Dusky tapaculo (Scytalopus fuscus)

Dusky tapaculo perched on a rock
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Dusky tapaculo fact file

Dusky tapaculo description

GenusScytalopus (1)

With its dark plumage and secretive behaviour, the dusky tapaculo is an inconspicuous bird (3). Nevertheless, it can be readily identified by its rapid, trilling call which the famous naturalist Charles Darwin described as “loud and strange” (4). The plumage is mostly dark grey, becoming darker on the crown and paler on the underparts. The lower back and rump are tinged with brown, and the flanks may occasionally be marked with black barring. In keeping with the dark plumage, the bill is blackish, while, in contrast, the feet and legs are pink (2). The wings are short and rounded, and the tail is long (5) and held at an upward angle (4).

Length: 11 cm (2)

Dusky tapaculo biology

Like most tapaculos this species feeds on insects and other invertebrates (5) (6). Its relatively short, rounded wings permit only brief, weak flights, and so it spends much of the day foraging on the ground (5).

Nesting takes place between October and November (7), at which time the dusky tapaculo excavates a tunnel over half a metre long through the dense undergrowth at the side of a stream. At the end of the tunnel, a globe shaped nest is constructed from root fibres and moss, and lined with horse hair. The nest is accessed by an opening in the side and a clutch of two to three eggs is deposited within (2).


Dusky tapaculo range

The dusky tapaculo is endemic to central Chile, occurring from southern Atacama, south to Bío Bío. It is found from sea level up to elevations of at least 800 metres (2).


Dusky tapaculo habitat

The dusky tapaculo is most commonly found in dense woodland and shrubland undergrowth (3), usually at the bottom of a ravine or valley (2) (3).


Dusky tapaculo status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Dusky tapaculo threats

Although not currently considered to be globally threatened (1), much of the dusky tapaculo’s habitat has been destroyed, leaving the remaining areas fragmented (2). As deforestation continues, this species faces an uncertain future (2).


Dusky tapaculo conservation

The dusky tapaculo receives a degree of protection due to its presence in La Campana Peñuelas Biosphere Reserve. Nevertheless, in light of the wide scale habitat destruction occurring elsewhere within its range, ongoing monitoring should be undertaken to ensure that any significant decline in this species’ population is quickly detected (2).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

To learn more about conservation initiatives in Chile visit:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:



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: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk


A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Animals with no backbone.


  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2009)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2003) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 8: Broadbills to Tapaculos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Ridgely, R.S. and Tudor, G. (1994) The Birds of South America, Volume 11: The Suboscine Passerines. The University of Texas Press, Austin.
  4. Gould, J. and Darwin, C.R. (1839) Birds Part 3 No. 4 of The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle. Smith Elder and Co, London. Available at:
  5. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  6. Reid, S., Cornelius, C., Barbosa, O., Meynard, C., Silva-García, C. and Marquet, P.A. (2002) Conservation of temperate forest birds in Chile: implications from the study of an isolated forest relict. Biodiversity and Conservation, 11: 1975 - 1990.
  7. Aves De Chile (May, 2009)

Image credit

Dusky tapaculo perched on a rock  
Dusky tapaculo perched on a rock

© Pablo A. Caceres C.

Pablo A. Caceres C.


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