Tamarugo Conebill Conirostrum tamarugense


Justification of Red List Category
Although this species may have a restricted range, it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km² combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The population in Chile has been estimated at 35,000 individuals (Estades 1996), which equates to c. 23,000 mature individuals. Unless more recent information becomes available, the species is here tentatively placed in the band 20,000-49,999 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population trend has not been estimated directly, but the species is thought to be stable or increasing, as suitable habitat is regenerating and expanding (Estades 1996, Hilty 2020).

Distribution and population

Conirostrum tamarugense is largely restricted to the Pampa del Tamarugal National Reserve in Tarapacá, Chile (Estades 1996). It also occurs in tamarugo forest south of Arica in the Chaca (Vitor) valley between the Panamerican highway and the coast, and breeding presumably occurs here (A. P. Jaramillo in litt. 2007). It may also occur further upstream from here although this area is more heavily agricultural. Breeding could take place near Zapiga (Estades 1996, C. Estades in litt. 1999), and in other large areas of forest in Pampa del Tamarugal to the south of its known range (J. Fjeldså in litt. 1999). There are recent records further south along the Loa River, where active singers have been found in May and December at Quillagua and near Maria Elena (F. Schmitt in litt. 2012). The southermost record of an immature bird is from San Pedro de Atacama (R. Tapia in litt. 2010). It migrates north to Arequipa, Tacna and Moquegua in south Peru. In 1993, the population was estimated at just over 35,000 individuals, breeding in 108 km2 of habitat, and possibly increasing with the expansion of suitable habitat (Estades 1996).


In Chile, it mostly inhabits plantations or isolated patches of mature tamarugo trees Prosopis tamarugo, which are probably important for breeding, as well as riverine scrub, agricultural land and citrus groves up to 2,950 m (A. P. Jaramillo in litt. 2012, Estades 1996, Hilty 2020). In Peru, it occurs primarily in arid Gynoxys and Polylepis at 3,400-4,050 m, but has been recorded as low as sea level during migration (Høgsås et al. 2002, Peredo et al. 2007). Breeding occurs between September and December, followed by migration northwards and upwards. Breeding coincides with the seasonal blooming of tamarugo flowers, which provide food for Leptotes trigemmatus caterpillars and, in turn, this bird (Estades 1996).


Tamarugo forests are managed mainly for the production of sheep forage. There are ongoing attempts to control L. trigemmatus with chemicals or parasitoids. Water for tamarugo plantations comes from aquifers, which also supply the city of Iquique. The consequences of this water removal are not known, but decreases in supply to the plantations could have serious impacts on the species and local communities (Estades 1996). A favoured area in the Chaca (Vitor) Valley was burned in 2006 (A. P. Jaramillo in litt. 2007). Wintering sites suffer activities such as the widespread cutting of Polylepis woodland, although the species is not dependent on the presence of Polylepis (Estades 1996, A. P. Jaramillo in litt. 2007).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions UnderwayTamarugo was almost extirpated when the Chilean government began a replantation programme in the 1930s. By the 1970s, 146 km2 had been reforested. Breeding habitat is currently protected and expanding in Pampa del Tamarugal National Reserve (Estades 1996).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor the population. Study the effects of Tamarugo management strategies. Assess the likely effects of water-pumping. Develop management strategies that benefit the Tamarugo ecosystem and local communities. Research alternatives to the control of L. trigemmatus, and economically assess the cost of not controlling populations (Estades 1996).


12 cm. Brightly coloured, arboreal bird. Slaty-grey above, with cinnamon-rufous eyebrow, throat and upper breast. Blackish wings and tail. Two rufous wing-bars, white patch at base of primaries and buffy edges to tertials. Rest of underparts pale grey with yellowish belly and cinnamon undertail-coverts. Immature generally paler and duller with less, paler or no rufous on throat. Similar spp. Cinereous Conebill C. cinereum lacks rufous on throat, and has white eyebrow. Voice Thin zie zizie contact call.


Text account compilers
Hermes, C.

Capper, D., Estades, C., Fjeldså, J., Isherwood, I., Jaramillo, A.P., Khwaja, N., Pople, R., Schmitt, F., Sharpe, C.J., Stuart, T., Symes, A. & Tapia, R.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Conirostrum tamarugense. Downloaded from on 18/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 18/10/2021.