Marsh Tapaculo Scytalopus iraiensis


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very small and severely fragmented range and population. The severity of ongoing threats indicate that both range and population are declining rapidly and it has already been extirpated from the type-locality. Unless action is taken immediately further subpopulations will become extinct. It is therefore listed as Endangered.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 250-999 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 375-1,499 individuals in total, rounded here to 350-1,500 individuals.

Trend justification
A rapid population decline is suspected, owing to rates of habitat loss. The rate of the population decline is expected to become very rapid over the next ten years.

Distribution and population

Scytalopus iraiensis was discovered in 1997, and is now known from 20 localities in Minas Gerais, Paraná, and Rio Grande do Sul in south-eastern Brazil (Vasconcelos et al. 2008, Mlíkovský 2009). It is likely to be found in Sao Paulo state, even though surveys have so far been unsuccessful (Vasconcelos et al. 2008). Recent surveys at Banhado do Maçarico, Rio Grande do Sul state (the southernmost locality known for the species) found a density of about 0.5 individuals per hectare, which produced a population estimate of c.200 breeding pairs (400 individuals) (G. Mauricio in litt. 2012). The species occupies small patches of habitat that are highly fragmented. It was considered common at the type-locality (but has since been extirpated) and rare to uncommon at other sites. Given ongoing threats, the population is likely to be declining rapidly.


It occurs in tall, dense grasslands (60-180 cm tall) in the alluvial plains of watercourses, generally flanked by gallery forest. In the coastal plain of southernmost Brazil it is also present in peat swamp habitat. These grasslands are seasonally inundated and dominated by Eleocharis sp. and several other Cyperaceae and Poaceae. The species inhabits the dense vegetation nearest to the ground, and climbs up and down stems and bushes. Stomach contents included small arthropods and insects. It breeds during the late austral spring and possibly also in the summer.


The Iraí dam has already flooded the type-locality, and urbanisation, industrial development and road-building affect other sites in this vicinity. There is a proposal to construct three further dams to cope with the water demands of Curitiba. The grasslands of the region are being systematically drained owing to canalisation schemes for improved agricultural land and pasture. Subsurface sand extraction and the planting of Eucalyptus trees have altered the landscape and vegetation in several areas. The use of widespread burning is common practice on these lands, which changes the floral composition and promotes the spread of invasive species.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Officially recognised as Endangered in Brazil (Silveira & Straube 2008, MMA 2014). There were two legal interventions regarding the Iraí dam. First, to postpone plans for the dam and counter irregularities in the environmental impact assessment and, second (following the discovery of this species), to abandon the construction of the dam or create a conservation unit. However, neither intervention was successful, and the dam has been constructed. The species occurs in Serra do Cipó and Serra da Canastra National Parks and Caraça private reserve (Vasconcelos et al. 2008).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Abandon the planned construction of dams that would flood areas where this species occurs. Cease drainage, fires and all sand extraction operations in such areas. Create further conservation units to protect the species. Survey similar habitat in Sao Paolo and Santa Catarina. Conduct detailed studies of the species's ecology.


12.5 cm. Plain, blackish tapaculo. Mainly blackish above with dark ashy underparts. Very faint barring on belly, possibly only in subadult birds. Rather large tail. Similar spp. Mouse-coloured Tapaculo S. speluncae is more concolourous. Voice Song is long series of tchek notes introduced by longer, more modulated notes. Calls pic-pic in alarm.


Text account compilers
Pople, R., Sharpe, C J, Symes, A., Allinson, T

Pioli, D., Bornschein, M., Silveira, L., Reinert, B., Mauricio, G.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Scytalopus iraiensis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/02/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/02/2021.