Described as a perky and inquisitive species (2), the Munchique wood-wren is a rare South American bird which may have as few as 180 pairs left in existence (3). Due to its small population size and its similarity to other closely related wood-wrens, the Munchique wood-wren was not recognised as a distinct species until 2003. However, it has a remarkably different voice to similar species that occupy nearby areas, with a more melodic and musical quality to its song compared to the ‘liquid’ song of the grey-breasted wood-wren (Henicorhina leucophrys) (2).
The male and female Munchique wood-wren are similar in appearance, being mostly barred with light and dark brown. The top of the head is darker brown than the rest of the upperparts, and the face is striped with black and white. This species has a grey chest, and fine dark barring on the abdomen (2) (3).
A typical wood-wren (Henicorhina species), the Munchique wood-wren is a small bird with short wings and a short, stubby tail, but relatively robust legs. Its beak is blackish and its legs and feet are bluish-grey. The juvenile is darker overall, and both the adult and juvenile Munchique wood-wren have a longer beak than the closely related grey-breasted wood-wren, while the adults also have a more strongly striped throat (2).
The song of the Munchique wood-wren consists of repeated phrases of 6 to 12 notes, with each phrase lasting about 2 seconds (3). Like other wood-wrens, this species is quite vocal, and is often heard singing throughout the day (2).
- Also known as
- Munchique wood wren.
- Length: 10.8 - 11.7 cm (2)
- 15.2 - 16.7 g (2)
Munchique wood-wren biology
A naturally inquisitive species, the Munchique wood-wren searches for small arthropods close to the ground, and usually does not venture higher than two metres from the forest floor (3). Its diet consists entirely of insects, with no nuts or berries. This species can swiftly disappear into the dense undergrowth to look for food, and it often forages in small family groups or pairs. The Munchique wood-wren does not normally join groups of other species when foraging, but it has been seen to do so on occasion (2).
The breeding season of the Munchique wood-wren is thought to be April to June, but little else is known about reproduction in this species (2). However, it may resemble that of the closely related grey-breasted wood-wren (H. leucophrys), in which both sexes build a globular nest out of rootlets and moss. The nest is usually constructed in low vegetation or shrubs, often over a bank or ravine, and the female grey-breasted wood-wren lays two white eggs which hatch after 19 to 20 days (6).
Munchique wood-wren range
The Munchique wood-wren is found only in some small areas of the western Andes of Colombia, and is named for the location of its original discovery in the Munchique National Park (2). However, since this discovery further populations have been found near El Cairo and in southern Antioquia, also in Colombia (4) (5).
Munchique wood-wren habitat
Living exclusively at high elevations on the western side of the Western Cordillera of Colombia, the Munchique wood-wren has very specific habitat requirements. This species appears to require wet, stunted montane forest with dense understorey foliage and high levels of cloud or fog cover. It inhabits the borders of such areas, around streams or other breaks in vegetation such as those caused by landslides (2) (3).
The Munchique wood-wren has been recorded at elevations of 2,250 to 2,640 metres (2) (3). Below this, it is abruptly replaced by related species such as the grey-breasted wood-wren (H. leucophrys), and thus has an extremely small area of suitable habitat (2).
Munchique wood-wren status
The Munchique wood-wren is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).
Munchique wood-wren threats
Due to its extremely small range and population, which is known to be in decline, the Munchique wood-wren is currently at high risk of extinction (3). However, it has been argued that its classification of Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List should be changed as a result of the discovery of another population in southern Antioquia (4).
The primary threat to the Munchique wood-wren is the destruction of the montane forest in which it lives (2) (3) (5). Although it prefers naturally disturbed habitat and the borders of forested areas, large-scale deforestation can decrease humidity and cloud cover. This allows other species that typically live at lower, drier elevations to increase their range into areas occupied by the Munchique wood-wren and potentially out-compete it. Changes in climatic conditions due to global warming could have the same effect (2) (3).
Deforestation in the Munchique wood-wren’s range has also been caused by local farmers starting wildfires to clear ground for agriculture. This would not normally be possible if not for an unusually dry El Niño summer in recent years (2), and the drying effects of climate change in the region (3).
Munchique wood-wren conservation
There are no specific conservation measures currently known to be in place for this species, but much of the Munchique wood-wren’s range is in protected areas such as the Munchique National Park and Tambito Nature Reserve. Sadly, deforestation continues to occur despite the high numbers of endangered species living in these areas. The budget for conservation is low, and increased government spending is not thought to be likely due to current civil conflicts in Colombia (2).
Fortunately, efforts have been forthcoming from non-governmental organisations such as Fundación ProAves, which purchased the Mirabilis-Swarovski Bird Reserve on Cerro Munchique in 2004 with help from the American Bird Conservancy and Swarovski Optik (3).
Proposed conservation measures for the Munchique wood-wren include more studies to increase understanding of this enigmatic species and to potentially uncover any undiscovered populations. The government also needs to be petitioned to increase conservation efforts with better resource allocation. The support of local wildlife organisations such as Fundación ProAves is also important to protect and monitor existing populations of this small, poorly known bird (3).
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- A major grouping of animals that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
- El Niño
- A natural phenomenon that happens every 4 to 12 years, and lasts for several months, when upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water does not occur. This causes the warming of ocean surface water off the western coast of South America and causes die-offs of plankton and fish. It also affects Pacific jet stream winds, altering storm tracks and creating unusual weather patterns in various parts of the world.
- Montane forest
- Forest occurring in mountains.
IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
Salaman, P., Coopmans, P., Donegan, T.M., Mulligan, M., Cortés, A., Hilty, S.L. and Ortega, L.A. (2003) A new species of wood-wren (Troglodytidae: Henicorhina) from the Western Andes of Colombia. Ornitología Colombiana, 1: 4-21.
BirdLife International - Munchique wood-wren (November, 2011)
Krabbe, N. (2009) A significant northward range extension of Munchique wood-wren (Henicorhina negreti) in the Western Andes of Colombia. Ornitología Colombiana, 8: 76-77.
van Oosten, H. and Cortes, O. (2009) First record of Munchique wood wren Henicorhina negreti in dpto. Chocó, Colombia. Cotinga, 31: 64.
Brewer, D. (2010) Wrens, Dippers and Thrashers. Christopher Helm Publishers, London.