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Grallaricula ferrugineipectus

Rusty-breasted Antpitta

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

Authors: Greeney, Harold F



Grallaricula antpittas are small versions of Grallaria; similar to Grallaria, they are plump-bodied, with short tails and notably long tarsi. Rusty-breasted Antpitta is plain brown above, with a brown or rufous brown crown, a large buff loral spot, and a prominent white or whitish buff arc behind the eye. The throat and breast are rufous buff in the two northern subspecies of Venezuela and Colombia, but are more tawny buff in the southern subspecies. The center of the belly is white. Sexes are alike in Rusty-breasted Antpitta.

Similar Species

Rusty-breasted Antpitta is similar to Slate-crowned Antpitta (Grallaricula nana), but the crown of Slate-crowned Antpitta is, well, slate gray, not brown or rufous brown as in Rusty-breasted. Slate-crowned Antpitta also darker brown upperparts. The underparts of Ochre-breasted Antpitta (Grallaricula flavirostrisare scalloped with dusky or blackish markings, and Ochre-breasted often is more extensively whitish below. Ochre-breasted Antpitta also usually occurs at lower elevations than Rusty-breasted Antpitta.


The song of the nominate subspecies of Rusty-breasted Antpitta (of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia, and the Andes and coastal cordilleras of Venezuela) is ca 2-2.2 s long, is repeated at intervals of 7-9 s, and consists of a series of 15-16 chipping notes in three parts: the first part is 5-6 notes at increasing volume, with pitch at 2.2 kHz or rising from 2 to 2.2 kHz; the second part is composed of 8 notes that rise from 2 to 2.4 kHz; and the last part is 1-2 descending notes at c.2 kHz (Krabbe and Schulenberg 2003). This song is transcribed as twa-twa-twa-twa-twa-twa-cwi-cwi-cwi-cwi-cwi-cwi-cwi, cu-cu, with the cwi notes higher and louder, and the last two notes lower (Schwartz 1957), or as twa-twa-twa-twa-twa-twa-qwe-qwe-qwe-qwe-qwe-qwe-qwi-qua-qua (Hilty 2003).

The song of subspecies leymebambae of Peru and Bolivia is a series of 15-18 notes, given at a pace of 6.3-6.7 notes, and with a pitch of 2.6-3 kHz (male?) or 3-3.2 kHz (female?) (Krabbe and Schulenberg 2003). This song is transcribed as "a moderate to fast-paced (6–9 notes/sec), even-pitched or slightly rising-falling, pure-toned series of whistled notes: hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee" (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2010).

Krabbe and Schulenberg (2003) describe a slower version of this song, which is 2.3-2.6 s long, and consists of an evenly paced (3.7 notes/s) series of 9-10 soft notes at 3.1 kHz, with the first 2-3 notes lower, and gradually rising from 2.9 kHz.

Calls of Rusty-breasted Anptitta include "a sad, liquid quierk or doubled quiu quiu alarm call" (ferrugineipectus, Hilty 2003), and (leymebambae) "a descending tew and tew tip (the number of tip notes variable), as well as a moderately paced (3–5 notes/sec) slightly descending series of hollow, descending whistles: chew-chew-chew-chew-chew" (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2010).

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

Nonvocal Sounds

None documented.

Detailed Description (appearance)

The following description is based on Bangs (1899) and on Krabbe and Schulenberg (2003), and refers to nominate ferrugineipectus; see also Geographic Variation:

Adult: Sexes similar. Upperparts, including the sides of the head, are light to dark brown with slight olivaceous wash. Wings and tail tawny brown; edges of primaries, secondaries, and tertials dull olive cinnamon. There is a large but indistinct buff or whitish loral spot. There is a prominent buffy or whitish arc immediately behind the eye. The underparts are bright ochraceous or tawny rufous, with a semiconcealed white crescent across the lower lower throat. The center of the belly also is white.

Juvenile: Wing coverts tipped rufous.

Bare Parts

Iris: brown

Bill: black, base of mandible white or pinkish

Tarsi and toes: pink or dusky gray pinkish

Bare parts color data from Krabbe and Schulenberg (2003).


