Puna Thistletail Asthenes helleri


Justification of Red List Category

Based on a model of future deforestation, it is suspected that the population of this species will decline rapidly over the next three generations, and it has therefore been uplisted to Vulnerable.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but this species is described as 'fairly common' (Stotz et al. 1996).

Trend justification
This species is suspected to lose 31-31.3% of suitable habitat within its distribution over three generations (11 years) based on a model of Amazonian deforestation (Soares-Filho et al. 2006, Bird et al. 2011). Given the susceptibility of the species to fragmentation and/or edge effects, it is therefore suspected to decline by ≥30% over three generations.

Distribution and population

Asthenes helleri has a restricted range in the Andes of western South America, described as uncommon to fairly common throughout. In Peru it is limited to the areas of Cuzco and Puno, and is present in the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary. Its distribution also touches into extreme north La Paz, Bolivia (del Hoyo et al. 2003).


Above the timberline, this species occurs in páramo (high tropical montane grassland) and elfin forest; below, it prefers dense undergrowth at the edge of cloud-forest. It is found between 2,800-3,600 m elevation. Its diet consists of arthropods, taken from understorey foliage (del Hoyo et al. 2003).


The primary threat to this species is accelerating deforestation; it is thought likely to be particularly susceptible to fragmentation and edge effects (Soares-Filho et al. 2006, Bird et al. 2011, A. Lees in litt. 2011). It has probably always had a small population, and has also been declining as a result of grazing and burning in its Andean timberline habitat (del Hoyo et al. 2003).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The species if found in Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary, in Peru, and Madidi National Park, in Bolivia (Remsen and Sharpe 2016). No targeted actions are known.

Conservation Actions Proposed

Expand the protected area network to effectively protect IBAs. Effectively resource and manage existing and new protected areas, utilising emerging opportunities to finance protected area management with the joint aims of reducing carbon emissions and maximizing biodiversity conservation. Conservation on private lands, through expanding market pressures for sound land management and preventing forest clearance on lands unsuitable for agriculture, is also essential (Soares-Filho et al. 2006).


17-18 cm. Smallish, brown-and-grey ovenbird. Typical thistletail. Crown and upperparts, including wings, are a dull rufescent brown. The tail is paler, long and deeply forked. The underparts, including throat, are greyish. Voice A series of spluttering notes, first increasing in volume then fading at the end.


Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N., Symes, A., Sharpe, C J

Lees, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Asthenes helleri. Downloaded from on 21/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/10/2021.