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Thripophaga berlepschi

Russet-mantled Softtail

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Furnariidae
  • Monotypic

Authors: Schulenberg, Thomas S., and Guy M. Kirwan



Rufous-mantled Sofftail is a small, slender furnariid with a long graduated tail and a slender bill. In many aspects of its shape, behavior, and vocalizations, it is reminiscent of a Cranioleuca spinetail. Most of the plumage - not just the mantle! - is russet, with a grayish buff crown and chin, and a rufous buff belly.

Similar Species

Russet-mantled Softtail overlaps with few other species with which it could be confused. White-browed Spinetail (Hellmayrea gularis), which is similar in behavior, is smaller and shorter tailed, and has a white throat and supercilium, which are brighter and more sharply defined and contrasting than the grayish buff crown and throat of the softtail. Rufous Spinetail (Synallaxis unirufa) is closer in size, tail length, and overall color to the softtail, but the spinetail lacks the whitish or grayish forecrown, is more confined to understory, and rarely associates with mixed-species flocks. Sharpe's (Cinnycerthia olivascens) and Peruvian (Cinnycerthia peruana) wrens are much browner, with narrow black barring on the remiges, and have very different vocalizations.


The song of Russet-mantled Softtail is "a short, descending, high-pitched chatter: tchee tchee-tchi-tchi'trrr" (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2007). This song is described as very similar to the song of Marcapata Spinetail (Cranioleuca marcapatae) (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2007), a species with which the softtail does not overlap geographically.

Additional recordings of Russet-mantled Softtail vocalizations can be heard at xeno-canto.

Nonvocal Sounds

None reported.

Detailed Description (appearance)

Adult: Sexes similar. Forecrown whitish or pale grayish brown, shading into a dull brown crown. Nape and back rufous. Rump and upper tail coverts tawny olive. Tail long, strongly graduated, rectrices relatively broad. Rectrices rufous. Wings rufous. Sides of the head rufous. Throat ochraceous buff. Breast rufous. Belly tawny olive. Crissum tawny rufous.

Juvenile: "Crown whitish with darker feather-edges on forehead, hind-crown clay-colored; faint supercilium whitish; ear-coverts and nuchal color ochraceous tawny, neck scaled all around; back pale brown tinged olivaceous, wings and tail as in ad.; below brownish clay, more buffy on breast, and whitish on throat; scaled with dark brown feather-tips everywhere below, except in flanks and lower belly".

Description of adult from specimens in the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science; description of juvenile from Fjeldså and Krabbe (1990).

Bare Parts

Iris: chestnut or reddish brown

Bill: pale blue gray, gray at base of maxilla

Tarsi and toes: yellow olive.

Bare parts color data from specimens in the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science.


Total length: 16.5 cm (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990), 17 cm (Remsen 2003), 18 cm (Ridgely and Tudor 1994, 2009)

Linear measurements (from Vaurie 1980):

wing length, male: mean 79.6 mm (range 79-80, n = 5)

                      female: 75 mm (n = 1)

tail length, male: mean 81. 8 mm (range 78-83 mm, n = 5)

                  female: 81 m (n = 1)

bill length, male: mean 18.7 mm (range 18-19 mm, n = 5)

                  female: 17.5 mm (n = 1)

Mass: 23 g (Remsen 2003)


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Geographic Variation



Described as Thripophaga berlepschi by Hellmayr 1905; type locality Leimabamba, Peru.

Vaurie (1980) included several species of Thripophaga, including berlepschi, in Phacellodomus, a novel classification that was not adopted by subsequent authors. Otherwise, the relationship of berlepschi to other Thripophaga has been questioned by some recent authors. Other species of Thripophaga, for example, have lowland distributions, very different from that of the montane distribution of berlepschi. (Remsen 2003, however, noted similarites in head pattern and bill coloration between berlepschi and Thripophaga fusciceps Plain Softtail). Specifically, Parker (in Collar et al. 1992) suggested that berlepschi was similar in behavior and ecology to many members of Cranioleuca. A phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequence data, from three mitochondrial genes and one nuclear intron, confirms that berlepschi is embedded within Cranioleuca (Derryberry et al. 2011).

Recommended Citation

Schulenberg, Thomas S., and Guy M. Kirwan. 2012. Russet-mantled Softtail (Thripophaga berlepschi), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: