Scarlet-breasted Dacnis Dacnis berlepschi


Justification of Red List Category
Habitat loss in the core part of the species's small range has been extensive, and the rate of destruction is increasing (Collar et al. 1992). Parallel declines in population and range are likely, and it has been lost from former locations. The total population is suspected to be rapidly declining. It is therefore classified as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The total population is estimated to number 35,400-141,600 individuals, based on density data from extensive surveys in Esmeraldas (O. Jahn in litt. 2007, P. Mena Valenzuela in litt. 2007), extrapolated over the species's known range. This estimate is best placed precautionarily in the band 20,000-49,999 individuals, as much of the species's remaining habitat has been converted into sub-optimal secondary forest.

Trend justification
During the last decade accelerating deforestation has reduced the cover of primary forest by over 38% (Cárdenas 2007). Suspected population declines are estimated to exceed 30% for the same period (O. Jahn in litt. 2007, P. Mena V. verbally 2007).

Distribution and population

Dacnis berlepschi occurs in the Pacific lowlands and lower foothills of south-west Colombia (Nariño) and, especially, north-west Ecuador (Esmeraldas, Imbabura, Pichincha). In this part of the Chocó region, habitat, and thus the species's distribution, is now extremely fragmented. Despite numerous field studies, there have been very few recent Colombian records, where it has always been considered uncommon to rare. Rare to locally uncommon in Ecuador (Athanas and Greenfield 2016).


This species inhabits humid and wet lowland and foothill-forest, treefalls, forest and river-edges, tall second growth and, to a lesser extent, traditional mixed-culture plantations from sea-level to 600m, and rarely or seasonally up to 1,200 m (K. S. Berg in litt. 1999). Population densities are highest in mature and selectively logged primary forest. After intensive logging it might be able to persist, at low densities, for several years in remaining fragments of natural vegetation. However, it tends to rapidly disappear from such landscapes if natural forest succession is hindered by agricultural activities (e.g., pastures, oil palm plantations). It forages in the canopy, but sometimes much lower in young second growth close to forest edges, and regularly joins mixed-species flocks (K. S. Berg in litt. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000). It feeds on fruits and insects. In Esmeraldas, stub-tailed juveniles were observed and tape-recorded in August at the border of a light gap within continuous forest, where the species evidently had nested. Immature males were mist-netted in March and May, but family groups with juveniles and immatures are most regularly observed in the dry season (June to November).


Logging in the Chocó has intensified since the mid-1970s (WWF and IUCN 1994-1997). In the late 1990s, primary forests in Nariño and within 60 km of San Lorenzo, Esmeraldas, were selectively logged, and then converted to oil palm plantations at a rapid rate (WWF and IUCN 1994-1997, P. Coopmans in litt. 1998, Bowen-Jones et al. 1999, Sharpe 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000). Between 1998 and 2007 the area planted with African palms rose from only 3 km2 to 225 km2 (+900% per year) with a further 275-315 km2 due to be converted in the near future (J. Mew verbally 2000). Other agricultural activities are also on the rise, with an increase in area from 98 km2 to 280 km2 (+20.5% per year). In the last decade, annual deforestation rates of lowland evergreen forest were 3.8% and accumulated loss of primary forest more than 38% in the same period. Two-thirds of known localities, albeit some in protected areas, are within this region, which is further affected by various mining concessions (J. Mew verbally 2000). Colonisation and land development are progressing through infrastructural improvement, particularly the expansion of road networks, and in turn are increasing the impact of logging, cattle-ranching, etc. (Salaman 1994, WWF and IUCN 1994-1997, Wege and Long 1995, Salaman and Stiles 1996, P. Coopmans in litt. 1998). New legislation and the transfer of land-rights to local communities have been exploited by large businesses, as it has become cheap and easy to buy land (Bowen-Jones et al. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000). In Ecuador, the Mache-Chindul and Cayapas-Mataje ecological reserves are increasingly affected by illegal logging, hunting, and other activities. Since 2004, some indigenous communities within the Awá Ethnic Reserve have converted their forest into oil palm plantations. International investment in the region has been lacking in concern for the environment (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It has been recorded in Río Ñambí Community Nature Reserve, Colombia, and Biological Corridor Awacachi, Río Palenque Scientific Centre, Jatun Sacha Bilsa Reserve, Cayapas-Mataje, Mache-Chindul and Cotacachi-Cayapas ecological reserves, Gran Reserva Chachi, Canandé Reserve, and Silanche Reserve, Ecuador (Wege and Long 1995, K. S. Berg in litt. 1999,  R. Strewe in litt. 1999, J. Mew verbally 2000).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey the tracts of forest that remain in west Nariño (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000). Clarify its ecological requirements (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000). Implement population monitoring programs. Consolidate the Awacachi corridor to link the reserves Awá and Cotacachi-Cayapas (Bowen-Jones et al. 1999). Designate the Awá reserve, Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, Awacachi corridor, Gran Reserva Chachi, and Canandé Reserve, including the Río Santiago, Cayapas, Ónzole, and Hoja Blanca drainages, as a biosphere reserve (Bowen-Jones et al. 1999). Sustainably manage the buffer zone to the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve (Bowen-Jones et al. 1999). Promote reforestation with native tree species and mixed agro-forestry systems.


12 cm. Striking dacnis. Male mostly azure, with silver-blue streaking on mantle and silver-blue rump. Bluish-black wings and tail. Flame-red lower breast fading to buff on belly. Yellow iris. Female brown, buffier below with flame-red band across breast and yellow iris. Juveniles are female-coloured but with brown iris. Voice Foraging calls include a very high-pitched, piercing tz or tze, often repeated tz-tz-tz-tz.


Text account compilers
Isherwood, I., Jahn, O., Pople, R., Sharpe, C J, Stuart, T., Symes, A.

Mew, J., Salaman, P., Strewe, R., Jahn, O., Valenzuela, P., Coopmans, P.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Dacnis berlepschi. Downloaded from on 20/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 20/10/2021.