Cloudforest Pygmy-owl Glaucidium nubicola


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Vulnerable because it is suspected to be undergoing a rapid population decline owing to on-going habitat loss and degradation.

Population justification
The population size is preliminarily estimated to fall into the band 2,500-9,999 individuals. This equates to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
An on-going rapid population decline is suspected based on known rates of habitat loss (Freile and Castro 2013)

Distribution and population

Glaucidium nubicola occurs on the west slope of the west Andes of central and southern Colombia and northern Ecuador. From the northernmost known site, at Alto de Pisones in Risaralda, its range extends south along the Andes, with records in Valle del Cauca (one old specimen) and Nariño, Colombia, and Carchi (one site), Pichincha (three sites) and Cotopaxi (one site), Ecuador (Robbins and Stiles 1999, Freile et al. 2003). A tape-recording of a Glaucidium made at Buenaventura (El Oro) in 1985 has subsequently been identified as this species, representing a significant southward extension of its range in Ecuador (Freile et al. 2003). This record is likely to relate to an isolated population (Freile and Castro 2013). It may yet be found to occur from south-western Ecuador continuously to the northern tip of the Andes in Antioquia, Colombia (Robbins and Stiles 1999), although habitat in the intervening range is highly fragmented (J. F. Freile in litt. 2004). Through the use of point localities and niche modelling, Freile and Castro (2013) predict the species's distribution to be continuous along the Ecuadorian Andes south to southern Cotopaxi, and again along the Pacific slope in Azuay, El Oro and Loja. However, most records in Ecuador are confined to Pichincha province, which is comparatively more studied and visited (Freile and Castro 2013, J. Freile in litt. 2013).


It occurs in very humid, primary cloud-forest, invariably on steep slopes at altitudes of c.1,200-2,000 m (Freile and Castro 2013). It probably breeds principally between February and June. Invertebrates (especially insects) and small vertebrates (including lizards and possibly birds) appear to be the major dietary components (Robbins and Stiles 1999). The species appears to be relatively tolerant of some habitat modification, as it is found in secondary forest and at forest edges (Freile et al. 2003, R. S. Ridgely in litt. 2001), but it is not thought to be tolerant of severe habitat degradation (J. F. Freile in litt. 2004, M. Tellkamp in litt. 2005).


The Chocó region has long been a source of timber, but logging has intensified since the mid-1970s (WWF and IUCN 1994-1997, Robbins and Stiles 1999). When the type-specimen was collected, logging was progressing rapidly, and the area has now almost certainly been completely deforested (Robbins and Stiles 1999). In western Ecuador, over 85% of forest cover has been lost in the Pacific lowlands and slopes (Dodson and Gentry 1991). Infrastructural improvement in the Chocó, particularly the rapid expansion of the road network, is resulting in increased logging, small-scale agriculture and gold mining (Salaman 1994, WWF and IUCN 1994-1997, Salaman and Stiles 1996, Robbins and Stiles 1999). There is intensive agricultural development, especially coca plantations and cattle-farming (Salaman 1994, WWF and IUCN 1994-1997). However, extremely high rainfall renders parts of its range fairly inhospitable, and timber extraction is probably the most significant threat (Robbins and Stiles 1999).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. It has been recorded in the small Río Ñambí and La Planada reserves in Nariño (Robbins and Stiles 1999). A management plan for Alto de Pisones is in preparation, which a local organisation hopes to execute despite political instablity in the area. Furthermore, the area may be gazetted within the proposed Caramanta National Park (Stiles 1998). Significant populations may occur in Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve (Imbabura), Los Cedros Biological Reserve (Esmeraldas/Imbabura) and Maquipucuna Reserve (Pichincha) in Ecuador (Best et al. 1996, Robbins and Stiles 1999), and Farallones de Cali (Valle del Cauca) and Munchique National Parks (Cauca) in Colombia (Robbins and Stiles 1999). There are records in Ecuador from Mindo-Nambillo Protection Forest, Tandayapa Private Reserve, Guajalito Private Reserve, Otonga Private Reserve and Buenaventura Private Reserve. It is also known to occur in Mashpi and Los Cedros Protection Forests, Maquipucuna, Santa Lucía and Paz de las Aves reserves and Milpe Bird Sanctuary (Freile and Crastro 2013, J. Freile in litt. 2013). An analysis of the species's distribution in Ecuador indicates that c.39% of its Ecuadorian range is protected, at least nominally, although many of these protected areas lack records that confirm the species's occurrence (Freile and Castro 2013, J. Freile in litt. 2013).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to clarify the species's population size and distribution. Gazette Caramanta National Park. Complete and implement the management plan for Alto de Pisones. Increase the total area of suitable habitat in the species's range that receives protection.


16 cm. Typical, neotropical pygmy-owl. Dark brown overall (some birds with more rufous-brown wash). Darker on back, scapulars, upperwing-coverts and rump, washed dark rufous-brown and spotted white. Whitish spots on primaries and secondaries, form indistinct band. Blackish tail with five incomplete, white bands. White chin, sides of throat and upper chest. Rufous-brown sides of chest. Inconspicuous white spots on breast and more distinct streaks on lower underparts. Yellow irides. Greenish-yellow bill. Yellow legs. Similar spp. Andean Pygmy-owl G. jardinii has longer tail and more extensive pale spotting or barring on back, sides of chest and flanks. Voice Hollow whistles or toots similar to other Glaucidium spp. Song has notes of constant duration, delivered in pairs (or occasionally trios) with distinctive intranote and internote pauses.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Harding, M., Sharpe, C J, Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Freile, J., Ridgely, R. & Tellkamp, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Glaucidium nubicola. Downloaded from on 24/03/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/03/2019.