White-cheeked Cotinga Zaratornis stresemanni


Justification of Red List category
This species has a small population, which is severely fragmented and continuing to decline owing to loss and degradation of habitat. For these reasons, it is listed as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The species is rare and local. A population size of 1,500-6,000 was estimated by Collar et al. (1992). This is roughly equivalent to 1,000-4,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
This species's population is suspected to be decreasing slowly, in line with rates of habitat loss and degradation within its range.

Distribution and population

Zaratornis stresemanni is patchily distributed in the Cordillera Occidental of the Andes in Peru (La Libertad, Ancash, Lima and Ayacucho), with most records on the west slope. It has been observed at Tayabamba, La Libertad, in the Cordillera Central, where it may be resident, seasonal or vagrant. A recent observation at El Molino, also in La Libertad, suggests its range may be greater than previously thought (F. Angulo Pratolongo in litt. 2012). It is common north of Oyón, with an estimated 500 birds in this district (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996); in the Cordillera Huayhuash area (Maynard and Waterton 1998), and in the upper Santa Eulalia Valley, where it numbers upwards of 250 birds (Maynard and Waterton 1998, G. Servat in litt. 1999). It is also fairly common in parts of the río Cañete drainage, Lima (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996, Maynard and Waterton 1998, G. Servat in litt. 1999). In 1992, the population was estimated at c.3,000 individuals; actual numbers are probably between 1,500 and 6,000.


It mainly inhabits Polylepis-Gynoxys woodland at elevations of 3,800-4,400 m (Clements and Shany 2001, Schulenberg et al. 2007), but, in the dry season (between August and November), occurs to 2,700 m in mixed woodland and casually to 2,000 m. These seasonal movements may mean it is only able to maintain high populations in valleys with a continuum of oligothermic to mesothermic forest (J. Fjeldså in litt. 1999, 2007). It apparently feeds primarily on two genera of mistletoe, for which it is the main seed-dispersal agent. Nest-building has been recorded in March, and nests with eggs and young have been found in May.


Uncontrolled fires and heavy grazing prevent Polylepis regeneration. Cutting for timber, firewood and charcoal is locally destructive, but could be sustained if regeneration were allowed (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996) The Pacific slope cloud forest which is occupied in the non-breeding season is threatened by grazing goats which prevent forest regeneration (J. Fjeldså in litt. 1999, 2007). Other factors may include the change from camelid to sheep-farming and cattle-farming, and the inadequacy of afforestation projects, in particular the use of exotic plants (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
There have been surveys of Polylepis and high-altitude habitats and conservation measures proposed (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996). The north of the species's range (but not Oyón) is mostly within Huascarán National Park, Ancash, but cutting continues, to supply the local furniture industry and firewood for a gold-mining camp (Frimer and Møller Nielsen 1989, Fjeldså and Kessler 1996). Pampa Galeras National Reserve, Ayacucho, protects a small population, but is poorly enforced (J. Fjeldså in litt. 1999, G. Servat in litt. 1999, J. Fjeldså in litt. 2007). Zarate Forest, Lima (a non-breeding site), has been recently gazetted as a reserved zone (T. Valqui in litt. 1999, F. Angulo Pratolongo in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Determine its year-round distribution and population, and the extent of Polylepis in the central Cordillera Occidental (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996, G. Servat in litt. 1999). Implement the management plan for Huascarán (Frimer and Møller Nielsen 1989, Fjeldså and Kessler 1996). Protect Polylepis forests north of Oyón and in the Santa Eulalia Valley. Plant Polylepis in degraded areas. Plant buffer zones of firewood trees below Polylepis and supply coal for industry. Encourage local people to take leading roles in land-use management and restoration schemes (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996). Prevent over grazing by goats in the Pacific slope cloud forest non-breeding habitat (J. Fjeldså in litt. 1999, 2007).


18 cm. Distinctively patterned cotinga. Black crown. Silvery-white face and cheeks. Grey-brown throat and upper breast. Rest of underparts yellowish-buff, coarsely streaked black, except in mid-belly. Brighter crissum. Upperparts striped buff and dusky. Dusky wings and tail fringed yellowish. Red iris. Juvenile paler, with drab breast. Similar spp. Juvenile Red-crested Cotinga Ampelion rubrocristatus has grey crown, lacks white face and has less well-defined plumage. Voice Frog-like song is loud, low-pitched and nasal reh-reh-reh-rrrrr-rE-rE, lasting c.4 seconds.


Text account compilers
Capper, D., Isherwood, I., Pilgrim, J., Pople, R., Sharpe, C J, Stuart, T., Symes, A., Khwaja, N.

Angulo Pratolongo, F., Servat, G., Fjeldså, J., Valqui, T.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Zaratornis stresemanni. Downloaded from on 30/11/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 30/11/2023.