Total length:

9.7 cm (ferrugineipectus; Sclater 1857), 10 cm (rara and ferrugineipectus; Ridgely and Tudor 2009), 10-10.5 cm (Krabbe and Schulenberg 2003), 10.2 cm (Clements and Shany 2001), 10.5 cm (leymebambae; Ridgely and Tudor 2009), 11 cm (Dunning 1982), 11 cm (rara and ferrugineipectus; McMullan et al. 2010), 11.4 cm (Hilty and Brown 1986), 11.5 cm (Meyer de Schaeuensee and Phelps 1978), 11.9 cm (Meyer de Schauensee 1970), 12 cm (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990), 12.1 cm (Meyer de Schauensee 1964).

Linear measurements:

subspecies ferrugineipectus:

wing 66 mm; tail 20.3 mm; tarsus 40.6 mm (n = 1, holotype; Sclater 1857)

wing 61 mm; tail 29 mm; exposed culmen 13 mm; tarsus 23.2 mm (n = 1, male; Bangs 1899)

wing 62 mm; tail 29.4 mm; exposed culmen 12.3 mm; tarsus 23.6 mm (n = 1, female; Bangs 1899)

wing 61-66 mm (mean 64 mm); tail 30-32 mm (mean 31 mm) (n = 3 males; Carriker 1933)

wing, mean 63.9 ± 1.6 mm (n = 14, range 61.0-67.0 mm); tail, mean 30.7 ± 1.6 mm (n = 13, range 29.0-34.0 mm); culmen, mean 15.8 ± 0.5 mm (n = 13, range 15.0-16.5 mm); bill width, mean 5.3 ± 0.4 mm (n = 2, range 5.0-5.6 mm); tarsus, mean 22.5 ± 0.9 mm (n = 14, range 21.0-23.0 mm) (Donegan 2008).

subspecies rara:

wing 69 mm; tail 32 mm; bill 14 mm (holotype; Hellmary and Madarász 1914)

wing, mean 63.0 ± 1.7 mm (n = 13, range 60.0-66.0 mm); tail, mean 30.6 ± 1.3 mm (n = 14, range 29.0-33.0 mm); culmen, mean 16.0 ± 0.7 mm (n = 13, range 15.0- 17.0 mm); bill width 5.0 mm (n = 1); tarsus, mean 23.0 ± 0.9 mm (n = 14, range 21.0-24.0 mm) (Donegan 2008).

subspecies leymebambae:

wing 71-72 mm; tail 43-44 mm (n = 2, males; Carriker 1933)

wing, mean 72.0 mm (range 69.5-74.9 mm); tail, mean 39.9 mm (range 38.0-41.6 mm); culmen from base, mean 16.7 mm (range 15.4-17.5 mm); tarsus, mean 26.2 (range 25.0-27.2 mm) (n = 7 males; Graves et al. 1983).

wing, mean 67.7 mm (range 66.8-68.4 mm); tail, mean 37.6 mm (range 36.1-38.6 mm); culmen from base, mean 15.9 mm (range 15.5-16.1 mm); tarsus, mean 26.2 (range 25.9-26.4 mm) (n = 3 females; Graves et al. 1983).

Mass: mean 16.48 ± 0.43 g (n = 10, unsexed, ferrugineipectus; Niklison et al. 2008); mean 17.5 g, range 15-21 g (n = 23 males, leymebambae, Parker et al. 1985); mean 6.8 g, range 13-18 g (n = 20 females, leymebambae, Parker et al. 1985); mean 16.6 g, range 15.5-18.5 g (n = 7 males, leymebambae, Graves et al. 1983): mean 16.7 g, range 16.5-17.0 g (n = 3 females, leymebambae, Graves et al. 1983).


No specific information.

Geographic Variation

Three subspecies currently recognized: nominate ferrugineipectus, rara, and leymebambae. There also is a recently discovered population in northwestern Ecuador (as documented by audio recordings on xeno-canto) that may represent an undescribed taxon of Rusty-breasted Antpitta.

Grallaricula ferrugineipectus ferrugineipectus: Originally described as Grallaria ferrugineipectus Sclater 1857; type locality "near Caracas", Districto Federal, Venezuela. This subspecies occurs in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, northern Colombia (Meyer de Schauensee 1950, Hilty and Brown 1986) and in Venezuela, where it is distributed in the Andes from Mérida and Barinas north to Trujillo and Lara; in the mountains of Lara and Yaracuy; and in the coastal cordilleras east to the Distrito Federal and Miranda (Phelps and Phelps 1963, Hilty 2003). 

