The Barred Antshrike is a sexually dimorphic, medium-sized suboscine songbird that is abundant in its range from Mexico to Argentina. It is commonly found in dense thickets and forest edge habitat. These birds form long-term monogamous pair bonds and hold year-round territories. The striking male plumage consists of alternating black and white bars across all of the bird’s feathered parts. In some parts of the species’ range the male’s crown feathers are all black; in other parts males have a semi-concealed white patch near the back of the crown. The upper plumage of the female is a cinnamon-rufous color and the breast is lighter ochraceous-buff. Both sexes have a proportionally large bill compared to their body size, with a sharp hook at the tip.
Both male and female adult birds produce a 2-3 second long song which breeding partners often overlap to create duets. When males sing, they produce a characteristic stereotyped visual display consisting of head bobbing and tail wagging, often bending over to expose the bright white plumage patch on the back of their crown.
The Barred Antshrike is largely insectivorous and primarily captures prey by foliage gleaning. Although they are not obligate ant followers, Barred Antshrikes feed opportunistically at ant swarms that move through their territories.
We conducted a three-year study of a population of Barred Antshrikes in northwestern Costa Rica and include many observations from our field research.