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Haemig PD (2011) Amazonian Birds Associated with Bamboo. ECOLOGY.INFO 7

Amazonian Birds Associated with Bamboo

Note: This online review is updated and revised continuously, as soon as results of new scientific research become available.  It therefore presents state-of-the-art information on the topic it covers.

In this report, we continue our study of South American animals associated with bamboo, focusing on the Amazon Basin.  In an earlier report, we reviewed Birds and Mammals Associated with Bamboo in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

Bamboo and the biodiversity of birds in Amazonia

Tropical forest sites in the lowlands of Amazonia have the highest number of bird species in the world, some with more than 550 species (Kratter 1997).  One reason for this exceptional richness of bird species is the great variety of forests and other habitats in Amazonia. 

In order to determine what contribution bamboo makes to total richness of bird species, Kratter surveyed birds living in extensive thickets of Giant Bamboo (Guadua weberbaureri) along the Rio Tambopata, Peru, a tributary to the Amazon River.  He found that 25 of the approximately 440 bird species living in the area were confined to bamboo thickets.  Thus, his study showed that birds dependent on bamboo comprised a significant part (6%) of the total biodiversity of birds in the area.  

In Eastern Amazonia, Zimmer et al. (1997) surveyed the birds of the Alta Floresta Region in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil.  Of the 474 bird species that they recorded for the area, 18 were confined to stands of bamboo within the forest.  Thus, 4% of the total bird species of the Alta Floresta Region were bamboo specialists.

Bird species associated with bamboo thickets

We now present a list of bird species that are associated with bamboo thickets in Amazonia.  It is difficult to compile such a list, because some species show variation in their dependence on bamboo.  For example,  in Matto Gosso state of Brazil, the Chestnut-crowned Foliage-Gleaner (Automolus rufipileatus) is reported to be confined largely to stands of bamboo in the forest (Zimmer et al. 1997).  In Eastern Peru, the same species is also strongly associated with bamboo, but is also known to occur in canebrakes (Gynerium sp.) and treefall gaps (Kratter 1997).

The Large-headed Flatbill (Ramphotrigon megacephala), a species found in both Amazonia and the Atlantic Forest, provides another example. In Amazonia, this bird is reported to be "largely or entirely confined to thickets of bamboo," while in the Atlantic Forest of Southeastern Brazil, "it seems to be found where bamboo is a dominant component of the forest understory (Ridgely and Tutor 1994)."

Variation in association with bamboo may be the result of many different factors, such as variation in the number of enemies (competitors or predators), or shortages of bamboo thickets for bamboo dependent bird species to use.  

Recognizing that dependence on bamboo may vary from region to region, our list includes all bird species that are reported confined to bamboo thickets in at least one of the regions of Amazonia1.  It currently comprises the following 35 species:

    Brown Tinamou (Crypturellus obsoletus)
    Pavonine Cuckoo (Dromococcyx pavoninus)
    Chestnut-capped Puffbird (Bucco macrodactylus)
    Yellow-billed Nunbird (Monasa flavirostris)
    Rufous-capped Nunlet (Nonnula ruficapilla)
    Rufous-breasted Piculet (Picumnus rufiventris)
    Rufous-headed Woodpecker (Celeus spectabilis)
    Cabanis's Spinetail (Synallaxis cabanisi)
    Chestnut-throated Spinetail (Synallaxis cherriei)
    Peruvian Recurvebill (Simoxenops ucayalae)
    Red-billed Scythebill (Campylorhamphus trochilirostris)
    Chestnut-crowned Foliage-Gleaner (Automolus rufipileatus)
    Brown-rumped Foliage-gleaner (Automolus melanopezus)
    Ruddy Foliage-gleaner (Automolus rubiginosus)
    Crested foliage-gleaner (Anabazenops dorsalis)
    Bamboo Antshrike (Cymbilaimus sanctaemariae)
    White-shouldered Antshrike (Thamnophilus aethiops)
    White-flanked Antwren (Myrmotherula axillaris)
    Ihering's Antwren (Myrmotherula iheringi)
    Ornate Antwren (Myrmotherula ornata)
    Dot-winged Antwren (Microrhopias quixensis
    Striated Antbird (Drymophila devillei)
    White-lined Antbird (Percnostola lophotes)
    Goeldi's Antbird (Myrmeciza goeldii)
    Chestnut-tailed Antbird (Myrmeciza hemimelaena)
    Manu Antbird (Cercomacra manu)
    Amazonian Antpitta (Hylopezus berlepschi)
    Yellow Tyrannulet  (Capsiempis flaveola)
    Flammulated Bamboo-Tyrant (Hemitriccus flammulatus)
    White-cheeked Tody-Tyrant (Poecilotriccus albifacies)
    Large-headed Flatbill (Ramphotrigon megacephala)
    Dusky-tailed Flatbill (Ramphotrigon fuscicauda)
Rufous Twistwing (Cnipodectes superrufus)
    Moustached Wren (Thryothorus genibarbis)
    Slate-colored Seedeater (Sporophila schistacea)

One bird on our list that is of special interest is the Rufous-headed Woodpecker (Celeus spectabilis), a woodpecker that specializes in feeding on ants that live inside hollow bamboo stems (Kratter 1997, 1998). 

