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Hylopezus dives

Thicket Antpitta

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Grallariidae
  • Polytypic 3 Subspecies

Authors: Greeney, Harold F



Thicket Antpitta has the distinctive antpitta morphology: it is plump-bodied, with a short tail and notably long tarsi. The crown and nape are dark gray, with buffy lores and a narrow eyering. The auriculars are grayish brown. The upperparts, including the tail, are dark olive brown, with a few narrow, rather pale buffy shaft streaks on the upper back. The wings are dark olive brown with brighter edges on the primaries. Below, the throat and belly are white, with the breast and sides washed with ochraceous buff and diffusely streaked blackish. The flanks and crissum are a deep orange rufous. Sexes of Thicket Antpitta are similar; the juvenile plumage is undescribed.

Similar Species

Thicket Antpitta is distinguished from similar (and previously conspecific) White-lored Antpitta (H. fulviventris) by smaller, buffier loral spot, and paler gray crown and auricular area. Thicket Antpitta also has slightly finer ventral streaking and deeper orange rufous flanks, and a distinctly different song(Krabbe and Schulenberg 2003). Thicket and White-lored antpittas are completely allopatric, with White-lored confined to northwestern Amazonia. Spectacled Antpitta (H. perspicillatus) has a bold, buffy orbital area and buff spotting on the wing coverts, both characters lacking in Thicket Antpitta. Spectacled Antpitta is also much whiter below, rather than having the buffy rufous or fulvous wash found on the underparts of Thicket Antpitta (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989).


The full song of Thicket Antpitta lasts around 1.6–2 seconds, and consists of a rapid ascending series of 10–13 clear whistles increasing in volume, accelerating slightly towards the end, and ending abruptly. The first note of is slightly doubled, the second has a slight catch, and the final 3-4 notes are of the same pitch (Krabbe and Schulenberg 2003). It is delivered faster than the song of Spectacled Antpitta (H. perspicillatus), which also differs by trailing off, rather than ending abruptly (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989, Angehr and Dean 2010).

In Costa Rica, this species sometimes gives a single "heavily whistled" hoo call, sometimes followed by its song (Slud 1964). The alarm call is an accelerating roll, weaker than the alarm rattle of Spectacled Antpitta (Krabbe and Schulenberg 2003).

Additional audio recordings of vocalizations of Thicket Antpitta can be heard at Macaulay Library, at xeno-canto, and at Internet Bird Collection.

Nonvocal Sounds

None described.

Detailed Description (appearance)

Sexes similar. The following description refers to nominate dives (Ridgway 1911); see also Geographic Variation:

Adult: "Pileum and hindneck dull slate color, indistinctly streaked or squamated with slate-blackish ; rest of upper parts dull slate color anteriorly passing into olive posteriorly, the feathers (especially the scapulars) with very narrow and mostly indistinct shaft-streaks of pale buffy; upper tail-coverts and tail russet-brown or Vandyke brown; general color of wings deep olive-brown, the outer webs of primaries paler and more rufescent brown; outermost feather of alula edged with buff or ochraceous-buff; loral, orbital, and suborbital regions buff, more or less flecked with dusky, the lower-anterior portion of auricular region deeper buffy; upper-posterior portion of auricular region dull slate color, more or less tinged with olive; malar region, chin, and throat white or buffy white, the first more or less flecked with dusky; chest and sides of breast ochraceous, the feathers with median or central portion paler and edged with black, producing a streaked effect; sides, flanks, under tail-coverts and under wing-coverts plain ochraceous to rufous-tawny; inner webs of remiges passing into dull vinaceous-cinnamon on edges maxilla brownish, paler along tomia, darker (sometimes nearly black) on culmen; mandible pale dull yellowish (in dried skins), usually tinged with brownish laterally or terminally; legs and feet pale yellowish or yellowish brown (in dried skins)".

Bare Parts

Iris: dark brown

Bill: bill blackish, basal half of mandible pale

Tarsi and toes: pale pinkish gray


Total length: 13 cm (Stiles and Skutch 1989, Garrigues and Dean 2007), 14 cm (Salvin 1865, Ridgely and Tudor 1994, Restall et al. 2006, Angehr and Dean 2010), 15.2 cm (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989), 13–14 cm (Krabbe and Schulenberg 2003), 11.8-12.9 cm (mean = 12.4 cm, n = 3 males, measurements taken from skins, Ridgway 1911), 11.9 cm (n = 1 female, measurements taken from skins, Ridgway 1911), 16.5 cm (Hilty and Brown 1986).

