Rufous-capped spinetail (Synallaxis ruficapilla)

Adult rufous-capped spinetail
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Rufous-capped spinetail fact file

Rufous-capped spinetail description

GenusSynallaxis (1)

First collected and described by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle (3), the rufous-capped spinetail is named for its bright orange-brown crown, which is bordered by a buff ‘eyebrow’ streak and dusky-coloured cheeks (2) (4). The rest of the upperparts are mainly brown, more reddish-brown on the wings and on the tail, which is strongly graduated and typical of the Synallaxis genus. The chin and throat are whitish-grey, becoming grey on the upper breast, and paler buffy-brown on the belly, sides and flanks (2) (4). The beak is dark, and the legs and feet greenish-grey. The male and female rufous-capped spinetail are similar in appearance, while the juvenile has a much duller crown, and underparts that are washed yellow or brownish (2).

Length: 13 - 17 cm (2)
12 - 16 g (2)

Rufous-capped spinetail biology

The rufous-capped spinetail is usually seen in pairs, and often joins mixed-species flocks (2) (4). Most foraging takes place in the understorey, with the prey, thought to be arthropods, probably gleaned from foliage and small branches, mainly within a metre or two of the ground (2). Like other members of the genus, this species often draws attention to itself by its frequently given vocalisations. The song of the rufous-capped spinetail is a fast, somewhat nasal di-di-di-di-reét, often repeated for long periods and often given between the members of a breeding pair (2) (4). The alarm call is a distinctive, low-pitched trill (2).

The rufous-capped spinetail is thought to be monogamous, and breeds during the spring and summer, building a relatively large nest of up to 40 centimetres in length. The nest is placed around 1 to 2.5 metres above the ground, amongst dense vegetation, and is constructed from a mass of sticks, which are usually thorny. The entrance is a tunnel which leads to the nest chamber. Clutch size is two to three eggs (2).


Rufous-capped spinetail range

The rufous-capped spinetail is found in southeastern Brazil, eastern Paraguay, northeastern Argentina, and Uruguay, at elevations of up to at least 1,400 metres (2) (4) (5).


Rufous-capped spinetail habitat

The rufous-capped spinetail usually inhabits evergreen forest and secondary forest, where it is typically found in the undergrowth and along the forest edge, and is particularly common in thickets of Chusquea bamboo (2) (4).


Rufous-capped spinetail status

The rufous-capped spinetail is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Rufous-capped spinetail threats

Relatively little is known about the rufous-capped spinetail (2), and there is little information available on its conservation status. However, it is not currently thought to be globally threatened, and still has a large range and a presumed large population (5).


Rufous-capped spinetail conservation

The rufous-capped spinetail occurs in a number of protected areas throughout its range, including Itatiaia and Serra dos Órgãos National Parks, Serra do Mar State Park, and Augusto Ruschi Biological Reserve in Brazil, and in Iguazú National Park and Urugua-í Provincial Park in Argentina (2). There are no specific conservation measures reported for this species.

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

Find out more

To find out more about the rufous-capped spinetail see:



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A very diverse phylum (a major grouping of animals) that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
Evergreen forest
Forest consisting mainly of evergreen trees, which retain leaves all year round. This is in contrast to deciduous trees, which completely lose their leaves for part of the year.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
Secondary forest
Forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.


  1. IUCN Red List (June, 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. Gould, J. and Darwin, C.R. (1839) Birds Part 3 No. 4 of The Zoology of the Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle. Smith Elder and Co, London. Available at:
  4. Ridgely, R.S. and Tudor, G. (1994) The Birds of South America: The Suboscine Passerines. Volume II. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.
  5. BirdLife International (June, 2009)

Image credit

Adult rufous-capped spinetail  
Adult rufous-capped spinetail

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