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Ramphotrigon ruficauda

Rufous-tailed Flatbill

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Tyrannidae
  • Monotypic

Authors: Schulenberg, Thomas S., and Tom Johnson



Ramphotrigon flatbills are medium-sized, broad-billed tyrant flycatchers with dull olive green plumage and wing bars. The Rufous-tailed Flatbill is a distinctive member of the genus, notable for the relatively bright rufous color of the rump and rectrices, and the rufous-brown wingbars and edges to the remiges.

Similar Species

The sharply two-toned basic pattern of the Rufous-tailed Flatbill - an olive-green bird with a bright rufous tail and wings - is distinctive and easily identifiable. Compare to Dusky-tailed Flatbill (Ramphotrigon fuscicauda), which has dusky rectrices and remiges and a more heavily streaked breast.


Call or day song is a low-pitched whistle. This vocalization has been described as "a softly whistled, drawn-out weeeaaaweee, sometimes followed by [a] brief low note ... has wheezy quality" (Hilty 2003), and as "a low, rising-falling or slightly quavering, mewing whistle: meeooo, or with terminal emphasis: meeooo'OO (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2007). The dawn song is similar, "an alternating mournful toooo, reer; wheeee-oooh, the last two notes being like the normal daytime song" (Willis, in Parker 1984) or "a low mewing whistle ending with a higher hiccup: meeoooOOoo'WEEpur!" (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2007).

Nonvocal Sounds

None reported.

Detailed Description (appearance)

The following description is based on Sclater (1888):

Adult: Sexes similar. Upperparts olive-green, except for bright rufous uppertail coverts. Wings blackish; broad tips to the wing coverts and broad outer margins to the remiges bright rufous. Rectrices bright rufous. Underparts paler olive-green; throat grayish, breast flammulated with yellow. Center of belly pale yellow. Undertail coverts rufous.

Juvenile: Undescribed.

Bare Parts

Iris: dark brown

Bill: maxilla black; mandible black with a pale (cream or pink) base

Tarsi and toes: bluish gray, gray

Data from Haverschmidt (1968), Willard et al. (1991).


Total length: 15 cm (Hilty 2003), 15-16 cm (Schulenberg et al. 2007), 16 cm (Hilty and Brown 1986).

Mass: From Peru: mean 20.1 g (± 1.77, range 17-22.5 g, n=8, sexes combined; data from specimens at the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science and at the Field Museum of Natural History). From Suriname: males, mean 17.6 g (range 15-19, n=8); females, mean 19.6 g (range 16.8-25.6, n=5) (Haverschmidt and Mees 1994).


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Geographic Variation

No geographic variation is recognized.


The genus Ramphotrigon formerly was considered to be related to Tolmomyias and Rhynchocyclus, two other genera of small tyrant flycatchers with broad bills (e.g. Hellmayr 1927, Traylor 1979). Lanyon (1985), however, proposed that Ramphotrigon was more closely related to Myiarchus, due to shared derived features of the cranium and syrinx, and to shared similarities in nest site. Two recent phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequence data (Ohlson et al. 2008, Tello et al. 2009) yielded somewhat incongruent information on the relationships of Ramphotrigon. Both studies confirmed, however, that Ramphotrigon is not at all closely related to Tolmomyias or Rhynchocyclus. Tello et al. (2009) found that Ramphotrigon is basal to a clade that includes Myiarchus (as well as Tyrannus and related genera), but Ohlson et al. (2008) reported that Ramphotrigon clustered with fluvicoline flycatchers.

Recommended Citation

Schulenberg, Thomas S., and Tom Johnson. 2011. Rufous-tailed Flatbill (Ramphotrigon ruficauda), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: