Blackish cinclodes (Cinclodes antarcticus)

Also known as: tussac bird, tussock bird, tussockbird
GenusCinclodes (1)
SizeLength: 19 - 20 cm (2)

The blackish cinclodes is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

A small, sturdily-built passerine, the blackish cinclodes (Cinclodes antarcticus) is renowned for its inquisitive behaviour and astonishing tameness (2) (3) (4) (5). It is a drab, sooty-brown bird overall, often slightly paler on the throat (5) (6).

Two subspecies of blackish cinclodes are recognised, Cinclodes antarcticus antarcticus and Cinclodes antarcticus maculirostris. The nominate subspecies C. a. antarcticus is smaller and darker than C. a. maculirostris (2) (5) (6), with a faint red-tinged patch on the wing (2) (7). C. a. maculirostris is more smoky brown, but slightly darker on the underwing coverts, with a short, heavy black bill that has a noticeable pale to yellow area at the base of the lower mandible (2) (6) (8).    

The blackish cinclodes’ song, given in flight or when perched, is a loud series of sharp staccato notes which are interspersed with more musical trills (2) (5).

The blackish cinclodes is found in Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands (1) (5). The subspecies Cinclodes antarcticus antarcticus is restricted to the Falkland Islands, where it is occurs mainly on predator-free islands (3) (4). Cinclodes antarcticus maculirostris is found in the extreme south of Chile and Argentina, in Tierra del Fuego (2) (5) (7).

Generally found along rocky coasts and gravelly beaches (2) (5) (6), the blackish cinclodes regularly occurs where seals and sea lions haul out of the water and at colonies of nesting seabirds (2) (6) (7). It also occurs in grassy areas and occasionally near human settlements (6), up to elevations of 100 metres (7).

The blackish cinclodes is unusual in that it is one of very few passerine birds that are restricted to the coast (7). It feeds around the rocky intertidal zone, in shoreline seaweed and kelp mats (Macrocystis spp.) (5) (7). It also feeds among tussock-grass (Poa flabellata) in peaty soil near the sea (7). The blackish cinclodes forages primarily for insects and other small marine invertebrates (2) (5), and has also been known to take food from humans on the Falkland Islands (7).

Breeding begins around October, when one to three white eggs are laid in a small, cup-shaped nest of grass, which is typically placed in a burrow, an abandoned petrel nest, in a hole in a bank, in a rock crevice, or under dense vegetation (2) (3) (4). A second clutch is often laid by the blackish cinclodes between December and January (3) (4).

Although the blackish cinclodes is fairly common throughout its range, its population is suspected to be in decline due to predation by invasive species (1) (9). As such, this species is now restricted to islands and areas where introduced rats and cats are not present (1) (4) (6). Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands have also been heavily affected by grazing livestock and introduced herbivores that have destroyed the natural tussock grass habitat in which the blackish cinclodes forages (10).

There are currently no specific conservation measures targeted at the blackish cinclodes (1).

Find out more about the blackish cinclodes and other birds:

Find out more about conservation on the Falklands Islands:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
  2. Ridgely, R.S., Tudor, G. and Brown, W.L. (1994) The Birds of South America: The Suboscine Passerines. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.
  3. Falkland Islands - Blackish cinclodes (March, 2011)
  4. - Blackish cinclodes (March, 2011)
  5. Ridgely, R.S. and Tudor, G. (2009) Field Guide to the Songbirds of South America: The Passerines. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.
  6. Schulenberg, T.S. (2010) Blackish Cinclodes (Cinclodes antarcticus). In: Neotropical Birds Online. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca. Available at:
  7. Chesser, R.T. (2004) Systematics, evolution, and biogeography of the South American ovenbird genus Cinclodes. The Auk, 121(3): 752-766.
  8. Chester, S.R. (2008) A Wildlife Guide to Chile. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
  9. BirdLife International - Blackish cinclodes (March, 2011)
  10. World Wildlife: Patagonian grasslands (March, 2011)