Perija Thistletail Asthenes perijana


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very small range, within which it is known from very few locations. Its high elevation habitats are highly restricted and recent evidence suggests that its habitat is declining and being fragmented as a result of illegal cultivation. Consequently it is classified as Endangered.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 250-999 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 167-666 mature individuals, rounded here to 150-700 mature individuals.

Trend justification
A slow and continuing population decline is suspected, owing to rates of habitat loss.

Distribution and population

Asthenes perijana only occurs in the Sierra de Perijá (and particularly Cerro Pintado) on the border of Colombia (Guajira) and Venezuela (Zuila) (Meyer de Schauensee and Phelps 1978, Hilty and Brown 1986). Apart from specimens, known from sightings in Colombia in July 2008 (López-O. et al. 2014), and (regularly) since 2014, particularly from the newly-created Chamicero del Perijá (“Perija Thistletail”) Reserve (Remsen et al. 2015); no records in Venezuela for several decades (Sharpe and Lentino 2008, 2015).


It inhabits subparámo and shrubbery vegetation at elevations of 2,950-3,400 m (Hilty and Brown 1986, A. Viloria per J. Fjeldså in litt. 1998, Hilty 2003, Sharpe and Lentino 2008, 2015, Remsen et al. 2015). There have been suggestions that it may favour bamboo (A. Viloria per J. Fjeldså in litt. 1998), but its close relative, the White-chinned Thistletail A. fuliginosa, does not inhabit bamboo stands (F. G. Stiles in litt. 1999). Birds are often seen in pairs, foraging for arthropods and occasionally berries (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). Immatures and breeding-condition adults have been recorded in July (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990).


Habitat below 2,000 m in the Sierra de Perijá is threatened by narcotics cultivation, uncontrolled colonisation, cattle-ranching and mineral exploitation, which are all facilitated by the many roads approaching the sierra from the Colombian side (C. J. Sharpe in litt. 1997, 2000, A. Viloria per J. Fjeldså in litt. 1998, Sharpe and Lentino 2008, López-O. et al. 2014, Sharpe and Lentino 2015). The species's high-elevation habitat was thought to be less affected by these developments, but the area of suitable habitat is now believed to be fragmented and declining as a result of illegal cultivation (Renjifo et al. 2002, C. J. Sharpe in litt. 2003) and cattle grazing (López-O. et al. 2014). Only patches of montane forest remain on the steepest slopes of the Cerro Pintado. Forest is still being lost to burning and the cultivation of Papaver. Security problems are making access very difficult (R. Strewe in litt. 2003).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Considered nationally Endangered in both Colombia (Renjifo et al. 2002) and Venezuela (Sharpe and Lentino 2015). Some of its range is formally protected by Sierra de Perijá National Park, Venezuela, but there is no active management (A. Viloria per J. Fjeldså in litt. 1998, Sharpe and Lentino 2008, 2015). In Colombia, recently protected by ProAves's dedicated Chamicero del Perijá (“Perija Thistletail”) Reserve, preserving 750 ha of prime habitat. Cerro Pintado lies to the north of the park, but the inhabitants of the Villanueva village, Colombia, attempt to protect the natural habitat (A. Viloria per J. Fjeldså in litt. 1998).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Estimate the population size (C. J. Sharpe, J-P. Rodríguez and F. Rojas-Suárez in litt. 1999, Sharpe and Lentino 2008). Determine its global distribution (Sharpe and Lentino 2008). Study its ecological requirements (C. J. Sharpe, J-P. Rodrígiez and F. Rojas-Suárez in litt. 1999). Assess habitat availability using aerial photographs (C. J. Sharpe, J-P. Rodrígiez and F. Rojas-Suárez in litt. 1999). Manage and effectively protect Sierra de Perijá National Park (Rodríguez and Rojas-Suárez 1995, Sharpe and Lentino 2008). Expand Sierra de Perijá National Park to encompass more of the species's range (Sharpe and Lentino 2015). A major global priority would be to evaluate the state of the high-altitude páramo throughout Sierra de Perijá in order to see whether it is necessary to a) create a strict protected area in Colombia, b) enforce the existing Sierra de Perijá National Park in Venezuela, and / or c) extend the Sierra de Perijá National Park to incorporate more suitable habitat (C. J. Sharpe in litt. 2015).


19 cm. Small furnariid with long, pointed tail. Uniform greyish-brown, with long greyish supercilium. Cinnamon-buff chin spot. Chestnut-edged wing-coverts. Long, pointed, graduated, light brown tail feathers. Similar spp. White-chinned Thistletail A. fuliginosa is dark chestnut-brown above with white eye-ring. Voice Song 3-5 drawn-out, high-pitched pee notes followed by a short, descending dry trill (Remsen et al. 2015).


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

Fjeldså, J., Rodríguez, J., Rojas-Suárez, F., Sharpe, C J, Stiles, F., Strewe, R. & Viloria, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Asthenes perijana. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/12/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/12/2021.