). It is legally protected from hunting in Venezuela.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Determine more accurately the range, abundance and habitat preferences of this species, particularly in the southern section of Perijá National Park. Use satellite imagery to assess the extent and rate of habitat loss. Produce and promote management recommendations for Sierra de Perijá National Park. Determine the population (Franco-Maya, and Maya Espinel 2002).


28-30 cm. Black-faced forest partridge with confusing vocalisation. Short, bushy, chestnut crest and hindcrown. Black face and throat. Overall brown body, with buff, greyish and black vermiculations on upperparts. Greyish-brown breast indistinctly spotted white. Cinnamon-buff belly streaked black. Voice Unlike other wood-quail, song is loud whistled bob-white, highly reminiscent of Santa Marta Antpitta Grallaria bangsi.


Text account compilers
Symes, A., Benstead, P., Keane, A., Symes, A., Sharpe, C J

Renjifo, L., Salaman, P., Olarte, L., Sharpe, C J

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Odontophorus atrifrons. Downloaded from on 29/09/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 29/09/2023.