Linear measurements:


wing length: range 73.5-78 mm (mean 75.8 mm); tail length: range 29-31 mm (mean 30 mm); bill length (culmen): range 19-19.5 mm (mean 19.3 mm); tarsus length: 37, 37, 37 mm; middle toe: range 18-20.5 mm (n = 3, dives; Ridgway 1911)

wing length: range 75.5-81.6 mm (mean 78.7 mm); tail length: range 28.5-31.4 mm (mean 29.5 mm); bill length (culmen from base): range 21.0-21.2 mm (mean 21.1 mm); tarsus length: range 36.8-37.5 mm (mean 37.2 mm) (n = 4, dives; Wetmore 1972)

wing length: range 74.1-79.5 mm (mean 76.7 mm); tail length: range 28.5-33.5 mm (mean 30.5 mm); bill length (culmen from base): range 20.0-22.6 mm (mean 21.0 mm); tarsus length: range 35.3-40.0 mm (mean 37.8 mm) (n = 10, barbacoae; Wetmore 1972)


wing length: 75 mm; tail length: 30 mm; bill length (culmen): 18 mm; tarsus length: 36 mm; middle toe length: 19 mm (n = 1, dives; Ridgway 1911)

wing length: 74.4 mm; tail length: 25.6 mm; bill length (culmen from base)20.6 mm; tarsus length 37.4 mm (n = 1, dives; Wetmore 1972)

Mass: males, 38-44 g (n = 2, barbacoae; Robbins et al. 1985)

sex unspecified:  44 g (dives; Stiles and Skutch 1989), 41 g (n = ?, dives; Cody 2000)



Geographic Variation

Three subspecies currently recognized:

dives, Salvin, 1865, Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, vol. 32, p. 582. The type locality is Tucurriquí, Costa Rica. The nominate subspecies of Thicket Antpitta is found on the Caribbean slope of Central America from eastern Honduras southward to Costa Rica.

See Detailed Description for a more complete description of the nominate race. Salvin’s original description in Latin is as follows: "G. supra pileo et dorso cinereis, plumis omnibus nigro marginatis: uropygio obscure olivaceo: remigibus extus rufis: gula et ventre medio albis: loris pallide ochraceis: pectore, corporis lateribus, crisso et tectricibus subalaribus saturate fulvis, pectoris plumis nigro marginatis: ungue postico longo et gracili: rostri mandibula superiore brunnea; inferiore albida, apice brunnea: pedibus pallide fuscis".

flammulatus Griscom, 1928. American Museum Novitates 293, p. 4. The type locality is Almirante, Boca del Toro, western Panama and is endemic to this area, known only from western and central Bocas del Toro. This subspecies is darker overall, has more richly colored wings, and has heavier black flammulations than nominate dives.

From Griscom (1928): "Nearest [to] Hylopezus fulviventris dives (Salvin) of eastern Nicaragua and Costa Rica, but very slightly darker both above and below; wing quills browner, less olive and slaty, the exposed margins chestnut, rather than cinnamomeous; chest much more heavily flammulated with black".

barbacoae Chapman, 1914, Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. 33, p. 617. The type locality is Barbacoas, Nariño, Colombia. This species is found from eastern Panama (eastern Darién), southward along the Pacific slope of the western Andes in Colombia to western Nariño. It resembles nominate dives, but has a darker crown and a more olive back. The upper back also has fewer or less prominent streaking.

From Chapman’s original description (1914): "Similar to H. d. dives Salv., but crown darker, its color extending little if any on to the back, which is dark olivaceous rather than slaty; back, as a rule, without fulvous shaft-streaks, exposed margins of the wing-quills averaging less cinnamomeus, dresden-brown rather than tawny. This is evidently an intermediate between H. d. dives and fulviventris from the eastern base of the Eastern Andes. It is based on four specimens from the type-locality and one from San Jose, W. Colombia, which have been compared with a single specimen of fulviventris from La Murelia and eight of dives from Nicaragua. In fulviventris the back is more purely olivaceous and it is furthermore, easily distinguished by whitish lores. There is no geographical reason why dives and barbacoae should not intergrade, but fulviventris is effectually isolated from the latter by the intervening Andes".


Described as Grallaria dives (Salvin 1865), Thicket Antpitta was maintained within the genus Grallaria by many authors (Cory and Hellmayr 1924, Peters 1951, Howell 1957, Monroe 1968) for many years, despite its assignment to Hylopezus by Ridgway in 1911. Since the taxonomic observations of Lowery and O’Neill (1969), however, most authors have considered Hylopezus a genus apart from Grallaria (Haffer 1975, Ridgely and Gwynne 1989, Monroe and Sibley 1993, Clements 2007). Thicket Antpitta was long considered a subspecies of White-lored Antpitta (H. fulviventris) (Cory and Hellmayr 1924, Peters 1951, Haffer 1975, Howard and Moore 1984), but considering the significant vocal differences pointed out by later authors (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989, Ridgely and Tudor 1994), it currently is considered to be a separate species, which also includes flammulatus and barbacoae (Clements 2007, Remsen et al. 2014).

Recommended Citation

Greeney, Harold F. 2014. Thicket Antpitta (Hylopezus dives), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: