A rare inhabitant of forest understorey in Peru and Ecuador, the grey-headed antbird (Myrmeciza griseiceps) is named for its grey head and neck. The plumage on the back of the grey-headed antbird is olive-brown, apart from a large white patch (2) (3).
The grey-headed antbird has black wing-coverts with bold white fringing, and the dusky tail feathers are also tipped with white (2) (3).
The male and female grey-headed antbird differ in appearance. The breast and lower throat of the male grey-headed antbird are black and the rest of the underparts are grey, while the female grey-headed antbird typically has a pale grey throat and breast (3) (4). The female can also be distinguished from the male by its paler grey head and neck (3).
The song of the grey-headed antbird is a simple, short, descending trill, and it also gives a nasal, querulous ‘scree-squirt’ call when foraging (3).
- Also known as
- gray-headed antbird.
- Length: 13.5 - 14 cm (2)
Grey-headed antbird biology
Little is known about the biology of the grey-headed antbird. Two juvenile grey-headed antbirds were observed in June, suggesting that this species nests between January and May, during the wet season. This is supported by observations that the grey-headed antbird is much more vocal during the wet season (2). Antbirds (species in the Thamnophilidae family) typically construct cup-shaped nests (6).
The diet of the grey-headed antbird has not been studied, but it is believed to eat invertebrates (2). It forages in dense vegetation and vine tangles in the forest understorey, either in pairs or a small family group, often within a mixed flock with other bird species (2) (4).
Grey-headed antbird range
The grey-headed antbird is found on the Pacific slope of the Andes in southwest Ecuador and northwest Peru (5).
Grey-headed antbird habitat
The grey-headed antbird occurs in moist semi-deciduous forest, cloud forest and occasionally deciduous forest, at elevations between 600 and 2,900 metres (2).
Within this forest, the grey-headed antbird inhabits Chusquea bamboo and dense undergrowth, where it typically remains two to four metres above the ground (2) (3).
Grey-headed antbird status
The grey-headed antbird is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).
Grey-headed antbird threats
The already small grey-headed antbird population is believed to be declining rapidly due to habitat loss and degradation (2).
As a result of logging and agricultural conversion (2), much of the forest in northwest Peru and southwest Ecuador has been reduced to small, scattered fragments of forest surrounded by croplands and pasture (7).
The remaining patches of forest are threatened by intense grazing and trampling by goats, cattle and other livestock, which severely damages the understorey inhabited by the grey-headed antbird (2) (3).
In addition, the Chusquea bamboo favoured by the grey-headed antbird is harvested for use as pack-animal food, adding to the degradation of this species’ habitat (2).
Grey-headed antbird conservation
The grey-headed antbird occurs in two protected areas, the El Tundo Nature Reserve in Ecuador (5) and the Bosque Nacional de Tumbes, which is the largest remaining tract of forest in north-western Peru (7).
No specific conservation measures are currently in place for this scarce species, but it has been recommended that a fence should be erected around El Tundo Nature Reserve to exclude livestock (2).
It has also been proposed that areas of suitable habitat should be surveyed for the grey-headed antbird (2). In addition, further research into the grey-headed antbird’s association with bamboo should be undertaken, to determine the importance of bamboo to this species’ conservation (2).
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- Cloud forest
- A tropical mountain forest, with a high incidence of cloud cover throughout the year.
- Deciduous forest
- Forest consisting mainly of deciduous trees, which shed their leaves at the end of the growing season.
- Animals with no backbone, such as insects, worms and spiders.
- Semi-deciduous forest
- Forest consisting mainly of semi-deciduous trees, which lose their foliage for only a very short period.
- Small feathers concealing the bases of larger primary feathers on the wings.
IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
BirdLife International (November, 2010)
Ridgely, R.S. and Tudor, G. (1994) The Birds of South America, Volume 11: The Suboscine Passerines. The University of Texas Press, Austin.
Schulenberg, T.S., Stotz, D.F., Lane, D.F., O’Neill, J.P. and Parker III, T.A. (2007) Birds of Peru. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
Stattersfield, A. (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona and BirdLife International, Cambridge.
Ridgely, R.S. and Tudor, G. (2009) Field Guide to the Songbirds of South America: The Passerines. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.
Parker III, T.A., Schulenberg, T.S., Kessler, M. and Wust, W.H. (1995) Natural history and conservation of the endemic avifauna in north-west Peru. Bird Conservation International, 5: 201-231.