Pardusco Nephelornis oneilli

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Monotypic
  • Authors: Angelo P. Capparella and Christopher C. Witt


Conservation Status

The 2009 IUCN red list category is "Least Concern" based on range and population size/decline criteria (BirdLife International 2009), a rating it has retained since 1988 (Collar and Andrew 1988). Stotz et al. (1996) consider the species to be of somewhat greater concern and rate it as "medium" (versus urgent, high, or low); they also state it has high sensitivity to human disturbance. However, neither source considered the unfolding impacts of global warming, and the impact on birds of the loss of Andean forest habitats from all causes is insufficiently known (O'Dea and Whittaker 2007).

Nephelornis oneilli is endemic to part of the Tropical Andes, one of the 25 global biodiversity hotspots (Myers et al. 2000). A large-scale analysis of the increase in plant and vertebrate extinctions in these hotspots due to global warming found that the Tropical Andes were especially vulnerable (Malcolm et al. 2006), although the response of individual species was not assessed. Cloud forests, of which elfin forest is a subclass, are likely to experience changes in temperature, precipitation and cloudiness (Foster 2001) that could reduce the habitat quantity and quality for the Pardusco.

Nephelornis seems to have narrow habitat requirements and a correspondingly narrow elevational distribution, as do many other species that are restricted to humid elfin forest at the ecotone between cloud forest and alpine grassland. Thus, its potential susceptibility to habitat destruction or habitat shifts induced by climate change seems high. Furthermore, the length of its narrow distribution along the Andes is only about 620 km (Witt and Lane in press). For this reason, we consider the Stotz et al. (1996) ranking to be superior to that of BirdLife International (2009).

Effects of human activity on populations

Temperate zone humid habitats on the east slope of the Andes are threatened by forest cutting and burning for pasture and cultivation. The treeline habitats where Nephelornis occurs is a harsh environment for humans, and much of this area remains remote and sparsely settled.  Lowery and Tallman (1976) noted that while people used grassland adjacent to its elfin forest habitat for grazing, the human population was sparse and the location remote and wet. Published accounts of elfin forest deforestation are lacking; global warming changes in habitat are likely (Malcolm et al. 2006).

Recommended Citation

Capparella, A. P. and C. C. Witt (2009). Pardusco (Nephelornis oneilli), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.