Dusky tapaculo (Scytalopus fuscus)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyRhinocryptidae
GenusScytalopus (1)
SizeLength: 11 cm (2)

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

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).

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).

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).

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).

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).

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

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  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:
    http://darwin-online.org.uk
  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)
    http://www.avesdechile.cl/458.htm