Rusty-headed Spinetail Synallaxis fuscorufa


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a small range and population, which is fragmented and declining owing to habitat destruction caused by illegal agriculture, logging and burning. Intensification of these pressures, and hence increased rates of population decline have led to its uplisting to Vulnerable. It may even warrant uplisting to Endangered once more detailed information on rates of forest loss becomes available.

Population justification
The species is fairly common within its tiny range and its population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals. This equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals. The population estimate requires confirmation.

Trend justification
A rapid population decline is suspected based on rates of habitat loss estimated from time series satellite images (Córdoba and Renjifo 2002).

Distribution and population

Synallaxis fuscorufa is endemic to the Santa Marta mountains of north Colombia, with records from Cesar, Guajira and Magdalena departments. It has a small range, and its population size is currently unknown (Córdoba and Renjifo 2002). It is described as common in humid shrubby forest borders, overgrown clearings and forest undergrowth.


Synallaxis fuscorufa is found in the undergrowth of montane forests, as well as along forest edges, in altered habitat and in shrubs in open habitats (Hilty and Brown 1986, Renjifo et al. 2002). It is principally recorded at 2,000-3,000 m, but occasionally to 900 m (Hilty and Brown 1986). Its behaviour is similar to that of other Synallaxis species. It feeds as it moves energetically within shrubs and small branches principally 0.5-7 m above the ground. It is observed in pairs or family groups, which accompany mixed-species flocks. Breeding seems to occur between January and June (Córdoba and Renjifo 2002).


Habitats are seriously threatened by illegal agricultural expansion, logging and burning (Dinerstein et al. 1995, Córdoba and Renjifo 2002). Only 15% of the sierra's original vegetation is currently unaltered (Stattersfield et al. 1998), and the species has lost 59% of its habitat (Córdoba and Renjifo 2002). The best known area, the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo, is not within the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park (Córdoba and Renjifo 2002).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The species is considered Vulnerable at the national level in Colombia (Renjifo et al. 2002). It is found within the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park (Córdoba and Renjifo 2002). Research is currently being carried out on the conservation of habitats for birds resident to the sierra (Córdoba and Renjifo 2002).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Increase the area of suitable habitat that has protected status, in part by increasing the limits of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park to include the whole altitudinal gradient within the three departments (Córdoba and Renjifo 2002). Estimate the population size, particularly in Guajira and Cesar (Córdoba and Renjifo 2002).


17 cm. Large orange-rufous spinetail. Head, neck and upper breast orange-rufous, as are wings and long tail. Back and flanks greyish-olive. Black throat patch usually concealed. Bill and legs dark. Similar spp. None within restricted range. Voice Call an oft-repeated nasal dit-dit-du.


Text account compilers
Isherwood, I., O'Brien, A., Sharpe, C J, Symes, A.

Salaman, P.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Synallaxis fuscorufa. Downloaded from on 24/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/10/2021.