Trinidad Piping-guan Pipile pipile


Justification of Red List Category
This species has been extirpated from several areas. The population is now extremely small and was until recently decreasing because of continuing illegal hunting and habitat loss, therefore it was assessed as Critically Endangered. There is recent evidence to suggest that the population is now increasing, such that the species will warrant downlisting in the future, subject to the 5-year rule. The start date of this increase is considered to be 2018, and this is accordingly set as the start year for the application of the 5-year rule. If the population continues to be stable or increasing in 2023, the species will then qualify for downlisting to Endangered. 

Population justification
The global population size has increased since the late 2000s, when it was estimated at 77-231 individuals (Hayes et al. 2009a) to around 250-500 individuals (Gebauer 2018, M. Kenefick per D. Wege in litt. 2018). The population size is therefore placed in the band 150-330 mature individuals.

Trend justification
In the past, this species's population has declined in line with levels of hunting, habitat loss and habitat degradation within its range. Recent census data however showed that the population is increasing as the range is expanding and hunting pressure is declining (Gebauer 2018).

Distribution and population

Pipile pipile is endemic to Trinidad (Trinidad and Tobago), where it was once abundant throughout the Northern Range and the southern Trinity Hills, and also occurred in lowland areas such as the Nariva Swamp and Aripo Savannas. It is now extinct in the lowlands, and probably extinct in the Trinity Hills, where surveys have failed to find the species since 1994, although there is one credible report from Victoria Mayaro reserve in 2000, suggesting that a few may persist (Hayes et al. 2009a, Nelson et al. 2011). The species is probably extinct in central Trinidad, where it has not been reported since 1983 (Hayes et al. 2009a, Nelson et al. 2011). The only confirmed extant population is in the eastern portion of the Northern Range, where 150-350 km2 of suitable habitat remains (Hayes et al. 2009a). The species's range has declined historically due to hunting and habitat loss. Recent observations of the species in areas where it had not been reported within the past century suggest that the range may now be increasing again (Hayes et al. 2009a, Gebauer 2018).


The species feeds in the canopy of lower and upper montane rainforest, preferring steep, hilly areas with numerous streams, sparse ground-cover, a closed canopy and abundant lianas and epiphytes (Alexander 2002; Hayes et al. 2009a, b), and is known from elevations of 10-925 m (Hayes et al. 2009a, b). It is known from secondary vegetation and cultivated land near to primary forest, and formerly occurred in semi-evergreen forest; it seems to tolerate humans as long as canopy trees are available and it is not hunted (Alexander 2002, Hayes et al. 2009a). The species can thrive when hunting pressure is reduced and canopy trees are left intact within small-scale agricultural plantations: these are the two main requisites for conservation (Hayes et al. 2009a). Very little is known about its breeding, but breeding seems to take place in most months and two eggs are laid. Nests are placed near the ground (Naranjit 2012); chicks have been observed foraging very close to the adults (Rostant 2019). The species feeds mainly on fruits, but also eats flowers and leaves (Alexander 2002, Hayes et al. 2009b).


Illegal hunting and, to a lesser extent, habitat destruction through timber extraction and conversion to plantation agriculture are the chief causes of this species's decline (Alexander 2002, Hayes et al. 2009a). The threat from hunting has declined in recent decades, at least in the Northern Range, probably as a result of public education campaigns (James and Hislop 1997, Butler 1998, Gebauer 2018), but hunting in Grande Riviere still occurs (Hayes et al. 2009a, Waylen et al. 2009, Gebauer 2018). It does not appear to be overly susceptible to human disturbance per se (Alexander 2002, Hayes et al. 2009b).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. It has been legally protected since 1963. There have been conservation and education campaigns since the 1980s, which appear to have changed attitudes (James and Hislop 1997, Butler 1998). Much of the present range is within forest reserves and state forests, but the laws protecting both species and areas are generally not enforced. Matura National Park was declared an Environmentally Sensitive Area in 2004 and protects a large area of suitable forest, but there is limited law enforcement at the site. Genetic studies are ongoing (Naranjit 2010, Grass et al. 2016). Species-specific ecotourism is having a positive effect in the Grande Riviere, providing financial support for local communities and developing a sense of collective responsibility (R. ffrench in litt. 1998, Waylen et al. 2009). A recent questionnaire survey supported the idea that ecotourism was boosting awareness and attitudes towards conserving wildlife, although hunting behaviour remains unchanged (Waylen et al. 2009). The species is held in captivity (Hayes 2006, P. McGowan in litt. 2013). Its ecology is investigated by the local NGO Pawi Study Group (J. Cooper in litt. 2020).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey areas of historic occurrence to determine its status in these areas. Determine ecological requirements and breeding biology through radio telemetry (Nelson et al. 2011). Develop a participatory monitoring program which engages with local communities and provides abundance and distribution data. Enforce the protection of current forest reserves. Formally establish the Matura National Park. Develop further education/public awareness campaigns, in particular working with hunters, to ensure the success of site protection. Investigate the potential risk to the remaining population from disease/parasites (Hirschfeld 2008). Assess feasibility of captive breeding and begin a programme if appropriate (Hirschfeld 2008, Nelson et al. 2011). Review national legislation to identify gaps in protection or conflicts with conservation of the species (Nelson et al. 2011).


69 cm. Medium-sized, black-and-white cracid. Mostly blackish-brown with faint purplish gloss. Extensive white tips to wing-coverts. Mainly dark crest with whitish streaking. Pale blue cere and basal part of bill. Darker blue dewlap. Red legs. Similar spp. Only cracid on Trinidad. Voice Thin piping. In display makes rattling whirr with wings.


Text account compilers
Martin, R., Hermes, C., Wheatley, H.

Benstead, P., Bird, J., Butchart, S.H.M., Calvert, R., Cooper, J., Ffrench, R., Hayes, F.E., Isherwood, I., James, C., McGowan, P., Nelson, H., Pilgrim, J., Poon, S., Sharpe, C.J., Symes, A., Wege, D. & White, G.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Pipile pipile. 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.