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Cranioleuca henricae

Bolivian Spinetail

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Furnariidae
  • Monotypic

Authors: Schulenberg, Thomas S



Cranioleuca spinetails are small ovenbirds with relatively long, rufous, graduated tails. In behavior, Cranioleuca are more arboreal than Synallaxis spinetails, and more frequently are associated with mixed-species flocks. Bolivian Spinetail has a rufous crown, wings, and tail, but the back is brownish olive. This species also has a distinct white or whitish supercilium. The underparts are pale gray.

Similar Species

There are no similar species within the range of Bolivian Spinetail. The northern end of the distribution of Stripe-crowned Spinetail (Cranioleuca pyrrhophia) overlaps with that of Bolivian Spinetail, although the two species are not known to be syntopic. The crown of Stripe-crowned Spinetail is not rufous, but is striped buff and black, and Stripe-crowned Spinetail has less rufous on the wings (rufous confined to the wing coverts, and not extending onto the remigs). Bolivian Spinetail is more similar in appearance to several species that are highly allopatric, such as Pallid Spinetail (Cranioleuca pallida), Line-cheeked Spinetail (Cranioleuca antisiensis), and Baron's Spinetail (Cranioleuca baroni). Bolivian Spinetail differs from Pallid Spinetail by being slightly larger, darker below, and a more rufous forecrown. Bolivian Spinetail differs from Line-cheeked Spinetail by the slightly more ochraceous upperparts, a more restricted white area on the throat, the presence of more dark streaks on the forecrown, and by a faint dusky wash on the inner web of the central rectrices.


The following descriptions of vocalizations of Bolivian Spinetail are based on Maijer and Fjeldså (1997). The vocalizations of this species are very similar to those of related species, such as Crested Spinetail (Cranioleuca subcristata), Line-cheeked Spinetail (Cranioleuca antisiensis), Baron's Spinetail (Cranioleuca baroni), Creamy-crested Spinetail (Cranioleuca albicapilla), and Stripe-crowned Spinetail (Cranioleuca pyrrhophia) (Maijer and Fjeldså 1997).

The most frequently heard vocalization of Bolivian Spinetail is the short song, which is "a bouncy, accelerating and descending series, lasting from 1 s to 2.5 s, rarely up to 3.8 s". The first notes in the series are the loudest. This song may be given for long periods, at intervals of only a few seconds (ca 4-8 s).

The long song, which often is given as a duet, is an "irregular and fast series ... from 3.5-13.5 s. Most songs wind up and down in pitch but with an overall tendency to descend".

The call of Bolivian Spinetail is given as single notes, double or triple notes, or as a short churr

Additional audio recordings of vocalizations of Bolivian Spinetail can be heard to Macaulay Library and at xeno-canto.

Nonvocal Sounds

None reported.

Detailed Description (appearance)

The following description is based on Maijer and Fjeldså (1997).

Adult: Crown rufous; forecrown speckled pinkish buff and gray. Lores dirty white with black feather tips. Supercilium white, extending from lores to 10 mm behind the eye. Nape and back light brownish olive, shading to tawny olive on the rump and cinnamon brown on the uppertail coverts. Wings rufous; primary coverts with grayish brown inner webs, and the primaries with buff pink outer edges. The remiges become fuscous towards the tips, with the inner webs mostly fuscous (except at the base). Rectrices rufous, the central pair with a faint dusky wash along the inner margins of the inner web. Chin and upper throat dingy white, sharply demarcated. Lower cheeks weakly streaked buffy and gray, upper cheeks gray. Underparts light grayish olive, with a faint buff tinge.

Juvenile: A bird that might have been a juvenile (not examined in the hand) had a brownish olive crown (similar to color to the back), and a less distinct supercilium (Maijer and Fjeldså 1997).

Bare Parts

Iris: warm brown

Bill: pink; culmen and tip of mandible sooty

Tarsi and toes: olive yellow, olivaceous

Bare parts color data from Maijer and Fjeldså (1997).


Total length: 14.5 cm (Ridgely and Tudor 2009), 14-15 cm (Remsen 2003)

Linear measurements (mm) (from Maijer and Fjeldså 1997): 

wing length (flattened): 65.5, 68, 69.5

tail length: 61, 68.2, 73.4

culmen (exposed): 14.3, 14.6, 15.2

culmen (from base): 16.6, 16.7, 17

tarsus: 18.5, 18.5, 18.6

Mass: no data


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Geographic Variation



Cranioleuca henricae first was observed only in 1993, and was not described as a species until 1997 (Maijer and Fjeldså 1997); the type locality is 3 km north of Inquisivi, La Paz, 2350 m, and the type specimen is in the Colección Boliviana de Fauna, La Paz.

Maijer and Fjeldså (1997) proposed that Cranioleuca henricae belonged to a group of species that they called the Cranioleuca pyrrhophia group, which also includes Line-cheeked Spinetail (Cranioleuca antisiensis), Baron's Spinetail (Cranioleuca baroni), Creamy-crested Spinetail (Cranioleuca albicapilla), Olive Spinetail (Cranioleuca obsoleta), Pallid Spinetail (Cranioleuca pallida) and Stripe-crowned Spinetail (Cranioleuca pyrrhophia), and perhaps also Crested Spinetail (Cranioleuca subcristata). Phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequence data confirms a very close relationship between henricae, obsoleta, pallida, and pyrrhophia, and that antisiensis and baroni belong to a different clade within Cranioleuca (García-Moreno et al. 1999, Derryberry et al. 2011).

Recommended Citation

Schulenberg, Thomas S. 2012. Bolivian Spinetail (Cranioleuca henricae), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: