Endemic and Threatened Birds of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta


Ecology, distribution, population status and conservation of the endemic and threatened birds of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Status – Active


The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (SNSM), also known as the Santa Marta mountains, is considered the most important continental center of endemism in the World because of the remarkable richness of unique flora and fauna found there. It is also supports the largest elevational range of any mountain range in Colombia and its complex topography, geological history, variation in climate and in ecosystems, create the conditions that allow for so many endemic species to occur in a relatively small area. The avifauna of the SNSM is no doubt one of its most interesting and attractive aspects, with close to 70 endemic taxa, of which 21 are actually recognized as full species.

SNSM Panoramic 2

Unfortunately, the majority of the endemic species have highly restricted distributions, rendering them more vulnerable to any kind of threat and many of them are considered threatened with extinction. Expansion of the agricultural frontier, deforestation and illegal crops have all taken their toll on the habitats occupied by these species, causing widespread loss and fragmentation of a significant proportion of available habitat. In addition, the lack of basic information on the species’ biology, ecology and population status, have complicated efforts to evaluate their current conservation status.  In order to be able to design efficient conservation strategies and take informed decision, it is essential to first understand the factors that determine the presence and the maintenance of these species in the SNSM. It is also critical to identify the threats they are facing today and the gaps that must be addressed in order to guarantee their conservation.

By combining population density estimates, modeling algorithms and geographic information systems, this SELVA project aims to generate detailed information about the ecology, life history and spatial distribution of several of the SNSM’s endemic bird species, including those considered threatened with extinction (e.g. Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Bush-tyrant), as well as recently described taxa that lack basic information (e.g. Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Santa Marta Antbird, Sierra Nevada Brushfinch). The main objectives of this project are: (1) identify the environmental factors that determine the restricted distribution of these species at multiple spatial scales; (2) identify patterns of habitat use and selection; (3) estimate population density and size throughout their distributions; (4) model and estimate geographic distributions and determine the percentage loss of habitat; (5) evaluate the current conservation status of the species using the criteria established for the IUCN Red List, with a view to generating conservation and management recommendations for conservation practitioners.

Collage SNSM Endemics

Key Results

  • The population status, estimated geographic range and conservation needs of the Santa Marta Parakeet (EN) have been studied in depth since 2008 and disseminated widely.
  • A model of the distribution, population status and conservation needs of the Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner was published in 2015.
  • The environmental variables that determine the distribution of the Santa Marta Bush-tyrant were identified using a novel hierarchical analysis. This species lacks quantitative information relating is restricted distribution with climatic variables and actual land use patterns in the SNSM.
  • A species account for the White-lored Warbler was published in Neotropical Birds Online.

Gómez, C. (2014) White-lored Warbler (Myiothlypis conspicillata), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Neotropical Birds Online. Link

Documents for download

Scientific publications

Botero-Delgadillo, E., Bayly, N.J., Escudero-Páez, S. & Moreno, M.I. 2015. Understanding the distribution of a threatened bird at multiple levels: A hierarchical analysis of the ecological niche of the Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant (Myiotheretes pernix). The Condor 117: 629-643. Abstract

Botero-Delgadillo, E. , Bayly, N., Gómez, C., Pulgarín-R., P. C. & Páez, C. A. 2015. An assessment of the distribution, population size and conservation status of the Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner Automolus rufipectus: a Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta endemic. Bird Conservation International Early view 25: 451-465. PDF

Botero-Delgadillo, E., Verhelst, J.C., & Páez, C.A. 2012. Distribución geográfica y ecológica, tamaño poblacional y vacíos de conservación del Periquito de Santa Marta (Pyrrhura viridicata). Ornitología Colombiana 12: 32-46. PDF 

The role of SELVA in this research is currently voluntary. If you are interested in supporting this project and at the same time the remarkable endemic birds of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta please write to: Selva email

Projet team
Directors – Dr. Esteban Botero-Delgadillo and Dr. Nicholas Bayly
Researchers – Camila Gómez, Sandra Escudero, María Isabel Moreno, Andrés Páez.

SNSM Panaramic