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Leptopogon amaurocephalus

Sepia-capped Flycatcher

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Tyrannidae
  • Polytypic 6 Subspecies

Authors: Goforth, Jen



Leptopogon are small flycatchers with a relatively long, slender, black bill, yellow or rufous wing bars, and a gray face grizzled with white; most species also have a conspicuous dark mark on the auriculars. Sepia-capped Flycatcher is dark olive green above with paler yellowish green underparts. The crown is dull brown (the sepia "cap"), and the rear edge of the gray auriculars are boldly outlined with black. The wing coverts have buff tips, forming two wing bars, and the remiges are narrowly margined with olive green. The sexes are similar in Sepia-capped Flycatcher, but males are slightly larger.

Similar Species

Sepia-capped Flycatcher is distinctive within its range and habitat; no other lowland tyrant flycatcher shares the strongly marked Leptopogon face pattern. There is little or no overlap with Slaty-capped Flycatcher (Leptopogon superciliaris) of the highlands of Costa Rica and Panama and of Andes, which also has a gray crown and grayer (less buff) sides to the face.


The distinctive song of Sepia-capped Flycatcher variously is described as "a rolled, slightly frog-like trill ... at times with 1-2 introductory notes" (Howell and Webb 1995); as "a harsh, almost explosive SKET'a'a'j'j'j or SKET'd'd'r'r'r', last part chattery and vibrating" (Hilty 2003); as "a fast, sputtering chatter that trails off toward end, e.g., dre- d'd'd'd'd'd'd'dew, sometimes introduced by a sharper, more emphasized note" (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001b); and as "an abrupt, loud, slightly falling, semimusical chatter: ski'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'eew" (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2010).

Sepia-capped Flycatcher also has "a sim[ilar] but softer, descending rattle" (Hilty 2003) and a "quiet tuk" (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2010).

Additional audio recordings of vocalizations of Sepia-capped Flycatcher can be heard at Macaulay Library and at xeno-canto.

Nonvocal Sounds

None reported.

Detailed Description (appearance)

The following description is based on Wetmore (1972): 

Adult: Sexes similar. Crown sepia brown, paler on the nape. Lores dull yellowish olive, mixed with dusky. Sides of head light olive, with paler shaft streaks, rear edge of auriculars dusky. Back, scapulars, and rump olive green. Uppertail coverts russet brown. Wings dusky; lesser wing coverts olive; middle and greater coverts tipped with buff to ochraceous buff; remiges edged with pale yellowish olive (edgings narrow on primaries, broader on secondaries). Rectrices dull brown edged with pale brown. Chin and throat grayish olive, indistinctly lined with dull white. Breast and flanks more olive, belly yellowish white to yellow. 

Bare Parts

Iris: dark brown, pale brown, sandy buff, light brownish yellow

Bill: maxilla black or dark brown; mandible black or dark brown, base sometimes pale

Tarsi and toes: gray, dark gray, pinkish gray, dark gray brown

Bare parts color data from Wetmore (1972) and from specimens in the Field Museum of Natural History.


Total length: 12 cm (Stiles and Skutch 1989), 12.5-14 cm (Howell and Webb 1995), 13.5 cm (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001b), 14 cm (Hilty and Brown 1986, Hilty 2003)

Linear measurements (from Wetmore 1972):

male (n = 10, pileatus from Panama and Colombia):

wing length, mean 64.0 mm (range 60.4-65.9 mm)

tail length, mean 53.1 mm (range 50.1-55.5 mm)

culmen length (from base), mean 13.9 mm (range 12.5-14.5 mm)

tarsus length, mean 16.4 mm (range 15.4-18.2 mm)

female (n = 8, pileatus, from Panama and Colombia)

wing length, mean 60.6 mm (range 59.3-61.8 mm)

tail length, mean 49.1 mm (range 46.7-50.5 mm)

culmen length (from base), mean 13.9 mm (range 13.4-14.4 mm)

tarsus length, mean 15.2 mm (range 14.5-16.4 mm)

Mass: mean 11.68 ± 0.87 g (n = 27, sexes combined, Peru; Weske 1972); 12.4 g (n = 1, Panama; Karr et al. 1978)


 None described; monotypic.

Geographic Variation

Eight subspecies traditionally recognized (Traylor 1979, Dickinson 2003), but only six recognized by Fitzpatrick (2004):

pileatus Cabanis 1865; type locality Guatemala; includes faustus Bangs 1907, with type locality Boruca, Costa Rica

Occurs from Mexico to Panama and perhaps northwestern Colombia.

Uppertail coverts and rectrices strongly tinged with warm cinnamon brown (Fitzpatrick 2004).

idius Wetmore 1958; type locality Isla Coiba, Panama

Restricted to Isla Coiba.

Similar to pileatus, but "decidedly grayer throughout; much paler yellow below, and more grayish green above; no prominent dark area on the auriculars; wing bars paler; under wing coverts lighter" (Wetmore 1958: 71).

diversus Todd 1913; type locality Mamatoco, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia

Occurs from north central Colombia east to western Zulia, Venezuela.

Similar to nominate amaurocephalus, but "cap very much darker brown, the under surface paler yellow posteriorly, and the rectrices edged internally with buffy" (Todd 1913: 171).

orinocensis Zimmer and Phelps 1946; type locality Santa Rosalia, lower Caura Valle, Bolívar, Venezuela; includes obscuritergum Zimmer and Phelps 1946, with type locality Auyantepui, Bolívar, Venezuela

Occurs from central Venezuela east to Amapá, Brazil.

Most similar to amaurocephalus, but has "a darker crown and slightly darker, less yellowish back. It differs from L. a. peruvianus ... by having a paler breast, more yellowish gray, with less olivaceous wash" (Zimmer and Phelps 1946: 15).

peruvianus Sclater and Salvin 1867; type locality Chyavetas, Peru

Occurs from eastern Colombia south to central Bolivia.

This subspecies is "dark greyish above, crown darker olive, wingbars and wing edgings pale yellow, underparts pale yellowish-white" (Fitzpatrick 2004).

amaurocephalus Tschudi 1846; type locality São Paulo, Brazil

Occurs from eastern Bolivia east to northeastern Brazil, and south to northern Argentina.


The phylogenetic relationships within Leptopogon were investigated by Bates and Zink (1994), who found that amaurocephalus is the basal species in this genus.

Phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequence data, from both mitochondrial and nuclear genes, indicates that Leptopogon is sister to the genus Mionectes (Ohlson et al. 2008, Tello et al. 2009).

Recommended Citation

Goforth, Jen. 2012. Sepia-capped Flycatcher (Leptopogon amaurocephalus), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: