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Tropical Residents

Tropical Residents of High Tri-National Concern 

• 80 nonmigratory species

• 83% listed under Mexico’s endangered species legislation

This group includes primarily tropical species with broad geographic distributions that are highly threatened in their tri-national range. Because nearly half are members of bird families characteristic of the New World tropics (e.g., trogons, motmots, woodcreepers, antbirds, cotingas), this significant tropical avifauna is in danger of disappearing from North America (for details, see Appendix B).

Click image for larger maps

Patterns of geographic distributions among 80 tropical residents of high tri-national concern. Left: 12 species with primarily Mexican distributions; center: 42 species with primarily Mesoamerican distributions; right: 26 species with primarily South American distributions (see Appendix B for listings of species in each group).  

Of these 80 species, 12 have distributions primarily within Mexico (left map above), including Ocellated Turkey, Eared Quetzal, and Red-breasted Chat. An additional 42 species have moderate-sized distributions that extend through Mesoamerica into northern South America (center map above). These include such spectacular birds as the Resplendent Quetzal, Great Curassow, and Lovely Cotinga. The remaining 26 species are widely distributed in South America and reach their most northerly distribution in southern Mexico (right map above). Species in this latter group, such as the Harpy Eagle, Orangebreasted Falcon, and Scarlet Macaw, are flagship species for rainforest conservation throughout their ranges.

More than half of these species are dependent on tropical evergreen forest. These include typical members of insectivorous flocks such as antbirds, woodcreepers, and shriketanagers, as well as specialized fruit-eaters such as the Rufous Piha and Red-capped Manakin, and five species of tropical eagles. Another 23% of species are restricted to tropical highland forest, including cloud-forest specialists such as Fulvous Owl, Resplendent Quetzal, and Azure-hooded Jay. The remaining species, including several Mexican endemics such as Purplish-backed Jay and Eared Quetzal, are dependent on tropical deciduous and Mexican pine-oak forests.


The Resplendent Quetzal (right) is one of the most beautiful birds in the world. It was considered divine and was associated with the "snake god" Quetzalcoatl by Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations. It is one of 80 tropical residents of high tri-national concern.

             LovelyContinga_p13.jpg       RedCappedManakin_p13.jpg

Lovely Cotinga (left) and Red-capped Manakin (right) are specialized fruit-eaters distributed through the tropical evergreen forests of Mesoamerica.

Photos above by John Dicus and Gerry Dewaghe. Quetzal by Fulvio Eccardi 





Once covering 9.8 million hectares from
southern Tamaulipas through the Yucatan
Peninsula and Chiapas, only 14% of the
primary tropical evergreen forest remains
Photo by Chris Wood

The primary threats to these tropical forest birds are logging of mature forest and habitat conversion for agriculture and livestock production. Plantations, such as sun coffee and bananas that remove a high proportion of native forest cover, significantly reduce the value of these habitats to high-concern tropical forest birds. Although many of these species extend southward into Central America, populations in those areas face similar habitat loss. Because agriculture and livestock production in these regions are often tied to subsistence living, we cannot resolve these threats to habitats unless we address the socio-economic need to support local human communities with limited resources. In addition to the primary threat of habitat loss, nearly a third of these high-concern tropical forest species are threatened by unsustainable hunting, shooting, or trapping for the bird trade. This is especially detrimental for wood-partridges, guans, parrots, and large raptors, including eagles.

Red-breasted Chat (left) and Purplish-backed Jay (right) are endemic to western Mexico and also of high tri-national concern.
Photos by Manuel Grosselet, Marco González


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