This species was first discovered in Ecuador in 1997 by ornithologist Bob Ridgely. Antpittas are shy birds that typically have rounded bodies and legs that they use to hop across the forest floor. They are members of the ant bird family (Formicariidae), which are so-called as some of the species follow army ants, feeding on small insects disturbed by the ants (3). The Jocotoco antpitta is fairly large, about the size of a small melon (3), with a black crown, dark grey nape and face, and a bold white ‘moustache’. The upperparts are greyish-brown with rust-coloured wings, and the underparts are whitish-grey. The bill is black and the legs are grey (2).
This species is known from very few locations. Until recently, it was believed to be endemic to Ecuador, where it is found in Quebrada Honda, Podocarpus National Park and Xerro Toledo, Zamora-Chinchipe (2). However, it has since been found in northern Peru (4).
Quebrada Honda is close to a road and the area is threatened by gold mining and logging, even within Podocarpus National Park. Habitat loss caused by farming and human settlement is also a problem (2). Sadly, this rare bird also faces the occasional threat of collection for museums; in 2006 scientists from Louisiana Museum captured and killed two out of three specimens of the Jocotoco antpitta recently discovered in northern Peru (5).
The discovery of this antpitta led to the establishment of Fundacion Jocotoco, which initiated efforts to protect the locality at which the species was first discovered; to this end, the Tapichalaca Reserve was set up at the site (6). In September 2003 the Christopher Parsons Memorial Forest, adjacent to the Tapichalaca Reserve, was purchased with the help of the World Land Trust following an appeal launched by Sir David Attenborough. Christopher Parsons was described by Sir Attenborough as the most important natural history film maker of the last century. His last project before his death in 2002 was the development of ARKive. He was a trustee of the World Land Trust and the reserve is a fitting memorial to his life’s passion (7).
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