Ecuadorian Tapaculo Scytalopus robbinsi


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very small and patchily distributed population, which is inferred to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat loss and deterioration. As a result of these factors, it qualifies as Endangered.

Population justification
Rare and local (Athanas and Greenfield 2016). This species occupies a similar range to El Oro Parakeet (Pyrrhura orcesi), the population of which has been estimated at 250 to 1,000 individuals in 2006. The Ecuadorian Tapaculo is more patchily distributed within this range. Analyses of density and habitat suitability covering 113 territories in the southern part of the species’s range suggest a total population of 3,220 mature individuals (range 1,894-4,598) (Hermes et al. 2018).

Trend justification
The population is considered to be in decline as habitat within the species's restricted range is lost and deteriorates. Deforestation at the species's stronghold in El Oro has been severe and it has become hard to find in the Buenaventura reserve, where it was reportedly common 12 years ago (L. Navarete in litt. 2006). In addition, upslope movement owing to climate change appears to be ongoing (Hermes et al. 2018). This upslope movement is projected to lead to a continued shrinkage of the distributional size (at least 25% shrinkage until 2050 under the RCP4.5 climate change scenario), with available habitat shrinking by at least 33% (M. Schaefer in litt. 2016).

Distribution and population

Scytalopus robbinsi occupies a small and fragmented known range in El Oro, Azuay and Cañar on the Pacific slope in south-west Ecuador. The recent discovery of a territory in the northern Cañar province (N. Krabbe and F. Sornoza in litt. 2015) suggests that the range extends about 50 km further north than previously assumed.


It is a forest dependent species, occurring in the undergrowth of wet forest apparently favouring the most humid areas (Krabbe and Schulenberg 1997, M. Juiña in litt. 2006). Only mature or late successional forests with good connectivity to other patches are suitable for territory establishment (Hermes et al. 2018). While the species has been discovered in elevations between 700 and 1,250 m above sea level (Krabbe and Schulenberg 1997), it seems to have undergone an upslope range shift and is now only recorded between 850 and 1,500 m (Hermes et al. 2018).


The species is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation within its small range. As a forest dependent species intolerant of significant habitat modification and degradation, it is reportedly more susceptible to these threats than the El Oro Parakeet (Pyrhura orcesi), which occupies a very similar range and is considered to be Endangered. The main threats to remaining habitat are posed by forest clearance for livestock and conversion to plantations as well as gold mining. Upslope movement due to climate change is already occurring and is projected to lead to a continued shrinkage in distribution and available habitat (M. Schaefer in litt. 2016).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The species does not occur in any national protected area (Freile and Rodas 2008), but is found at the Buenaventura reserve where it is apparently rare and has declined in the past years (L. Navarete in litt. 2006). It may be found in Cordillera de Molleturo Protective Forest, but the reserve and its environs are affected by logging and mining (Krabbe et al. 2016). Plans to establish an ecological corridor in the cloud forest of El Oro and to declare several protected areas are underway, albeit not yet realized.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct playback surveys in the Buenaventura reserve and within the species's altitudinal range in El Oro, Azuay and Cañar to monitor population numbers and trends. Encourage SE Guayas and El Oro banana companies to protect remaining forest within their catchments (P. Coopmans in litt. 2006). Establish protected areas within the species's range to help protect remaining forests and restore connectivity between fragments.


11 cm. A small grey tapaculo with relatively heavy bill and barred brown flanks. The nape, lower back, uppertail-coverts, rump and inner remiges are usually dark brown; tail blackish; bill black. Female has more brown below. Similar spp Very similar in appearance to a number of other tapaculos but these do not occur within its range. Voice Male song is a minute-long series of double notes delivered at pace.


Text account compilers
Hermes, C., Allinson, T, Butchart, S., Bird, J., Sharpe, C.J., Symes, A.

Schaefer, H.M., Krabbe, N., Sornoza, F., Navarete, L., Coopmans, P., Juiña, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Scytalopus robbinsi. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/03/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/03/2019.