Peruvian Plantcutter Phytotoma raimondii


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a small, fragmented population, which is considered to be in decline as a result of habitat loss. Therefore, it is now listed as Vulnerable.

Population justification
Recent density estimates for this species fall in the range 1.8-105 individuals per km2 (site level standard errors range from 1.6-33.4 individuals per km2) across 13 separate sites (Devenish et al. 2017). The species has a patchy distribution, but can reach very high densities at particular sites (Novoa et al. 2019). Seven of 26 sites surveyed in 2013 reported densities of more than 15 individuals/km2, and four sites above 30 individuals/km2 (Devenish and Piana 2019). Thus a minimum population of c.3,300 individuals is estimated summed across those 13 sites (Devenish et al. 2020). This roughly equates to 2,200 mature individuals, but as this is a minimum estimate the population size is placed in the range 2,200-9,999 mature individuals here, with no subpopulation containing >1,000 mature individuals (see Devenish 2017).

Trend justification
A slow and ongoing population decline is considered to be taking place, owing to habitat destruction.

Distribution and population

Phytotoma raimondii occurs in coastal north Peru, where it was formerly known from numerous localities from possibly as far north as Tumbes (type specimen listed from here) south to Lima. The species has been recorded historically from 53 sites (Flanagan et al. 2009), but post-1990 records originate from 34 of these, in Piura, Lambayeque, La Libertad, Cajamarca and Ancash (G. Engblom in litt. 1998, 1999, 2000; Flanagan and Chávez-Villavicencio 2000, Begazo et al. 2001, Flanagan et al. 2009), with the majority of sites in the former three departments (Flanagan et al. 2009). Several strongholds can be listed: around Talara, particularly to the east and south-east of the town, where the local population is estimated to be 400-600 individuals (Flanagan and Chávez-Villavicencio 2000, Flanagan et al. 2009); Islilla, in small forest patches around the Andalucite mining operations, holding c. 100 individuals (Devenish et al. 2020); the sanctuary at Bosque de Pomác historical site in Lambayeque, holding c.270-370 individuals (Nolazco and Roper 2011, Nolazco 2018); around Paiján, La Libertad, where some 200-400 individuals may exist in 200-300 ha of dry scrub as well as in very small patches of suitable habitat amongst farmed land; including near Monte Zarumo, which is possibly the most important site in the south of the range with c. 500 individuals in forest patches within farmed land (C. Devenish in litt. 2020). The well-known site at Rafán (G. Engblom in litt. 1998, 1999, 2000; Begazo et al. 2001) may support some of the highest population densities—at least 10 birds were observed in 1.5 hours in 1999 (Begazo et al. 2001)—but there was as little as 100 ha of suitable habitat in 1998 and high pressure from logging since then will undoubtedly have reduced suitable habitat further (Flanagan et al. 2009). Searches between 2009 and 2014 did not detect the species at many sites where it has been known to occur, so the population may have declined significantly (Romo et al. 2015).


The species occurs up to 550 m in desert scrub, riparian thicket and low dense and open woodland, usually dominated by Prosopis trees, with some Acacia (G. Engblom in litt. 1998, 1999, 2000). A shrub layer, including Capparis avicenniifolia, Capparis scabrida, Scutia spicata and Maytenus, among others, is apparently required; the species favours habitats with dense mid-storey scrub layers (Devenish et al. 2020). It feeds on leaves of Prosopis and shrubs, as well as on fruit (G. Engblom in litt. 1998, 1999, 2000). The species may be more flexible in diet than previously observed though; it has been found in high densities at sites without Prosopis or Grabowskia boerhaaviaefolia in surveys in 2013 (C. Devenish in litt. 2020). At Paijan (La Libertad), the species exploits an olive grove next to a small patch of dry forest (Devenish and Piana 2019). It breeds between January and April (C. Devenish in litt. 2012) and lays two or three eggs in a shallow twig nest 1.2-2.5 m up in Prosopis trees (Flanagan and Millen 2008, Rosina and Romo 2010), although the species can occur in habitats where such species are not present (see Nolazco and Sánchez 2018). The species has been reported recently from Samanco, Ancash, in a wetland, a habitat previously unknown for the species (F. Angulo Pratolongo in litt. 2012). It has been recorded in Lambayeque, from scrub adjacent to sugar cane plantations (F. Angulo Pratolongo in litt. 2012). It is a very vocal species; and appears to show strong site fidelity (Rivas 2015).