The above list contains only bird species confined to bamboo thickets.  Additional bird species may occur in mixed forests and be specialized for foraging on bamboo or using bamboo for cover, but are not included on the list because they occur outside pure stands of bamboo.  However, in the various habitats where these other birds occur, bamboo may be a very significant or important element in these birds' ecology.

For example, the  Bolivian Recurvebill (Simoxenops striatus) "shows a strong preference for Guadua bamboo, but it is not an obligate bamboo specialist and persists at often much lower densities in forests without Guadua (Herzog et al.  2008).

Birds consuming Guadua bamboo seeds

In Manu National Park, Peru, Lebbin (2006) observed the following species eating seeds of Guadua bamboo:

Amazonian Parrotlet (Nannopsittaca dachillae)
Dusky-headed Parakeet (Aratinga weddellii)
Magpie Tanager (Cissopis leveriana)
Black-and-White Tanager (Conothraupis speculigera)
Blue-black Grosbeak  (Cyanocompsa cyanoides)
Giant Cowbird (Molothrus oryzivora)
Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis)


1.  This list is compiled from  Parker (1982), Pierpoint and Fitzpatrick (1983), Terborgh et al. (1984); Parker and Remsen (1987), Ridgely and Tutor (1989, 1994), Parker et al. (1997) Zimmer et al. (1997), Kratter (1997), Aleixo et al. (2000), Clements and Shany (2001) and Lane et al. (2007).


Aleixo A, Whitney BM, Oren DC  (2000)  Range extensions of birds in southeastern Amazonia.  Wilson Bulletin 112: 137-142

Clements JF, Shany N  (2001)  A Field Guide to the Birds of Peru.  Ibis Publishing, Temecula, California, USA

Herzog SK, Hennessey AB, Kessler M  (2008)  distribution, natural history and conservation status of two endemics of the Bolivian Yungas: Bolivian Recurvebill Simoxenops striatus and Yungas Antwren Myrmotherula griseaBird Conservation International 18: 331-348

Kratter AW  (1997)  Bamboo specialization by Amazonian birds.  Biotropica 29: 100-110

Kratter AW  (1998)  The nests of two bamboo specialists: Celeus spectabilis and Cercomacra manuJournal of Field Ornithology 69: 37-44

Lane DF, Servat GP, Valqui-H T, Lambert FR  (2007)  A distinctive new species of tyrant flycatcher (Passeriformes: Tyrannidae: Cnipodectes) from southeastern Peru.  Auk 124: 762-772

Lebbin DJ  (2006)  Notes on birds consuming Guadua bamboo seeds.  Ornitologia Neotropical 17: 609-612

Parker TA, III.  (1982)  Observations of some unusual rainforest and marsh birds in southeastern Peru.  Wilson Bulletin 94: 477-493

Parker TA, III., Remsen JV, Jr.  (1987)  Fifty-two Amazonian bird species new to Bolivia.  Bulletin of the British Ornithological Club 107: 94-107

Parker TA, III, Stotz DF, Fitzpatrick JW.  (1997)  Notes on avian bamboo specialists in southwestern Amazonian Brazil.  Ornithological Monographs 48: 543-547

Pierpoint N, Fitzpatrick JW  (1983)  Specific status and behavior of Cymbilaimus santaemariae, the Bamboo Antshrike, from southeastern Peru.  Auk 100: 645-652

Ridgely RS, Tudor G  (1989)  The Birds of South America, Volume 1, the Oscine Passerines.  Oxford University Press, UK

Ridgely RS, Tudor G  (1994)  The Birds of South America, Volume 2, the Suboscine Passerines.  Oxford University Press, UK

Terborgh JW, Fitzpatrick JW, Emmons L  (1984)  Annotated checklist of bird and mammal species of Cocha Cashu Biological Station, Manu National Park, Peru.  Fieldiana, Zoology, New Series, No. 21

Zimmer KJ, Parker III TA, Isler ML, Isler PR  (1997)  Survey of a Southern Amazonian Avifauna: the Alta Floresta Region, Mato Grosso, Brazil.  Ornithological Monographs 48: 887-918

Information about this Review

This review is also available in the following languages:  

Portuguese    Spanish

Photograph at top of page: A grove of Guadua bamboo in Colombia by Laura Vásquez Roa (Bogotá).

The author is:  Dr. Paul D. Haemig (Sweden)

The proper citation is:

Haemig PD  2012   Amazonian Birds Associated with Bamboo.  ECOLOGY.INFO 7.

If you are aware of any important scientific publications that were omitted from this review, or have other suggestions for improving it, please contact the author at his e-mail address: 

director {at} ecology.info

© Copyright 2002-2012 Ecology Online Sweden.  All rights reserved.

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