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Henicorhina leucoptera

Bar-winged Wood-Wren

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Monotypic

Authors: Schulenberg, Thomas S., and Tom Johnson



Wood-wrens (Henicorhina) are small wrens with very short tails, dark brown upperparts, white or light gray underparts, and black and white streaks on the side of the face. Bar-winged Wood-Wren is a large Henicorhina; its plumage is typical of the genus, but Bar-winged is distinctive because of the white tips to the wing coverts, forming distinct wing bars.

Similar Species

Bar-winged Wood-Wren is sympatric with the widely distributed Gray-breasted Wood-Wren (Henicorhina leucophrys). Bar-winged is larger and longer-billed than Gray-breasted, but is most readily distinguished by the white tips to the wing coverts, forming the white bars on the wing for which the species takes its name. Additionally, Bar-winged Wood-Wren has dingier brown upperparts and whiter underparts, with some gray mottling at the sides of the breast; the sides of the breast of Bar-winged also usually are streaked, this streaking often extending across the center of breast as well. Finally, the two species differ in habitat, with Bar-winged confined to stunted forest on nutrient poor soils, and Gray-breasted Wood-Wren widespread in adjacent taller forest. 


The song of Bar-winged Wood-Wren is described as "a mellow, whistled warbling phrase, usually less complex than Gray-breasted Wood-Wren [Henicorhina leucophrys] (but more so than White-breasted [Henicorhina leucosticta]), and never (?) with high introductory notes. For example: WEEwer-wurdleWEE?" (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2007).

A more complete description of the song of Bar-winged Wood-Wren is provided by Fitzpatrick et al. (1977). The song typically consists of a motif (a rich, warbled phrase) that is repeated in rapid succession for up to 5 s. Usually only a single motif is used in an individual song, but occasional songs include a shift from one repeated phrase to a second one. Two general classes of motifs are used. The standard motif, dubbed Type A by Fitzpatrick et al. (1977), are repeated in rapid succession; this song is similar to that of Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, but is higher and faster with a more ringing quality and more frequent trills. The second type of motifs (Type B) are given only singly or in pairs, and are longer phrases than the type A motifs, beginning or terminating with a trill of varying rapidity. Type B motifs were given after tape playback.

The song of Bar-winged Wood-Wren frequently is given as a duet by a pair (Fitzpatrick et al. 1977, Lane in Schulenberg 2007).

Calls include "a dry tchut, sometimes given in a chattered series, not as rich as call of Gray-breasted [and] a squeaky wink" (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2007), and "a rapid, high-pitched chatter when alarmed" (Fitzpatrick et al. 1977).

Additional recordings of vocalizations of Bar-winged Wood-Wren can be heard at Macaulay Library and at xeno-canto.

Nonvocal Sounds

None reported.

Detailed Description (appearance)

The following description is based on Fitzpatrick et al. (1977), except where noted otherwise:

Adult: Sexes similar. Forecrown and narrow border over supercilium dark gray. Crown light gray-brown, rear crown and upper back dusky. Back dark reddish brown, with a warm reddish cast on lower back, rump and uppertail coverts. Greater and median secondary coverts black, innermost with a brownish tinge, and broadly tipped with white, forming two solid white wingbars; outermost greater secondary covert white on entire outer web. Primary coverts black, tipped white. Primaries almost wholly black, faintly barred dusky, outer three primaries edged white on outer web, forming a bold white border to remiges; secondaries largely black, narrowly barred dark reddish brown on outer webs; innermost secondaries entirely barred brown and black. Rectrices black, finely barred dusky on outer webs and across distal half of central pair. Tail partially graduated, outermost rectrices about 8 mm shorter than adjacent pair and 11 mm shorter than central pair. Lores grizzled white, and continuous with broad white supercilium extending from base of bill to well behind eye, terminating at sides of mantle. Conspicuous white eye-ring, broken with black behind eye. Broad black postocular patch, a few feathers faintly tinged dusky; auriculars, suboculars, and malar region boldly streaked black and white. Broad malar streak black, terminating in a few individual feathers with black flecks on side. Chin, throat, and upper breast nearly white, mottled with pale gray; white of upper breast fading through light gray on sides and anterior flanks; medial flank feathers tinged brown; lower breast white to pale gray. Center of belly white. Faint tinge of light cinnamon on edges of some central breast and belly feathers, becoming a wash of pale cinnamon on lower belly; posterior flanks, crissum, and undertail coverts cinnamon brown; undertail coverts subterminally barred black. Tibial feathers grayish brown.

Immature: Generally brownish, lacking the crisp black and white features of the plumage of the adult. The white of the underparts is reduced, with a few brown feathers scattered throughout the lower breast and belly. The facial pattern is only rudimentary, with the auriculars mottled brown and whitish. The supercilium is present only behind the eye, and lacks the black upper margin. The lores are dark gray, not white. On the wings, only the alula and a few primary coverts are tipped white. The remaining coverts are black, edged and tipped buffy brown. The outer three primaries are edged white as in the adult, however. This plumage was described by Fitzpatrick et al. (1977) as the juvenile plumage, based on a single specimen, but Krabbe and Sornonza (1994: 59) suggest that this specimen may be "partly in its first basic plumage".

Juvenile: Supercilium only faintly indicated. Cheeks dark. Underparts dark; feathers of throat, breast and belly dark gray with dark brown tips, the size of these brown tips increasing posteriorly. Sides of breast and flanks dark brown. Belly and undertail coverts dark cinnamon. No wing bars, but distal edges of the outer webs of the two alula feathers are white. (This description from Krabbe and Sornoza 1994.)

Bare Parts

Iris: dark reddish brown

Bill: maxilla black; mandible black on distal half, pale gray to whitish at base

Tarsus and toes: dark gray

Bare parts color data from Fitzpatrick et al. (1977).


Total length: 11 cm (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001b, Schulenberg et al. 2007)

Linear measurements (figure from Fitzpatrick et al. 1977):


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Geographic Variation



Henicorhina leucoptera was discovered only as recently as 1976, and was described in 1977 (Fitzpatrick et al. 1977). The type locality is the Cordillera del Condor, above San José de Lourdes, Cajarmarca, Peru, 5º 02'S, 78º 51'W, elevation approximately 2,200 m. The type specimen is in the American Museum of Natural History (Fitzpatrick et al. 1977).

Fitzpatrick et al. (1977) suggested that leucoptera was most closely related to Henicorhina leucophrys (Gray-breasted Wood-Wren), based on similarities in morphology, behavior, and habitat associations. Somewhat surprising, then, was the result of survey of genetic variation across Henicorhina, based on a phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequence data (Dingle et al. 2006). Dingle et al. (2006) recovered two major clades of haplotypes in Henicorhina, one corresponding to leucophrys, and the other to haplotypes from leucoptera and Henicorhina leucosticta (White-breasted Wood-Wren). Within the leucosticta-leucoptera clade, leucoptera was sister to two samples of leucosticta from the Chocó; all other samples of leucosticta, from Central America and from the east slope of the Andes, formed a monophyletic clade.

Recommended Citation

Schulenberg, Thomas S., and Tom Johnson. 2012. Bar-winged Wood-Wren (Henicorhina leucoptera), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: