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Myrmoborus melanurus

Black-tailed Antbird

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thamnophilidae
  • Monotypic

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



Myrmoborus are plump, short-tailed antbirds, with relatively long tarsi, and occur in the understory of lowland forests in Amazonia. "Black-tailed" is an odd name for this antbird, as the male is almost entirely blackish: the plumage is very dark gray, blackest on the head and neck (not the tail!), with narrow white margins to the wing coverts. The female is quite different, warm brown above (including the tail) and white below, with a brown band across the breast. The wing coverts of the female are similar to those of the male, black with narrow white margins. The irides of both sexes are red.

Similar Species

Male Black-tailed Antbird is very distinctive within its limited range, and is not likely to be confused with any other species. Male White-browed Antbird (Myrmoborus leucophrys) has a prominent white brow, and lacks white on the wing coverts. Male Black-faced (Myrmoborus myotherinus) and Ash-breasted (Myrmoborus lugubris) antbirds are much paler gray above and whiter below; Black-faced also has a narrow but prominent white supercilium, and Ash-breasted has plain gray wings. The pattern of female Black-tailed Antbird, with the brown band across otherwise grayish white underparts, also is unique/


The song of Black-tailed Antbird is described as a loud, clear, fast series of descending tew notes (T.A. Parker, in Hilty and Brown 1986) and as "a moderately paced (4–10 notes/sec), obviously accelerating, descending series of slightly burry notes: djee DJEE-djee-djee-djee-djee'dje'dje'djedjedjr" (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2010).

A call of Black-tailed Antbird is described as a sharp tchew, sometimes doubled (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2010).

Audio recordings of vocalizations of Black-tailed Antbird can be heard at Macaulay Library, at xeno-canto, and at Internet Bird Collection.

Nonvocal Sounds

None reported.

Detailed Description (appearance)

The following description is based on Zimmer and Isler (2003) and on specimens in the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science:

Adult male: Plumage primarily very dark gray, becoming blackish on the head, neck and throat. Some individuals have a white interscapular patch (but the frequency of the presence of this patch has not been documented). Wing coverts blackish, tips narrowly edged with white. Underwing coverts white.

Adult female: Crown dull reddish brown. Back and rump medium brown. Rectrices dusky brown.  Wing coverts black, narrowly edged with white. Remiges dusky, edged with medium brown. Lores and sides of the face gray. Throat white. Band across breast buff. Center of belly white, flanks and crissum buff.

Juvenile and immature: Undescribed.

Bare Parts

Iris: red

Bill: maxilla black; mandible black (male) or silver (female)

Tarsi and toes: blue gray, gray

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


Total length: 12 cm (Zimmer and Isler 2003, Schulenberg et al. 2010), 12.5 cm (Ridgely and Tudor 1994, 2009)

Linear measurements (mm) (from Hellmayr 1924):

wing length: male, 63 mm, 66 mm; female, 63 mm

tail length: 40-41 nn (sexes combined?)

bill length: 17-18 mm (sexes combined?)

Mass: mean 18.1 g (range 15.8-20.6 g, n = 8, sexes combined; data from specimens in the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science)



Geographic Variation

Myrmoborus melanurus is monotypic.


Described as Hypocnemis melanurus Sclater and Salvin 1866; type locality Cashaboya [=Cashiboya, Loreto, Peru] and Upper Ucayali [Peru]

Transferred to the genus Myrmoborus (type species leucophrys, White-browed Antbird) by Hellmayr 1924.

Phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequence data, from both mitochondrial and nuclear genes, indicates that Myrmoborus is monophyletic only if it includes lophotes (White-lined Antbird), a species that long was included in the genus Percnostola (Isler et al. 2013). Indeed, melanurus and lophotes are sister species (Isler et al. 2013).

Recommended Citation

Schulenberg, Thomas S., and Guy M. Kirwan. 2015. Black-tailed Antbird (Myrmoborus melanurus), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: