Birds of the World



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Passeriformes, New World Suboscines - Furnarioidea
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Families: Antbirds, Ovenbirds, Woodcreepers, Ground Antbirds, Gnateaters, Tapaculos
Barred Antshrike, Dark-bellied Cincloides, Chucao Tapaculo
  Order Passeriformes - Perching Birds
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  Most passerines are smaller and less massive than members of non-passerine orders. They have a perching foot with three toes directed forward and one backward with locking tendons to facilitate perching when their tendons are flexed. All passerines scratch by bringing the foot over the wing. Incubation ranges from 11 -21 days. Young are altricial - they hatch blind with little or no down - and nidicolous - spending 10-15 days or so in the nest. Subsequent development is rapid and young approach adult mass at fledging. Parents provide care beyond fledging.
  Superfamily Furnarioidea - Tracheophones
The "Tracheophones" have a single syrinx located in the trachea. Their stapes is expanded.
   Sibley and Monroe (1990) place the ovenbirds and woodcreepers in the family Furnariidae. Following more general practice they are treated as separate families.
  Family Thamnophilidae - Typical Antbirds, Antshrikes
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  188 (212) species, 45 genera (Sibley and Monroe, 1990, Clements, 2007). Harris lists 206 species in 46 genera. Neotropical - Southern Mexico to northern Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru (absent west of the Andes and in Patagonia). Greatest diversity found in Amazonia. The name comes from the birds found in 7 genera that forage by following army ant swarms as they flush insects and other prey (Pithys, Gymnopithys, Pyriglena, Rhegmatorhina, Phlegopsis, Phaenosticus, Skutchia). [See Army ants.]
   Relatively small to medium birds with an array of proportions and features. Most have a long, slender bill with a tooth and a hooked tip. In three species, the bill is stout and upturned - used to pry open prey. Some have bare skin on the face (ant-followers). Some have facial bristles. The plumage is soft. Most are cryptically colored. Many have erectile crests. Most are vocal. They are found in a variety of habitats in the Amazonian rain forest and species are partitioned by habitat, stratum, and substrate - often in close proximity. Most are solitary - some occur in mixed species flocks. A few forage on the forest floor but most are arboreal.
    They feed mainly on insects and other arthropods and some small vertebrates, often relatively large for their size.
   Their syrinx has 1 pair of intrinsic muscles and the sternum is 2-notched.
   Presumed to be monogamous and most pair for life. Both sexes work on the nest. Nests vary from shallow open cups to a deeper purse supported by or suspended from a branch. Others may be domed. They lay 1-2 eggs. Incubation appears to be 14-20 days and young are altricial. They fledge in 8-15 days. Post-fledging care may last for up to 3 months - each parent cares for one chick. More information on reproduction is needed.
  Barred Antshrike, Thanmophilus doliatus  
Barred Antshrike
  Barred Antshrike

Barred Antshrike

  Male                                                   Blue Waters Inn, Speyside, Tobago                                  Females Gamboa Rainforest Resort, Panama

Photos by Ed Konrad
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  Family Furnariidae - Ovenbirds
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  231 species, 53 genera (Sibley and Monroe, 1990). 294 species (Clements, 2007) - includes Woodcreepers in this family (about 244 species without them). Harris lists 236 species in 55 genera. Central Mexico south through South America to Tierra del Fuego and the Falklands.
   Ovenbirds are a diverse Neotropical family named for the dome-shaped nests some construct. A current arrangement (Wiki) of species divides the family into several subfamilies:

   Subfamily Sclerurinae - miners and leaf-tossers
   Subfamily Dendrocopaptinae - woodcreepers, including Xenops and true woodcreepers (separate family, below)
   Subfamily Furnariinae - horneros, including the palmcreeper, foliage-gleaners, treerunners and barbtails, true ovenbirds, and spinetails
      (including tit-spinetails, thornbirds, the Firewood-gatherer, Lark-like Brushruner, and canasteros) - a terrestrial group. Foliage-gleaners are
      more robust foliage gleaners of the forest. Spinetails are small often with long, oddly shaped tails.
   (plus a number of species with undetermined placement)

   Ovenbirds are relatively small birds with similar sexes. Most are cryptically colored. The family as a whole varies widely with species ecologically resembling tits, warblers, larks, thrashers, jays, nuthatches, woodcreepers, and woodpeckers.
   Representatives are found in all habitats from sea level to the high Andes. They have straight or decurved bills, stiff rectrices, and strong feet. Most are arboreal, some are scansorial, and a few are terrestrial. Most are secretive. They have loud and unmusical songs - a few have more complex songs and pairs may sing duets. They feed on insects and other invertebrates. Some take some seeds and fruit (rarely).
   Breeding biology is relatively unknown. Nests may be one of three types: an adobe oven (mud and straw), a hanging woven purse, or a domed nest - often elaborate. Some nest in burrows or tree, building a simple cup nest. Both sexes share duties and nest-helpers are present in a few species. They lay 1-6 eggs and have 1-2 clutches. Incubation lasts 14-22 days. Fledging occurs in 9-29 days. Parents may continue to attend their young for another month (and independent young may stay in their parent's territory for several months).
   Members of this family share a unique syringeal morphology. They have two pairs of intrinsic muscles (other furnariids have either one pair or no intrinsic muscles).
Dark-bellied Cincloides

Dark-bellied Cinclodes, Cinclodes patagonicus. Estaquilla, Chile
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Nesting burrows used by cinclodes.
Estaquilla, Patagonia, Chile

