The mystery of the Rufous Twistwing began in 1990, when Grace Servat captured and photographed a male in Manu National Park. Without a field guide or other reference material, the bird was left unidentified and prepared as a museum specimen until 2002 when Dan Lane found the skin in a museum tray in Lima, Peru, and realized it represented an undescribed species. Thus began a search for more information about this bird, resulting in its scientific description in 2007 (Lane et al. 2007), quickly followed by a second paper on the distribution, behavior, and conservation status (Tobias et al. 2008). Most of what is known of this species is written in these two papers, but the species is also mentioned or illustrated by photographs in several other works (Schulenberg et al. 2007, Tobias 2007a, 2007b).
The Rufous Twistwing is distinguished from the only other species in its genus, the Brownish Twistwing (Cnipodectes subbrunneus) by its voice, larger size, rich rufous (instead of brown) coloration, and preference for Guadua bamboo habitat. Large areas of forest in the southwestern Amazon basin are dominated by native Guadua bamboos and many bird species are restricted to this peculiar habitat type (Kratter 1997, Lebbin 2007). The fact that such a large and distinctive bird as the Rufous Twistwing could remain unknown for so long in one of the best studied and frequently birded corners of the Amazon shows that there is much to discover about birds that live in bamboo.
Rufous Twistwing photo © Daniel J. Lebbin