Spiny-faced Antshrike Xenornis setifrons


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a small range and disjunct distribution, in which habitat is still largely unaffected. Its population is small and declining slowly. It therefore qualifies as Near Threatened.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 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 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The species is undergoing a moderate decline (Partners in Flight 2019). The only threat known to this forest-dependent species is habitat loss; however forests within the range remain largely unaffected by human activities (P. Salaman in litt. 1999, Schulenberg 2020). Over the past ten years, forests within the range have been lost at a rate of <2% (Global Forest Watch 2020). Population declines are therefore presumably very slow, not exceeding 5% over ten years.

Distribution and population

Xenornis setifrons occurs from eastern Panama to north-western Colombia. Its range is disjunct, particularly in Colombia, where the species has only been recorded in the Serranía del Darién and the Serranía de Baudó (Adsett and Wege 1998, Renjifo et al. 2016, Schulenberg 2020). In Panama, it is known from the Serranías de San Blas, Darién, Tacarcuna and possibly Pirre (Engleman 1993, Adsett and Wege 1998, G. Angehr in litt. 1998). Its distribution is inexplicably patchy, with gaps in apparently suitable areas of habitat (Adsett and Wege 1998). Surveys in 1992 found it fairly common (although difficult to detect) at Nusagandi, Guna Yala (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999). It has not been reported from eastern Guna Yala or Darién since 1964 (Adsett and Wege 1998), possibly reflecting a dearth of fieldwork. However, in the west, a number of new populations were discovered during the 1990s (Adsett and Wege 1998). In Colombia, two specimens were collected in 1940 in the Serranía de Baudó, but recent surveys on the west slope have not found the species (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999).


It favours the lower growth of humid foothill forest at 120-800 m, but mostly above 350 m (Adsett and Wege 1998). Most sites are on steep slopes or in ravines, but it has been found in flatter areas where these exist (Adsett and Wege 1998). It is insectivorous and frequently joins mixed-species foraging flocks (Adsett and Wege 1998). Two nests were found in low, tangled vegetation near streams in May (Christian 2001).


Due to its high forest dependence, the species is at risk of habitat loss through logging of forests for agricultural purposes. Clearance for agriculture is reducing and fragmenting suitable habitats (Alvarez-Cordero et al. 1994), but the human population is low over large parts of its range where threats are consequently minimal (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, Schulenberg 2020). Mining, the completion of the Pan-American highway and the impact of rising human population resulting from such projects are potentially important future threats (Adsett and Wege 1998).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
In Panama, it has been recorded in Chagres and in Portobelo National Park (G. Angehr in litt. 1998, Angehr and Jordán 1998, Angehr 2003). The Area Silvestre Protegida Nargana in the Guna Yala Comarca (indigenous homeland) affords some protection around Nusagandi (Whitney and Rosenberg 1993, G. Angehr in litt. 2020).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey apparent gaps in its distribution and old localities, particularly in the east (Remsen 1997, Adsett and Wege 1998). Estimate population densities. Grant protected status to additional occupied sites and areas of suitable habitat.


17 cm. Distinctive antbird. Male has brown upperparts with tawny streaks. Two buff wing-bars. Grey tail with white tips to outer rectrices. Dark slate-grey sides of head and underparts. Female differs in white throat edged buff, and brown underparts mottled buff on breast. Similar spp. Female Western Slaty-antshrike Thamnophilus atrinucha is less streaky and more well-marked on wings. Voice Song is series of three to nine high-pitched and ascending notes. Loud and repeated chak call.


Text account compilers
Hermes, C.

Angehr, G., Isherwood, I., Pople, R., Salaman, P.G.W., Sharpe, C.J., Stuart, T. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Xenornis setifrons. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/05/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/05/2022.