Nest holes
Yellow-chinned Spinetail

Yellow-chinned Spinetail
Certhiaxis cinnamomeus
Asa Wright Nature Center, Trinidad
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Photo by Ed Konrad

  Family Dendrocolaptidae - Woodcreepers
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  49 species, 13 genera (Sibley and Monroe, 1990).Dickinson (2003) and Harris (2009) list 50 species in 13 genera. The western mountains of Mexico south to northern Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru. Missing west of the Andes and in Patagonia. Birds of Neotropical forests. This family has been merged into the Furnariidae based on recent genetic analyses. Their unique ventral feather tracts, skull structure, ossified leg tendons and foot morphology, however, sets them apart as an identifiable group.
   Woodcreepers are scansorial. They are larger than ovenbirds and are olive or rufous brown with streaks or bars. The shafts of the tail feathers are stiff and most forage like creepers or woodpeckers. The tips are decurved in most species to provide bracing against surfaces. Sexes are basically alike. Bill structure is highly variable - ranging from short and wedge-shaped to short and delicate to stout and powerful and long-straight or long-decurved. Most have a slender body with broad, rounded wings. Most are arboreal and vocal. They feed largely on arthropods; a few may take small vertebrates and rarely fruit or seeds.
   Most are monogamous and both sexes contribute (most Dendrocincla woodcreepers are polygynous). One species, the Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Dendrocincla tyrannina, forms leks on the top of ridges. Nests are usually in a cavity, vine tangle, termite nest, or even human structures. They lay 1-3 eggs. Incubation lasts 14-21 days. Young fledge at 18-25 days and may remain with their parents for a few months (small species) to a year (larger species).
  Antbirds, Gnateaters, Tapaculos. The following three families have a distinctive syrinx with either no or one pair of intrinsic muscles and a 4-notched sternum. Their organization is in flux - all could be merged into the Formicariidae or all could remain separate families (with Grallaria, the typical antpitta split into another family? Stay tuned:
  Family Formicariidae - Ground Antbirds
   (Antthrushes and Antpittas)
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  56 (63-62) species, 7 genera. Neotropical. The Antpittas (Pittasoma) may belong in the Conophagidae (Wiki)
   These are terrestrial or semi-terrestrial birds living in dense forest undergrowth. Males and females are generally alike. All have a compact body, rounded wings, long legs and a relatively large head and eyes. Antthrushes are small with a short narrow bill and a horizontal posture. Antthrushes (Formicarius, Chamaeza) are small to medium-sized with a shorter tail which may be cocked. They have an upright posture and they walk like starlings. Antpittas (Grallaria, Hylopezus, Mymothera, Grallaricula) resemble true pittas (short tail, hop like thrushes, and are easier to hear than see)   Rictal bristles are present in most genera. The bill is often hooked and swollen The sternum is 4-notched in ground-dwelling species and lacks a keel. Most are territorial and solitary (Fomicarius antthrushes  roost communally during the non-breeding season). Like many secretive species, their songs are loud. Most sing from a perch or on the ground. They feed on insects and other arthropods and small vertebrates (and some fruit). They are found in humid forests, dry-stunted growth forests, and isolated montane scrub habitats.
   Most are monogamous, some remain paired all year. Nests are a small cup (one species may use the nest of other species). They lay 2 eggs. Both sexes incubate for 16-20 days and chicks fledge in 13-20 days.
  Family Conopophagidae - Gnateaters
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     Small long-legged birds with short rounded wings, brown and gray plumage and a white ear patch. All are sexually dichromatic. They forage in thick understory and leaf-litter. They often flick their wings while feeding (and if alarmed). They eat a variety of arthropods. Feeding involves perching above the forest floor to spot food, then pouncing on it and returning to the perch. Alternatively they may glean insects directly from foliage and branches. Their palate is schizognathous and the sternum 4-notched.
   They are probably monogamous and remain paired all year. Breeding biology is little known. They build a cup nest, often near the ground. They lay 2 eggs and parents may share in incubation. Young may stay with their parents for several months after fledging.
  Family Rhinocryptidae - Tapaculos, Crescent-chests
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  28 (58) species,12 genera. Harris (2009) lists 55 species. They range from Costa Rica to Patagonia and from sea level to the high Andes. The larger crescent-chests may belong with the antbirds (Thamnophilidae)
   Tapaculos are small, brownish ground-living birds. Sexes look alike (bristlefonts, Merulaxis, are dimorphic). They have loud voices but are cryptic and very hard to see. They tend to run rather than fly and avoid crossing open areas. They have a large nostril and operculum (partially covering the nasal opening) and the sternum is 4-notched. Their bill is relatively short and pointed. The syrinx has 1 intrinsic muscle (lacking in one species).
   Tapaculos are highly territorial and are found in moist montane forests or other habitats with dense vegetation. They feed on insects and other ground-dwelling invertebrates (species in southern temperate forests also take seeds and berries - Chucao Tapaculo, below).
   Species appear to be monogamous. Nests are often placed in a tunnel in a bank. At least two species nest above ground and one nests in a tree-cavity, often relatively high in a tree. Clutch sized are 2-3 eggs.
Chucao Tapaculo
Chucao Tapaculo, Scelorchilus rubecula.
A bird of temperate forests. Olivillo, Old
Growth Forest. The Cliffs, Chile
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    Banner - Patagonian Coast. Estaquilla, Chile.