Tacarcuna Tapaculo Scytalopus panamensis


Justification of Red List Category
This species is restricted to a very small range, in which its forest habitat is not thought to be seriously threatened at present. However, climate change may lead to a range contraction, and thus the species is feared to undergo declines in range size and habitat quality. In the future, these declines may also lead to a decline in the population size. Therefore, the species is listed as Near Threatened.

Population justification
The population size has not been quantified, but the species is described as common at known sites (Renjifo et al. 2017; Krabbe and Schulenberg 2020). A preliminary population estimate can be derived from a congener with similar habitat requirements, the Ecuadorian Tapaculo (Scytalopus robbinsi); this species occurs at a density of c. 27 mature individuals per km2 in suitable forest (Hermes et al. 2017). Assuming that the Tacarcuna Tapaculo occurs at a similar density throughout its range (260 km2), the population may number 7,020 mature individuals. To account for uncertainty, the population is here placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals.
The population structure has not been assessed, but based on its small range, in which habitat is not fragmented, it is conceivable that the number of subpopulations is low.

Trend justification
Given that the species is not currently subject to any direct threats, it is suspected to be stable. Even though its specific habitat requirements make it vulnerable to habitat loss and degradation as a result of deforestation, forests within its range remain continuous, intact and not highly threatened (Krabbe and Schulenberg 2020; Global Forest Watch 2021). The species is however susceptible to current and future climate change, as it may result in range contractions and habitat loss and, in future, a potential slow population decline, as is feared in other Scytalopus species (see e.g. Velázquez-Tibatá et al. 2013, Stiles et al. 2017).

Distribution and population

Scytalopus panamensis is known from Cerros Tacarcuna and Mali, adjacent mountains on the Serranía de Tacarcuna in east Darién, Panama, and the Colombian slope of Cerro Tacarcuna and north Chocó, Colombia (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989; Renjifo et al. 2017). It has a very small range, but is common in suitable habitat (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989; Wege 1996).


It inhabits the undergrowth of humid, mossy forest, between 1,050 and 1,500 m altitude (Krabbe and Schulenberg 2020).


Its small range puts it at inherent risk from any habitat loss or degradation. While forest in this region is being cleared and degraded for mining, agriculture and cultivation of coca (Wege 1996), this is not yet happening within the altitudinal range of this species (Global Forest Watch 2021). Completion of the Pan-American highway link through Darién could however lead to severe, long-term damage to the forests in Darién and adjacent Chocó (Alvarez-Cordero et al. 1994; Wege 1996). Furthermore, the species may be susceptible to climate change impacts including habitat loss and range contractions, due to its being confined to an isolated mountain range (Renjifo et al. 2017). A closely related species with similar habitat requirements, the Ecuadorian Tapaculo Scytalopus robbinsi, was found to shift its range uphill by up to 100 m per decade (Hermes et al. 2017); as such it is likely that Tacarcuna Tapaculo is undergoing a range shift at a similar rate. Consequently, the species may lose large areas of habitat near the lower boundary of its narrow altitudinal distribution, while being squeezed towards the upper limit of  suitable cloud forests and mountain tops.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Darién National Park, Panama, protects all but the small Colombian part of its range (Wege 1996).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey for the species throughout the Serranía de Tacarcuna where feasible. Quantify the population size and ascertain the population trend. Monitor habitat trends to identify potential increases in logging activities. Monitor the impacts of climate change on the distribution range to detect range shifts and contractions. Develop active conservation management schemes to control activities that threaten birds in Darién (Wege 1996). Extend Los Katíos National Park to include the high-altitude part of the Tacarcuna ridge in Colombia (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999; Renjifo et al. 2017).


11.4 cm. Dark tapaculo. Sooty black above. Conspicuous greyish-white supercilium. Grey below, with paler throat and mottling on breast. Cinnamon-brown barred black lower back, flanks, belly and crissum. Female similar, but browner back. Similar spp. Whitish supercilium unique in Scytalopus. Voice Song piping series tseety-seety seety seety... or strident tuh tu-tu-tu-t lasting 1.5 seconds. Repeated at several second intervals.


Text account compilers
Everest, J., Hermes, C.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Scytalopus panamensis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/10/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/10/2022.