Rufous Flycatcher Myiarchus semirufus


Justification of Red List category
This species has a small global population size, which is thought to be in slow decline. As a result, it is listed as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The species's density in suitable habitat is estimated at six individuals per km2 (range 1.9-44.6 individuals per km2) at occurrence sites (Devenish et al. 2020). Given the overall low density of the species over a large area, the population size is estimated at >11,500 individuals in total (Devenish et al. 2020), which roughly equates to 7,700 mature individuals. However, considering the conservative approach of the population estimate, the true population size might be much larger. Therefore, the population size is here tentatively placed in the band of 2,500 to 9,999 mature individuals. It is suspected that all individuals are part of the same subpopulation (Devenish et al. 2020).

Trend justification
The species is feared to be in slow decline owing to the loss and degradation of its habitat and potentially to direct persecution for pest control (SERFOR 2018).

Distribution and population

Myiarchus semirufus is endemic to the Tumbesian lowlands of Peru. It has a wide distribution across the northwest of the country, ranging from Tumbes to Ancash, albeit at low densities. Recent records are mainly spread across Piura and Lambayeque, including near the border with Ecuador in Lancones (Devenish et al. 2020). Formerly, the species occurred slightly further south along the strip of lowlands between the coast and the Andes, to the Ria Pativilca c.200 km north of Lima. It is possible that the species's range has contracted northwards, with no records from Lima Department for many years. However, the species has been recorded recently in La Libertand (Mocan, near Paiján, Cañoncillo) and Ancash (Monte Zarumo) in systematic surveys (Devenish et al. 2017, 2020), and possibly the apparent decline in southern parts of the range was due to a lack of data (C. Devenish in litt. 2020). The species has also been recorded at Nepeña and Pañamarca north of Casma, Ancash Department in 2004. All other recent records are derived from Olmos, Mocupe, Rafan, the Rio Zaña, Apurlec, Chaparri and Bosque de Pómac near Chiclayo, (Lambayeque Department), Sechura, Chulucanas, Talara, El Angolo and the Bayovar/Illescas Peninsula, Islilla, Puerta Pulache, Pampa Larga, Ñapique and Lancones (Piura Department; I. Franke in litt. 2007, P. Hosner in litt. 2007, S. Mahood in litt. 2007, T. Mischler in litt. 2007,  D. G. Olaechea in litt. 2007, R. Ridgely and F. Angulo in litt. 2007, R. Williams in litt. 2007, Barrio et al. 2015, Angulo and Sánchez 2016, Devenish et al. 2017, 2020). 

It is very likely that the species has declined and experienced a slight range contraction. It now appears to be genuinely patchy in its distribution, but there is almost certainly a bias in observer effort, with most birdwatchers visiting the same sites. More widespread effort in the comparatively large areas of potentially suitable habitat north and south of the known localities may reveal that the species remains more widespread and common than current evidence suggests.


This species favours thorny desert, xerophytic steppes and mesquite savannas; open thorn-woodland dominated by mesquite Prosopsis and acacia Acacia where trees are widely separated by sparse ground cover of grasses and herbs. It will occur in agriculture reserves and other modified/planted habitats such as hedgerows and patches between fields (C. Devenish in litt. 2012), and is occasionally found in isolated Prosopsis groves (where it was formerly more common) (R. Ridgely and F. Angulo in litt. 2007) in otherwise barren desert. The species was found to be positively associated with larger tree girths, especially Prosopis (Devenish and Piana 2019, Devenish et al. 2020), possibly due to the availability of nesting cavities. Nesting has been recorded in December-May, but northern populations may breed later than southern ones. The species has been recorded up to 500 m, but is typically found below 350 m.


Human population density has increased considerably in the past three decades. There has been an expansion of large plantations of export crops within its range (including mango, grapes and sugar cane) and in some cases suitable habitat has been destroyed (C. Devenish in litt. 2012). A particular concern are the large-scale irrigation schemes that pipe water from the Amazon basin through the Andes to supply export agriculture on the coast. Large areas of desert scrub are cleared for these areas, such as 370 km2 near Olmos in 2013-2016 (Devenish and Piana 2019, Devenish et al. 2020). Goat density has increased concomitantly and grazing pressure threatens dry scrub and wooded habitats. Daily collection of firewood by the many households in the region, cutting both live trees and dead, is causing a gradual reduction in the extent and density of scrub and woodland (R. Ridgely and F. Angulo in litt. 2007). At Chaparri, community residents are specifically prohibited from cutting live wood, which is placing additional pressure on the continuing existence of dead limbs and snags; nesting in cavities and recesses, Rufous Flycatchers may well thereby be put under additional pressure through the loss of nest sites (R. Ridgely and F. Angulo in litt. 2007). Bee-keeping for honey production has been encouraged for the last several decades through various aid programmes. The larger tyrant flycatchers of the region have reportedly become habitual predators of the bees around the hives, and local people apparently try to kill them (with slingshots) at any opportunity. All such larger flycatchers have declined markedly in most areas, including especially the Rufous Flycatcher (R. Ridgely and F. Angulo in litt. 2007).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The species is protected in the Santuario Histórico Bosque de Pómac and Coto de Caza El Angolo (Barrio et al. 2015, Angulo and Sánchez 2016, Devenish and Piana 2019). Surveys across the species's range were carried out in 2012-2013; they included a habitat and threat analysis (Devenish et al. 2017, 2020). A Zona Reservada (possible future national protected area) has been declared at the Illescas Peninsula, where the species is present (Devenish et al. 2020).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey more widely within the species historical range to determine current distribution and reassess its threat status, especially in Piura and Lambayeque (C. Devenish in litt. 2020). Advocate that areas of Prosopsis and Acacia woodland are protected and grazing by goats and fuelwood collection be prohibited. Raise awareness over the species's status and encourage bee-keepers not to kill flycatchers. Research its natural history (F. Angulo in litt. 2012). Develop landscape-scale conservation mechanisms with farming communities, including the exclusion of goat grazing on a rotational basis, the establishment of zones for dead wood collection, and the establishment of small forest patches among agricultural land (C. Devenish in litt. 2020).


17-19 cm. A distinctive species with the plumage predominantly three shades of rufous brown with no grey or yellow as in other Myiarchus flycatchers. Head and upperparts brown, uppertail coverts rufous, throat and underparts a near uniform light cinnamon-rufous. Wings and tail predominantly rufous. Iris, bill and legs are dark. Sexes alike and juveniles resemble adults. Voice Dawn song consists of alternated 'huit' notes and rasping whistles. Also gives repeated rasping hiccup notes in song and in response to intruders. A descending 'huit' note is given as a contact call while foraging.


Text account compilers
Hermes, C.

Angulo Pratolongo, F., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Devenish, C., Ekstrom, J., Franke, I., Hosner, P., Mahood, S., Mischler, T., Olaechea, D., Ridgely, R.S., Sharpe, C.J., Westrip, J.R.S. & Williams, R.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Myiarchus semirufus. Downloaded from on 24/02/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/02/2024.