Dark-backed Wood-quail Odontophorus melanonotus


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a small and fragmented range, with recent records from few sites. Available habitat, and presumably the population, is declining. The species therefore qualifies as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 10,000-20,000 individuals in total, roughly equivalent to 6,700-13,000 mature individuals (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999).

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

Distribution and population

Odontophorus melanonotus has a small range in the Chocó (West Andes) of north-west Ecuador (Esmeraldas, Carchi, Imbabura, Pichincha and Cotopaxi) and south-west Colombia (Nariño) (Hilty and Brown 1986, McGowan et al. 1995, Best et al. 1996, N. Krabbe in litt. 1999). The population is estimated at 10,000-20,000 individuals and declining (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999). In the wet season (March-June), it is considered that 1 km2 supports c.2-3 groups (probably a minimum of 2-3 pairs in total) (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999). It seems to be fairly common along its whole range in Ecuador (J. F. Freile in litt. 2000), and remains common in Río Ñambí and La Planada Nature Reserves, Colombia (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999).


This wet subtropical forest specialist occurs exclusively in undisturbed, closed-canopy forest at 1,100-1,900 m. It is apparently able to leave dense forest to forage, and has also being recorded in secondary forest with dense and tangled understorey and fairly open canopy on steep slopes (J. F. Freile in litt. 2000, D. F. Cisneros-Heredia in litt. 2003). It is typically found in groups of 2-10 individuals, which are particularly vocal at dawn during the wet season. Recent hatchlings have been recorded in July and August. It feeds on terrestrial invertebrates and fruit (N. Krabbe in litt. 1999).


Deforestation and hunting for food are the major threats to this species (McGowan et al. 1995). Unplanned colonisation, following the completion of roads, and extensive logging concessions have been the primary causes of habitat loss. Deforestation rates are accelerating within its range, primarily because of intensive logging, human settlement and cattle-grazing. Forests at upper elevations are less threatened than those in the lowland Chocó region, but habitat loss is occurring below 2,000 m, especially along the Cali-Buenaventura, Pasto-Tumaco highways and new roads (Salaman and Stiles 1996).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It occurs in Río Ñambí and La Planada Nature Reserves, Colombia, and Mindo-Nambillo Protection Forest, Los Cedros Biological Reserve, Cerro Golondrinas Reserve, Rio Guajalito Reserve, La Otonga Reserve, Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve, Mashpi Protection Forest, Las Tangaras and Maquipucuna reserves, Ecuador (Best et al. 1996, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, J. F. Freile in litt. 2000, D. F. Cisneros-Heredia in litt. 2003). Both of the protected areas in Colombia suffer severe illegal logging within their boundaries and have significant unresolved land disputes, encompassing over one-third of La Planada and half of Río Ñambí (R. Strewe verbally 1998).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Map remaining habitat and assess the extent and rate of habitat loss. Conduct a complete distributional survey to determine its range and numbers more accurately. Improve active protection of Río Ñambí and La Planada Nature Reserves in Colombia, and attempt to resolve land disputes. Raise awareness of the species and its status in an effort to reduce hunting pressure.


25-28 cm. Dark, forest partridge with chestnut breast. Largely nondescript. Overall uniformly dark brownish with indistinct rufous vermiculations. Only distinctive feature is rich rufous-chestnut throat and upper breast. Dusky feet and bare ocular area. Voice Loud three-phrase rollicking song often heard as duet by entire family group. Hints Listen for family groups early in the morning.


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

Krabbe, N., Salaman, P., Freile, J., Cisneros-Heredia, D.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Odontophorus melanonotus. Downloaded from on 02/04/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 02/04/2020.