The near-complete conversion of coastal river valleys to cultivation—especially large-scale sugar and rice plantations—has extirpated the species from numerous localities (G. Engblom in litt. 1998, 1999, 2000). Grazing by goats and burning have removed or heavily degraded the shrub layer in many remaining woodlands (G. Engblom in litt. 1998, 1999, 2000). Illegal subsistence logging for firewood and charcoal (especially to provide fuel for chicken grill restaurants in Lima) are now highly significant factors (G. Engblom in litt. 1998, 1999, 2000, Flanagan et al. 2009), and the roots of older Prosopis tree are also used in wooden art craft (Begazo et al. 2001). Near the species's stronghold in Talara, Prosopis was felled as fuel for commercial squid processing (Flanagan et al. 2009), but this has apparently stopped with a decrease in squid fishing (C. Devenish in litt. 2012). Land rights to part of the Murales forest were sold for agricultural conversion in 1999 (Flanagan and Chávez-Villavicencio 2000). A considerable proportion of habitat close to Rafán is degraded, and parts of this area were converted to sugar production in the 1990s (G. Engblom in litt. 1998, 1999, 2000). Further threats include urban expansion, the introduction of exotic plants (e.g. Tamarix spp.), which compete with the native vegetation, and the fly Enallodiplosis discordis, which may be acting as a disease vector and seriously impact carob trees (Prosopis pallida), one of the food species for Peruvian Plantcutter (M. Rosina and M. Romo in litt. 2018).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The Murales forest is protected as an Archeological Reserved Zone, and strict wardening has maintained habitat. However, government intervention has been necessary to prevent further sales of land for agricultural conversion (G. Engblom in litt. 1998, 1999, 2000, Flanagan and Chávez-Villavicencio 2000). A "Save the Algarrobo" (Prosopis) campaign, including regeneration of grazed areas and replanting, is supported by the sugarcane producer at Rafán (G. Engblom in litt. 1998, 1999, 2000). Searches for the species have been made at all historical localities, and many other remnant forests have been surveyed (G. Engblom in litt. 1998, 1999, 2000, Flanagan and Chávez-Villavicencio 2000, Begazo et al. 2001). Surveys and population assessments are currently being implemented (C. Devenish in litt. 2012). The species was named an emblematic species in the Talara municipality, where eco-clubs were set up to create awareness. A similar scheme is being implemented in Paiján, La Libertad, where the species is also being used to create awareness of conservation issues in the area (C. Devenish in litt. 2012). A Reserved Area for future national protection has been declared at the Illescas Peninsula, where the species is present (C. Devenish in litt. 2012). A new Regional Conservation Area was proposed at Talara, but the process is currently stalled (C. Devenish in litt. 2012, 2020). However, recommendations for extensions and new protected areas, including the above-mentioned area at Talara, have recently been published by SERNANP, the Peruvian National Parks Authority (Devenish and Piana 2019). These recommendations include the establishment of the regional protected area near Talara, including an extension to its proposed area to include vital habitat for the species, an extension to the protected area at Illescas, the implementation of a trial goat exclusion or rotational grazing scheme in Pomac National Park and community farming lands, and the exploration of protection mechanisms at key sites, such as Paiján, Monte Zarumo and Islilla, with local authorities, communities and industry (Devenish and Piana 2019). Furthermore, new KBAs have been proposed for the species at Mocán/Paiján (La Libertad), Monte Zarumo (Ancash), Piura Plains, Illescas and Islilla (Piura) (Devenish et al. 2020).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor population trends through regular surveys. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation within the species's range. Ensure the integrity of the Murales forest and improve legal protection (G. Engblom in litt. 1998, 1999, 2000). Effectively protect forest in the Rafán area. Initiate environmental education and ecotourism at Rafán (G. Engblom in litt. 1998, 1999, 2000) and other areas. Work with oil companies in the Talara region to protect the extensive tracts of habitat (G. Engblom in litt. 1998, 1999, 2000).


18.5 cm. Distinctive bird with rounded bill. Male is dull ashy-grey above with some striping on crown and back. Duskier wings and tail, with broad, whitish wing-bar and some fringing on tertials. White tips to rectrices. Underparts pale ashy grey, except broad cinnamon-rufous band from mid-breast to mid-belly. Cinnamon-rufous spot above bill and crissum. Yellowish iris. Female has buffy-brown back, broadly striped blackish. Whitish underparts, heavily striped dark brown. Less obvious white on wing. Voice Reported similar to White-tipped Plantcutter P. rutila, raspy and mechanical-sounding wree wree-wree.


Text account compilers
Wheatley, H., Hermes, C.

Allinson, T, Angulo Pratolongo, F., Calvert, R., Capper, D., Devenish, C., Engblom, G., Isherwood, I., Pople, R., Romo, M., Rosina, M., Sharpe, C.J., Stuart, T., Symes, A. & Westrip, J.R.S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Phytotoma raimondii. Downloaded from on 25/09/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/09/2021.