Melanopareiidae – Crescent-chests

Collared Crescentchest Melanopareia torquata ©Will Price Website

The Melanopareiidae family, or Crescentchests in the vernacular, are a family of birds from South America. The genus has long been placed with the tapaculos in the Rhinocryptidae family. Their placement there has been questioned and in 2007 the genus was placed in its own family, Melanopareiidae by the South American Classification Committee, it has since been split from the Tapaculos by DNA sequencing (2009).

They range in length from 14 to 16 cm and in weight from 16 to 23 g. They have relatively long tails compared to the tapaculos. The plumage is striking with a distinctive band across the chest that gives the group their name.

They are birds of arid scrub and generally forage on the ground, but their diet has not yet been recorded. Two species, the Collared Crescentchest and Olive-crowned Crescentchest, are widely distributed across central and southern Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and northern Argentina, whilst the other two species have a more restricted distribution in Peru and Ecuador.

Little is known about the behaviour of the crescentchests. The only species about which anything is known about the breeding behaviour is the Olive-crowned Crescentchest. It is a seasonal breeder. Its nest is a 15 cm high cup made of vegetable fibres and palm fronds, hidden in grasses or low shrubs close to the ground. The clutch size is two to three eggs, the eggs are white with blotches or black spots.

No species of crescentchest is considered by the IUCN to be threatened by human activities, but the Marañón Crescentchest is listed as near threatened. Although the species is apparently tolerant of some disturbance it has a tiny global range and is uncommon even within that range.

Species List

It is a small group with just four species set out below:

Collared Crescent-chest Melanopareia torquata
Olive-crowned Crescent-chest Melanopareia maximiliani
Marañón Crescent-chest Melanopareia maranonica
Elegant Crescent-chest Melanopareia elegans

Species Links
  • Collared Crescent-chest Melanopareia torquata

    HBW Species Account
    axonomy: Synallaxis torquatus Wied, 1831, Campo Geral of inner Brazil = campos on the Bahia-Minas Gerais border, east Brazil. Genus differs considerably from other members of family, though shows certain structural similarities with Teledromas (see Family Text). Race bitorquata has been treated by some authors as a dark variant of rufescens. Three subspecies recognized.
  • Collared Crescent-chest Melanopareia torquata

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map
  • Collared Crescent-chest Melanopareia torquata

    Species Account
    Melanopareia torquata is a species of bird in the Melanopareiidae family. It is found in the Cerrado to northeastern Bolivia and northern Paraguay.
  • Collared Crescent-chest Melanopareia torquata

    Cornell Species Account
    Collared Crescentchest is a characteristic bird of the cerrado, especially in relatively open, grassy cerrado with a scattering of bushes or low trees. Crescentchests forage on or near the ground, solitarily or in pairs, where they are difficult to observe; but males often sing from an elevated perch.
  • Elegant Crescentchest Melanopareia elegans

    HBW Species Account
  • Elegant Crescentchest Melanopareia elegans

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map
  • Elegant Crescentchest Melanopareia elegans

    Species Account
    The elegant crescentchest (Melanopareia elegans) is a species of bird in the Melanopareiidae family. It is found in Ecuador and Peru. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical dry forests.
  • Elegant Crescentchest Melanopareia elegans

    Cornell Species Account
    The Elegant Crescentchest is one of four species in the Melanopareidae of South America. Traditionally placed with the tapaculos taxonomically, the crescentchests are now not thought to be closely allied with that group.
  • Marañón Crescentchest Melanopareia maranonica

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Melanopareia maranonicus Chapman, 1924, Perico, Río Chinchipe, north Peru. Genus differs considerably from other members of family, though shows certain structural similarities with Teledromas (see Family Text). May form a superspecies with M. elegans. Vocally very similar to latter, and sometimes considered conspecific, but is proportionally longer-tailed, with distinct plumage pattern, and geographically isolated. Monotypic.
  • Marañón Crescentchest Melanopareia maranonica

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map
  • Marañón Crescentchest Melanopareia maranonica

    Species Account
    The Marañón crescentchest (Melanopareia maranonica) is a species of bird in the Melanopareiidae family. It is found in the Andes of far southern Ecuador and northern Peru.
  • Marañón Crescentchest Melanopareia maranonica

    Cornell Species Account
    Marañon Crescentchest is a tiny songbird, endemic to the Marañón Valley of northwestern Peru and southern Ecuador. This species is olive above and tawny below, with a dark chest band and a boldly striped black and buff head.
  • Olive-crowned Crescentchest Melanopareia maximiliani

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Synallaxis Maximiliani d’Orbigny, 1835, summit of Mount Biscachal, near Carcuata, Yungas of La Paz, Bolivia. Genus differs considerably from other members of family, though shows certain structural similarities with Teledromas (see Family Text). Race pallida, differing vocally from others, is possibly a separate species. Racial affinities of birds from C Bolivian Yungas in Cochabamba uncertain; tentatively included in race argentina. Three subspecies currently recognized.
  • Olive-crowned Crescentchest Melanopareia maximiliani

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map
  • Olive-crowned Crescentchest Melanopareia maximiliani

    Species Account
    The olive-crowned crescentchest (Melanopareia maximiliani) is a species of bird in the Melanopareiidae family. It is found in Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay.
  • Olive-crowned Crescentchest Melanopareia maximiliani

    Cornell Species Account
    All crescentchests are sharp looking species, and they now are considered to comprise a family separate from other suboscine passerines. This distinctiveness is clear based on their striking plumage, as well as their vocalizations.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 4

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