Rufous-breasted Warbling-finch Poospiza rubecula


Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Endangered because it has a very small population which is likely to be declining rapidly owing to continuing habitat degradation (Collar et al. 1992). All subpopulations are considered to be extremely small, fragmented and declining.

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
The species is suspected to be declining at a slow rate owing to continuing pressure from habitat conversion and degradation within the small range.

Distribution and population

Poospiza rubecula has been found at a few scattered localities in west Peru (south Cajamarca, La Libertad, Ancash, Lima and Ica [Clements and Shany 2001]). It is very rare, occurring at low densities even at known sites, and the population is apparently very small. It breeds in the Zárate forest, Lima, where six birds have been recorded, which is more than at any other locality (Barrio 1995).


It is found at elevations of 2,350-3,800 m in composite scrub (especially Eupatorium and Gynoxys), woodland and dry scrub-forest adjacent to Polylepis woodland and, at Zárate forest, in bushy undergrowth in the upper parts of mixed, dry woodland (Oreopanax, Myrcianthes and Escallonia dominated) (Barrio 1995, Clements and Shany 2001). It forages for young leaf buds, berries and seeds. Immatures have been collected in January, April and May, whilst adults have also been observed feeding juveniles in July (H. Lloyd in litt. 2007). It may undertake seasonal altitudinal movements (Barrio 1995, Begazo et al. 2001).


Humans have utilised upland areas in Peru for thousands of years, but agricultural intensification, the change from camelids to more destructive livestock (goats, sheep and cattle), and afforestation with exotic trees (e.g. Eucalyptus and Pinus) are relatively new and highly significant detrimental factors (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996). High-altitude habitats are greatly modified by livestock-grazing, with unpalatable and grazing-resistant species favoured, while other species of shrub are lost (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996). Whether changes in the species-composition have an effect on P. rubecula is not known. The number of goats is rising in the species's range, and heavy grazing has severely limited tree regeneration at Zárate forest, a problem compounded by cutting for timber (Barrio 1995). Rates of habitat loss and degradation within the range have increased in recent years (H. Lloyd in litt. 2007).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
There have been surveys of high-altitude forests and conservation measures proposed (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996). The species has been recorded within Huascarán National Park on the Cordillera Blanca, Ancash, but habitat degradation is continuing in the area (Frimer and Møller Nielsen 1989, Fjeldså and Kessler 1996). Zárate forest has been proposed as part of a Communal Ecological Reserve with high protection rank (T. Valqui in litt. 1999). Remnant forest areas that could hold populations of this species have been identified in the Río Supe-Ambar valley, at Chilete-Cospán (a large forest), Sunchubamba, Llaguén, Llagueda, Yanac and Huanchay-San Damián (Barrio 1995).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Urgent need to conduct surveys to determine the range and abundance of this species, as well as assess rates of decline (Barrio 1995, H. Lloyd in litt. 2007). Study the species's ecology to identify beneficial conservation measures. Effectively protect Zárate forest. Improve habitat protection by updating the management plan for Huascarán National Park.


15.5 cm. Contrasting grey-and-rufous finch. Hindcrown and upperparts dark slaty-grey. Forecrown and superciliary, and rest of underparts bright orange-rufous. White centre of belly. Black frontlet, mask and chin. Wings and tail dusky with no white. Female has head and upperparts grey-brown, whitish below with mixed rufous feathers. Breast and sides streaked dark grey. Voice Prolonged twittering warble.


Text account compilers
Sharpe, C.J., Gilroy, J., Pople, R.

Valqui, T., Lloyd, H.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Poospiza rubecula. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/12/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/12/2021.