Spiny-faced Antshrike Xenornis setifrons


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a small range and fragmented distribution, in which habitat continues to decline (Collar et al. 1992). Its population is suspected to be small, with very small subpopulations likely to be declining in line with habitat loss. It therefore qualifies as Vulnerable.

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
This species's population is suspected to be declining rapidly, in line with rates of habitat loss within its range.

Distribution and population

Xenornis setifrons occurs locally in east Panama and north-west Colombia. Twelve sites are known in the Serranías de San Blas, Darién, Tacarcuna (Panama) and Baudó (Colombia) (Adsett and Wege 1998). There is also an unverified report from a relatively well-known site in the Serranía de Pirre, Panama (Engleman 1993, G. R. 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, San Blas (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999). It has not been reported from east San Blas 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).


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). 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 (Angehr and Jordán 1998, G. R. Angehr in litt. 1998). The Kuna Yala Indian Reserve affords some protection around Nusagandi (Whitney and Rosenberg 1993).

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
Isherwood, I., Pople, R., Sharpe, C J, Stuart, T., Symes, A.

Salaman, P., Angehr, G.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Xenornis setifrons. Downloaded from on 26/09/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/09/2020.