Rhinocryptidae – Tapaculos

Chucao Tapaculo celorchilus rubecula ©James Lowen Website

The Rhinocryptidae are a passerine family of tapaculos and allies that are small suboscine passeriform birds with numerous species, found mainly in South America and with the highest diversity in the Andean regions. Three species (Chocó, Tacarcuna, and the Silvery-fronted) are found in southern Central America.

They are small to medium-sized birds, with a total length ranging from 10cm to 24cm. These are terrestrial species that fly only poorly on their short wings. They have strong legs, well-suited to their habitat of grassland or forest undergrowth. The tail is cocked and pointed towards the head, and the name tapaculo possibly derives from Spanish for ‘cover your behind’. Another possible explanation is that White-throated Tapaculo, or simply tapaculo, which is an onomatopoeic reference to its commonly heard song.

While the majority of the family are small blackish or brown birds there are some larger and more colourful species. All tapaculos are skulking birds that frequently stay low in dense vegetation, even the larger, colourful species, and this renders them difficult to see. They are best located and – in the case of Scytalopus spp. – identified by their vocalisations.

They feed on insects, seeds and other soft plant material with their pointy bills, and will scratch on the ground like a pheasant.

Most species lay two or three white eggs in a covered location, whether it be a burrow, a hole in a tree, or a domed nest.

Some species have highly localised distributions, and being poor fliers, they easily become isolated in small populations. BirdLife International currently (2007) consider one species vulnerable Scytalopus panamensis, three species endangered (S. iraiensis, S. rodriguezi, S. robbinsi), and two species critically endangered Eleoscytalopus psychopompus & Merulaxis stresemanni. The two critically endangered species are restricted to Atlantic forest of eastern Brazil, and were only recently rediscovered after several years without any records.

Species List

According to the IOC there are 59 species in this family; they are:

Ocellated Tapaculo Acropternis orthonyx

Chestnut-throated Huet-huet Pteroptochos castaneus
Black-throated Huet-huet Pteroptochos tarnii
Moustached Turca Pteroptochos megapodius

White-throated Tapaculo Scelorchilus albicollis
Chucao Tapaculo Scelorchilus rubecula

Crested Gallito Rhinocrypta lanceolata

Sandy Gallito Teledromas fuscus

Rusty-belted Tapaculo Liosceles thoracicus

Spotted Bamboowren Psilorhamphus guttatus

Slaty Bristlefront Merulaxis ater
Stresemann’s Bristlefront Merulaxis stresemanni

Ochre-flanked Tapaculo Eugralla paradoxa

Ash-colored Tapaculo Myornis senilis

White-breasted Tapaculo Eleoscytalopus indigoticus
Bahia Tapaculo Eleoscytalopus psychopompus

Marsh Tapaculo Scytalopus iraiensis
Mouse-colored Tapaculo Scytalopus speluncae
Boa Nova Tapaculo Scytalopus gonzagai
Rock Tapaculo Skytalopus petrophilus
Planalto Tapaculo Scytalopus pachecoi
Brasilia Tapaculo Scytalopus novacapitalis
Bolivian White-crowned Tapaculo Scytalopus bolivianus
Northern White-crowned Tapaculo Scytalopus atratus
Santa Marta Tapaculo Scytalopus sanctaemartae
Rufous-vented Tapaculo Scytalopus femoralis
Long-tailed Tapaculo Scytalopus micropterus
Narino Tapaculo Scytalopus vicinior
El Oro Tapaculo Scytalopus robbinsi
Choco Tapaculo Scytalopus chocoensis
Magdalena Tapaculo Scytalopus rodriguezi
Stiles’s Tapaculo Scytalopus stilesi
Tacarcuna Tapaculo Scytalopus panamensis
Silvery-fronted Tapaculo Scytalopus argentifrons
Caracas Tapaculo Scytalopus caracae
Merida Tapaculo Scytalopus meridanus
Brown-rumped Tapaculo Scytalopus latebricola
Perija Tapaculo Skytalopus perijanus
Spillmann’s Tapaculo Scytalopus spillmanni
Chusquea Tapaculo Scytalopus parkeri
Trilling Tapaculo Scytalopus parvirostris
Tschudi’s Tapaculo Scytalopus acutirostris
Unicolored Tapaculo Scytalopus unicolor
Pale-bellied (Matorral) Tapaculo Scytalopus griseicollis
Paramillo Tapaculo Scytalopus canus
Paramo Tapaculo Scytalopus canus
Ancash Tapaculo Scytalopus affinis
Neblina Tapaculo Scytalopus altirostris
Vilcabamba Tapaculo Scytalopus urubambae
Diademed Tapaculo Scytalopus schulenbergi
Puna Tapaculo Scytalopus simonsi
Zimmer’s Tapaculo Scytalopus zimmeri
White-browed Tapaculo Scytalopus superciliaris
Magellanic Tapaculo Scytalopus magellanicus
Dusky Tapaculo Scytalopus fuscus
Blackish Tapaculo Scytalopus latrans
Junin Tapaculo Scytalopus gettyae
Large-footed Tapaculo Scytalopus macropus
Diamantina Tapaculo Scytalopus diamantinensis

Species Links
  • Chucao Tapaculo Scelorchilus rubecula

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Chucao Tapaculo Scelorchilus rubecula

    Species Account
    The chucao tapaculo is a species of bird in the Rhinocryptidae family. It is found in central Chile and adjacent Argentina; it has also been spotted in the Magallanes Province. Its natural habitat is temperate forests.
  • Chucao Tapaculo Scelorchilus rubecula

    Cornell Species Account
    The Chucao Tapaculo is a charismatic bird representative of the temperate forests of Chile and Argentina.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 59

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