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Grallaria carrikeri

Pale-billed Antpitta

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Grallariidae
  • Monotypic

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



Antpittas (Grallaria) have a distinctive morphology: they are plump-bodied, with short tails and notably long tarsi. The Pale-billed Antpitta is a large antpitta with a simple plumage pattern: basically it is brown above, with a black head, and gray underparts. The most distinctive feature is the strikingly pale, ivory bill.

Similar Species

No other species of Grallaria has such a pale bill. There also is no other antpitta within the range of Pale-billed Antpitta that is gray below. The size and color pattern of Pale-billed Antpitta are similar to those of the allopatric Chestnut-naped Antpitta (Grallaria nuchalis), but Chestnut-naped has a black bill, is more olive above, and the head is not black.


The song of Pale-billed Antpitta is described as "a series of low hoots, first a higher note, then a stuttered series of lower notes: WHEE wur'KUK-KUK-KUK-KUK KUK" (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2007). 

The call is "a series of high, metallic teet notes" (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2007).

Additional recordings of vocalizations of Pale-billed Antpitta can be heard at the Macaulay Library and at xeno-canto.

Nonvocal Sounds

None reported.

Detailed Description (appearance)

The following description is based on Schulenberg and Williams (1982) and on Krabbe and Schulenberg (2003):

Adult: Sexes similar. Lores, forecrown, malar region and base of auriculars black. Crown and tips of auriculars blackish brown, shading to dark olivaceous brown on nape. Back and rump dark olivaceous brown, feathers very narrowly tipped black. Remiges dusky brown, outer webs of remiges dark chestnut; upper wing coverts dark chestnut. Rectrices dusky brown. Chin black, shading to blackish gray on throat. Underparts light gray, shading darker on sides of breast and paler posteriorly, to almost white in center of belly; feathers on breast and upper belly narrowly tipped black. Flanks and undertail coverts buffy olive. Tibial feathers gray.

Juvenile: The head is blackish gray with black lores. Feathers on the nape are tinged brown and tipped with cinnamon. Most of the rest of the body is cinnamon brown, barred with black, but the barring is reduced or absent obsolete on the lower belly. The belly is buffy with a creamy white area in the center. The primary wing coverts are tipped cinnamon-buff, with a black subterminal band.

Bare Parts

Iris: pale reddish brown

Bill: ivory

Tarsi and toes: blue-gray

In the juvenile, the bill is "orange flecked with black, basally orange", and the tarsi are "gray-flesh".

Bare part color data from Schulenberg and Williams (1982).


Total length: 20-21 cm (Schulenberg et al. 2007)

Linear measurements: 

Measurements (mm) of Grallaria carrikeri (Schulenberg and Williams 1982)
    n  mean  range
 wing length  male  5   110.1 106.8-112.5
  female  2   105.4  103.7-107.1
 tail  male  4   64.6   62.6-66.0
  female  4   63.4   61.4-65.7
 culmen  male  5   30.1   29.6-31.3
 (from base) female  4   28.4   28.0-29.1
 tarsus  male  5   59.7   59.0-60.6
  female  4   57.7   56.4-58.9


Mass: male, mean 112 g (range 96-124 g, n = 5; Schulenberg and Williams 1982)

         female, mean 107 g (range 97-112 g, n = 5; Schulenberg and Williams 1982)


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Geographic Variation



Pale-billed Antpitta is similar in size and in elevational distribution to Grallaria nuchalis (Chestnut-naped Antpitta), and these species have similar plumages; shared features include a dusky face and throat, gray breast, brown upperparts, and reddish brown margins to the primaries. These two species also replace one another geographically across the Río Marañón valley in northern Peru. Another species that shares similarities with both carrikeri and nuchalis is Grallaria ridgelyi (Jocotoco Antpitta); features common to all three species include "unpatterned breasts, smoky gray flanks, and a deep, robust bill" (Krabbe et al. 1999: 889). Furthermore, carrikeri and ridgelyi share "distinct black caps and reddish irides" (Krabbe et al. 1999). Phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequence data (from the cytochrome b and ND2 genes) indicates that nuchalis is sister to ridgelyi (Krabbe et al. 1999), but this study did not include samples of carrikeri, and so the relationship of carrikeri to nuchalis and ridgelyi remains unresolved.

Recommended Citation

Schulenberg, Thomas S., and Guy M. Kirwan. 2012. Pale-billed Antpitta (Grallaria carrikeri), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: