The rufous twistwing is a large tyrant flycatcher, characterised by its rich reddish-brown colour and shaggy appearance (3). It also has a broad, flat bill, grey toes and red eyes, although these can appear dark from a distance (4). Male and female rufous twistwings are very similar in appearance, aside from the male being larger in size (3). Young males may also have an initial yellowy-grey plumage before it develops the deep reddish-brown colouration of the adult (3).
This specialised bird is larger than the brownish twistwing (Cnipodectes subbrunneus), the only other species in its genus, and can also be distinguished by its unique bright colour (3) and three types of vocalisations (2)(5).
The rufous twistwing is a somewhat elusive bird, said to have an “erratic” and “slightly floppy” flight style while moving between perches (2). The most common activity to be observed has been an individual perched one to three metres above the ground, making frequent swift flights to catch and feed upon arthropods(3)(6). Individuals are normally silent while foraging for insects, but perform characteristically sluggish wing raises, although the purpose of these is unknown (2)(3).
The difference in size between males and females (2)(3) and the use of vocalisations and displays by males from perches suggests the twistwing may have a polygynous mating system, in which males mate with more than one female (2). It is also thought that during courtship displays, the rufous twistwing uses a specialised set of modified feathers that are able to produce a rattling sound (3)(4), as is the case for similar bird species (2).
All sightings of this species have been from within or close to areas of dense bamboo forest (2), particularly Guadua bamboo (6). It is thought that the rufous twistwing prefers large patches of mature bamboo (at least five metres tall) (2)(3), where it is observed perching just a couple of metres above the ground (2).
The main threat to the rufous twistwing is destruction or fragmentation of its habitat. Although Guadua bamboo is able to re-colonise deforested land (6), it is the older and larger patches of forest that the twistwing prefers (2). Therefore, the twistwing’s population is expected to decline as the habitat is lost or fragmented by activities such as the construction of the Trans-Oceanica Highway between Brazil and Peru (4), land conversion for grazing or biofuel production (6), and the harvesting of bamboo for use as a construction material (4).
Current conservation work aims to monitor the species and further assess the population size and range (6). Two of the thirteen sites where the species has been observed are located in the Manu Biosphere Reserve in Peru (3) and therefore are assured certain levels of habitat protection. Further recommended conservation actions include assessing the relationship between the species and the Guadua habitat to determine the size and maturity of bamboo forest patches required to support this species (6).
A very diverse group of animals that all have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton). Includes crabs, woodlice, insects and spiders.
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.
Animals in which males have more than one female partner.
Tobias, J.A., Lebbin, D.J., Aleixo, A., Andersen, M.J., Guilherme, E., Hosner, P.A. and Seddon, N. (2008) Distribution, behaviour and conservation status of the rufous twistwing (Cnipodectes superrufus). The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 120(1): 38-49.
Lane, D., Servat, G.P., Valqui, H.T. and Lambert, F.R. (2007) A distinctive new species of tyrant flycatcher (Passerifomer: Tyrannidae: Cnipodectes) from south-eastern Peru. The Auk, 124(3): 762-772.
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