The cipo canastero (Asthenes luizae) is a small species in the ovenbird family (Furnariidae) and was only discovered as recently as 1985 (2). The canastero birds (Asthenes species) were given their name, which means ‘basket maker’ in Spanish, due to the characteristic structure of their domed nests (3) (4).
Canasteros are particularly shy birds, and the cipo canastero is no exception. It typically darts across rocky slopes, often slipping out of sight down crevices, making it very hard to identify (5) (6). It also has quite dull colouration, being greyish-brown above, slightly browner on the head, with a white stripe running above its eye, like an eyebrow. The underside of the body is a dull brownish-grey, while the neck has a darker chestnut colouration and the chin is white with fine black streaks. In contrast to the rest of the body, the outer tail feathers are reddish-brown (2) (5) (6).
The cipo canastero’s song, often delivered from an exposed perch (6), is a series of loud, sharp, descending notes, fading towards the end and lasting about three seconds. To contact other individuals, the cipo canastero emits a high-pitched, metallic ‘jilp’, repeated at two-second intervals (3).
- Also known as
- cipó canastero.
- Length: 17 cm (2)
- 25.5 - 30.5 g (3)
Cipo canastero biology
The cipo canastero is an insectivorous species and forages either alone or in pairs, gleaning food from the ground, rock crevices and shrubs (2) (3). This species often holds its tail partially cocked as it moves around (5) (6).
It is thought that breeding in this species takes place between August and February, beginning before the rainy season and finishing before the onset of the dry season (7). Pairs of cipo canasteros hold territories of about 150 to 300 square metres, centred on rocky outcrops (2). The nests of the cipo canastero are built in a spherical or conical shape with sticks, mud, dry material and moss. They are built above the ground and have a small entrance hole located on the top, with a tunnel that leads to an incubation chamber covered in feathers and dry fibres (3) (4) (7).
The eggs of the cipo canastero hatch after about 23 days. Both adults help feed the chicks, which leave the nest at around 20 days old and remain dependent on the adults for at least a further month (7).
Cipo canastero range
The cipo canastero’s range is restricted to a small part of the state of Minas Gerais in south-eastern Brazil, in particular the Espinhaço Range(2). The species was first discovered near to the Serra do Cipó National Park, from which its name was derived (3).
Cipo canastero habitat
Largely terrestrial, the cipo canastero inhabits the ‘campos rupestres’, a montane, subtropical open habitat which includes isolated rocky outcrops with dry, bushy vegetation (2) (3) (5) (6). The cipo canastero can be found at elevations between 1,000 and 2,000 metres, and favours steep slopes (2).
Cipo canastero status
The cipo canastero is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).
Cipo canastero threats
A notable concern for the cipo canastero is brood parasitism by the shiny cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis), a new colonist in the region, which lays its eggs in cipo canastero nests. As shiny cowbird chicks are much heavier than the cipo canastero chicks, they can easily eject them or drive them to starvation by eating their food (4). Shiny cowbirds are mainly found near human settlements and roads, but they are rare in remote rocky outcrops, which limits their detrimental effects on the overall cipo canastero population (2) (3).
Cattle grazing is a possible threat to the habitat in the region, but fortunately cattle are not found on the steep slopes and rocky areas that the cipo canastero favours (2). Uncontrolled tourism in south-eastern Brazil presents a greater threat to this species’ habitat, causing degradation as campers in the campos rupestres trample native vegetation and increase fire hazards (8). In addition, road construction and habitat fragmentation in the Serra do Cipó have had a negative impact on cipo canastero populations (9).
Despite these threats, it has been discovered that the range of the cipo canastero is wider than originally thought. In 1994, the species was classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List, but it was downgraded to Vulnerable (VU) in 2004 and is now listed as Near Threatened (NT), a lower risk category. The population of the cipo canastero is currently considered to be stable (2).
Cipo canastero conservation
Although the cipo canastero was originally found just outside of the Serra do Cipó National Park, in 1997 it was identified within its borders. It is also known to inhabit the Parque Estadual do Pico do Itambé, Parque Estadual do Rio Preto and Sempre Vivas National Park (2).
Proposed conservation actions for the cipo canastero include further research into the effects of brood parasitism by shiny cowbirds, with the possibility of introducing control measures. Additional surveys are also needed to better assess the cipo canastero’s status and range (2).
Find out more
Find out more about the cipo canastero and its conservation:
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- Brood parasitism
- When an animal lays its eggs in the nests of members of its own or other species, and the host then raises the young as its own.
- The catching of prey by plucking it from or within foliage.
- The act of incubating eggs; that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
- Of mountains, or growing in mountains.
- An area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a colony.
IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
BirdLife International - Cipo canastero (November, 2011)
del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D. (2003) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 8: Broadbills to Tapaculos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Gomes, H.B. and Rodrigues, M. (2010) The nest of the cipó canastero (Asthenes luizae), an endemic furnariid from the Espinhaço Range, southeastern Brazil. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 122(3): 600-603.
Ridgely, R.S. and Tudor, G. (2009) Field Guide to the Songbirds of South America: The Passerines. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.
Ridgely, R.S. and Tudor, G. (1994) The Birds of South America: The Suboscine Passerines. Volume II. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.
Costa, L.M. (2011) História de Vida de Asthenes luizae: Biologia Reprodutiva, Sucesso Reprodutivo e o Impacto de Molothrus bonariensis em uma Ave Ameaçada e Endêmica dos Campos Rupestres da Cadeia do Espinhaço. M.Sc. Thesis, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte. Available at:
de Vasconcelos, M.F. and Rodrigues, M. (2010) Patterns of geographic distribution and conservation of the open-habitat avifauna of southeastern Brazilian mountaintops (campos rupestres and campos de altitude). Papéis Avulsos de Zoologia, 50(1): 1-29.
Melo-Júnior, T.A., de Vasconcelos, M.F., Fernandes, G.W. and Marini, M.A. (2001) Bird species distribution and conservation in Serra do Cipó, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Bird Conservation International, 11: 189-204.