Grey-headed Antbird Ampelornis griseiceps


Justification of Red List category
This species has a small and severely fragmented range and population, both of which are declining rapidly as a result of habitat loss and degradation. It is therefore listed as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
This species is showing declines within its known range. Habitat continues to be destroyed at several sites (R. Williams in litt. 2003) with a current rate of forest loss in western Ecuador of 57% per decade. Overall, rapid declines are suspected based on rates of forest loss across the entire range.

Distribution and population

Myrmeciza griseiceps occurs on the Pacific slope of the Andes in south-west Ecuador (El Oro and western Loja) and north-west Peru (Tumbes, Piura,  Lambayeque and Cajamarca [Angulo 2009]). It is rare to locally uncommon (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001, Schulenberg et al. 2007, Athanas and Greenfield 2016), and overall numbers must be very small.


This poorly-known antbird is confined to Chusquea bamboo and dense undergrowth in semi-deciduous moist forest, cloud-forest and, occasionally, deciduous forest, at 600-2,900 m. In Peru there are records in disturbed and secondary forests (F. Angulo in litt. 2012). It keeps to dense vegetation, rarely above 4 m, where it tends to forage in pairs or family groups, often within mixed-species understorey flocks. In Peru, it occurred at a density of 0.43 pairs per ha with an average territory size of 0.47 ha (Kikuchi 2009). The diet is unrecorded, but it probably takes invertebrates. Its breeding ecology is virtually unknown, although two juveniles were taken in June, suggesting that it nests during the wet season, in January-May. This is supported by observations that it is much more vocal in the early wet season.


Below 900 m, the rate of deforestation in west Ecuador in 1958-1988 was 57% per decade (Dodson and Gentry 1991). Significant habitat loss is ongoing, at least in unprotected areas, and will soon remove almost all extant lowland forest unless effective action is taken urgently. Intense trampling and grazing by goats and cattle damage the understorey and prevent tree regeneration in closed-canopy forest (Dodson and Gentry 1991, Jiggins et al. 1999), and recent information suggests that cattle grazing may have caused a decline in the species at El Tundo Nature Reserve (R. Williams in litt. 2003). At higher elevations within its range, habitat destruction is not as severe, but logging, agricultural conversion and plantations are destroying and degrading forest (Dodson and Gentry 1991). However, this species appears to thrive in bamboo-dominated second-growth that grows back once pasture is abandoned (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001). Cutting of bamboo for pack-animal food is a problem. These threats have already led to fragmentation of available habitat. In Peru the principal threat is habitat destruction and degradation, including cattle damage to forest understorey, agricultural expansion and wood extraction (F. Angulo in litt. 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Populations occur in four protected areas, El Tundo Nature Reserve, Ecuador (Dodson and Gentry 1991), Cerros de Amotape National Park and Tumbes National Reserve (now part of the Northwest Peru Biosphere Reserve), and the Bosques Nublados de Udima Wildlife Refuge, Peru (Angulo 2009, F. Angulo in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey for the species in suitable habitat within and adjacent to its known range. Protect additional forest within its range. Fence El Tundo Nature Reserve to exclude livestock (Dodson and Gentry 1991). Research the association with bamboo and what importance this has to the species's conservation. In Peru, search for the species in protected areas such as Salitral – Huarmaca Regional Conservation Area and Laquipampa Wildlife Refuge (F. Angulo in litt. 2012).


13.5-14 cm. Principally grey-and-brown antbird with noticeable wing and tail spots. Grey head and neck, with brown back and large white dorsal patch. Black wing-coverts with bold white spotting. Black breast and throat, but otherwise grey underparts. Sexes similar, although female has paler head and neck, reduced dorsal patch, wing and tail spotting, and lacks black on underparts. Voice Song a simple, short, descending trill. Call a nasal, querulous squee-squirt.


Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Harding, M., Isherwood, I., Sharpe, C J, Stuart, T., Symes, A.

Freile, J., Williams, R., Angulo Pratolongo, F.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Ampelornis griseiceps. Downloaded from on 04/03/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 04/03/2024.