Red-bellied Grackle Hypopyrrhus pyrohypogaster


Justification of Red List category
This species is listed as Vulnerable because surveys have shown it to occur at more sites than previously known, implying that the population size has been underestimated, and observations of its tolerance of habitat degradation suggest that its habitat cannot be considered severely fragmented. However, it is nevertheless thought to have a small population, which is suspected to be in decline owing to on-going habitat loss and fragmentation.

Population justification
The population was previously estimated to number 1,000-2,499 individuals, based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. However, the species is being recorded at an increasing number of localities, suggesting that the population has been underestimated, and it is thought likely to exceed 2,500 individuals (S. David-Rivera in litt. 2011). On this basis, the population is now placed in the band for 2,500-9,999 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population has not been intensively surveyed, and the species is known to tolerate modified habitats, but remaining forest in its range continues to be cleared and fragmented, suggesting that it is likely to be in a slow and continuing decline.

Distribution and population

Hypopyrrhus pyrohypogaster is known from all three Andean ranges of Colombia (Collar et al. 1992). It has been recorded in the West Andes from Cerro Tatamá north, in the Central Andes from Antioquia (many historical and a few modern sites), south locally to Putumayo (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999), and in the south of the East Andes in south Huila and west Caquetá. During the 20th century, it was extirpated from much of its former range and, since 1980, has been recorded very locally in small numbers, although it is quite common in the mountains around Medellín and La Linda, Las Nubes and La Noque, Antioquia (Wege and Long 1995, A. M. Cuervo in litt. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, Cuervo et al. 2003). Recently, it has been found at a number of new sites, for example at Amalfi in department Antioquia (C. Downing in litt. 2007).


It inhabits the canopy and borders of humid montane forest, including plantations of non-native trees, scrubby areas and old second growth, mostly at elevations of 800-2,400 m. It is also often found in cleared areas, including pastures and along roads (C. Downing in litt. 2009, S. David-Rivera in litt. 2011). The species has been observed flying for distances of up to 500 m across pastures between forests, and across valleys (Fundación ProAves de Colombia 2011). It occurs in groups of up to 50 (C. Downing in litt. 2009), fewer when breeding (A. M. Cuervo in litt. 1999), foraging actively for fruit and insects. Nests have been found during January-April (Ochoa and Cuervo 1998, A. M. Cuervo in litt. 1999) in the Central Andes of Antioquia, with records of breeding-condition birds, immatures and nestlings between March and August in other parts of Colombia. Cooperative breeding has been recorded (Ochoa and Cuervo 1998, A. M. Cuervo in litt. 1999, Ocampo et al. 2012, Fraga and Sharpe 2016).


The historical decline of this species is attributed to the extensive clearance of forest, principally through timber extraction and agricultural development, and remaining fragments are subject to continuing human pressure. Despite its tolerance of modified landscapes, the species is thought to require the presence of mature forest, and much of its preferred inter-montane subtropical forest habitat has been lost (possibly over 90%) in the Andes, and continues to decrease (Fundación ProAves de Colombia 2011); 7·8% of its habitat was lost in the decade 2000–2010 (Garizábal et al. 2014). Tatamá and Cueva de los Guácharos National Parks are affected by settlers, with extensive deforestation in the former, and opium production in the latter (Wege and Long 1995). However, increases in forest cover in some areas, e.g. Otun-Quimbaya reserve and Ucumari forest, have failed to result in population increases, suggesting that other factors may also be involved (C. Downing in litt. 2007). Brood parasitism, for example by Giant Cowbirds Molothrus oryzivorus, could explain the local disappearance of the species in some areas (O. H. Marín in litt. 2012). It is sometimes persecuted as a maize crop-pest, and is trapped for the cage-bird trade (Betancur 1994, A. M. Cuervo in litt. 1999).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is considered Vulnerable at the national level in Colombia (Renjifo et al. 2014). There are recent records from a number of protected areas, including Las Orquídeas and Arrierito Antioqueño Bird Reserve (both in Antioquia), Cueva de los Guácharos (Huila), Las Tangaras Bird Reserve (Choco), Cordillera de los Pichachos (Caquetá) and Tatamá (Risaralda/Chocó/Valle del Cauca) National Parks, as well as Ucumarí Regional Park (Risaralda) (Wege and Long 1995, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, Renjifo et al. 2002, Fundación ProAves de Colombia 2011). In all, it occurs in at least seven national parks (Garizábal et al. 2014, Fraga and Sharpe 2016). It is reportedly common in La Forzosa Nature Reserve, Alto San Miguel Ecological Reserve, and La Romera and La Serrana Municipal Reserves (all Antioquia) (Renjifo et al. 2002). New reserves gazetted for the protection of Yellow-eared Parrot Ognorhynchus icterotis in Antiquoia are also likely to harbour populations of this species (Cuervo et al. 2003). Captive birds were released from Santafé Zoo into the mountains around Medellín during 1997-1998 (A. M. Cuervo in litt. 1999). The species has been the subject of research into aspects of its reproductive biology, breeding success and group formation, since 2006 (J. O. Cortes in litt. 2009, S. David-Rivera in litt. 2009, 2011).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct further surveys to assess the distribution of both the species and its habitat, particularly in Antioquia (Wege and Long 1995), and the poorly known, but relatively intact, forests from Caquetá to Putumayo.  Ensure protection of forest remnants in Antioquia (A. M. Cuervo in litt. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, Cuervo et al. 2003).  Fund and improve the implementation and enforcement of conservation measures in protected areas (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, Renjifo et al. 2002). Organise a campaign to stop trade in wild-caught birds (A. M. Cuervo in litt. 1999) and develop captive breeding programmes to meet avicultural demand and support future reintroduction and population supplementation efforts.


30 cm. Spectacular black, icterid with yellow eye and bright red vent. Glossy black plumage with bright red belly and crissum. Thin, glossy black shafts cover entire head, nape and throat. Black, conical, pointed bill. Straw-yellow eye with thin red orbital around black pupil. Voice Various calls, some liquid and gurgling, others wheezy (e.g. glok-glok, shleee-o, schleee). Hints Noisy groups in canopy, often with mixed-species foraging flocks of other large birds.


Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Gilroy, J., Pople, R., Taylor, J. & Sharpe, C J

Cuervo, A., Donegan, T., Downing, C., Salaman, P., Marín, O. & David-Rivera, D.-R.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Hypopyrrhus pyrohypogaster. Downloaded from on 04/10/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 04/10/2023.