Sclater (1857) provided the following description in Latin of the type: "Supra pallide brunnea, olivaceo induta: loris et regione ocular et auriculari fulvo tinctis: subtus flavicanti-ferruginea, collo antico medialiter et ventre toto cum crisso albis: alis nigricantibus pallido brunneo limbatis, tectricibus alarum superioribus omnino nigricantibus, inferioribus autem cum campterio ochraceis: rostri nigri basi flavicant : pedibus pallidis." See also Detailed Description.

Conopophaga browni (Bangs 1899), with type locality Chirua, Sta. Marta Mts., Colombia, is a junior synomym of nominate ferrugineipectus (Hellmayr 1913, Cory and Hellmayr 1924).

Grallaricula ferrugineipectus rara: Originally described as Grallaricula rara Hellmayr and Madarász 1914; type locality "Llanos de Medina", Cundinamarca, Colombia. This subspecies is distributed in western Venezuela and the Andes of eastern Colombia. In Venezuela it is found in the Sierra de Perijá, where its range interrupts that of nominate ferrugineipectus (which occurs to the west in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and to the east in Venezuelan Andes). In Colombia rara occurs on the east slope of the Eastern Andes in Norte de Santander, and on the west slope of the eastern Andes in Cundinamarca (Meyer de Schauensee 1950, Hilty and Brown 1986).

Hellmayr and Madarász (1914) describe the type specimen (unsexed) as follows: "Above reddish-brown, more reddish on the front and face, and washed with olive on the rump; a patch before the eye blackish; chin, throat and side of body rusty-brown; middle of belly and under tail-coverts pure white; under wing-coverts rusty-brown. Bill dark horn-brown, the base of mandible and feet yellowish".

Grallaricula ferrugineipectus leymebambae: Originally described as Grallaricula ferrugineipectus leymebambae Carriker 1933; type locality Leymebamba, Amazonas Department, Peru. This subspecies is found in extreme southwestern Ecuador (Loja Province) and northwestern Peru (Piura Department). Disjunctly, it is is found in eastern Peru south of the Río Marañon along the eastern slope of the Andes from Amazonas south to western Bolivia (La Paz).

Subspecies leymebambae is very similar to nominate ferrugineipectus, but is considerably larger and differs as described by Carriker (1933) in his original description of the type (adult male): "Most closely related to G[rallaricula] f[errugineipectus] ferrugineipectus of northern Venezuela and the Santa Marta region of Colombia, agreeing with that form in having the jugular patch and middle of abdomen white, but differs as follows: Throat, breast and flanks rich cinnamon ochraceous, paler on throat and around border of the white abdominal patch, and with the chin and sides of throat indistinctly streaked with blackish and the chest mottled with sooty olive (no dusky mottling on throat or chest in ferrugineipectus, the under parts being clear cinnamon ochraceous, immaculate, and paler than leymebambae); lores and narrow front buffy ochraceous basally (white in ferrugineipectus), and with a blackish ring extending from the front of the auriculars forward around the eye and ending at the upper anterior side (absent in ferrugineipectus); pileum, back, and scapulars uniform rich olive brown, slightly dusky on the occiput and nape, while in ferrugineipectus these parts are light brown (darker in Santa Marta birds) and entirely without olive tinge. The lesser wing coverts are the color of the back, but the median and greater ones are dark chestnut brown on the outer webs; the remiges are broadly edged with seal brown and the under wing coverts and edges of remiges are rich cinnamon ochraceous, more cinnamomeus on remiges and much darker and richer in color than in ferrugineipectus. The bill is black, with the base of the mandible flesh, about the same color as in ferrugineipectus". Specimens from Bolivia differ slightly from birds of central Peru by having the crown grayer, the center of the back more olive, and with a reduced loral spot (Schulenberg and Remsen 1982).


The phylogenetic relationships of Grallaricula antpittas have not been investigated in detail. Parker et al. (1985) suggested the Grallaricula ferrugineipectus might form a superspecies with Grallaricula nana (Slate-crowned Antpitta).

Krabbe and Schulenberg (2003) suggested that subspecies leymebambae "probably" warranted recognition as a separate species; Ridgely and Tudor (2009) accord leymebambae species rank, primarily on the basis of its different song. The taxon rara also was described as a separate species, and is the most divergent subspecies in terms of plumage coloration.

Recommended Citation

Greeney, Harold F. 2013. Rusty-breasted Antpitta (Grallaricula ferrugineipectus), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: