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Black-legged Dacnis Dacnis nigripes

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Monotypic
  • Authors: Cathryn O'Hara, Casey H. Richart, and Kevin J. Burns


The limited information on the breeding biology of Black-legged Dacnis primarily is from Kirwan (2009) and Whittaker et al. (2010). Breeding is in the austral summer, with nests reported from November to mid-February, though nest building have been observed as early as mid-October. Nests tend to be found in a rather close proximity to each other, and in close proximity to the nests of other species of birds, with no aggressive behaviors observed among pairs or between species. It is believed that the birds build their nests in “loose groups” near ideal food sources (Whittaker et al. 2010). The nests are built by both sexes, with the male doing the initial “weaving” and the female helping later to perfect the structure (Whittaker et al. 2010). The nests are pensile and cup-like and are well camouflaged, usually placed in trees with a high epiphyte load, and the nests having a beard like appearance due to the lichens and epiphytes used during construction. The lichen Usnea (Usneaceae) is commonly used as a main component of their nests as both lining and as camouflage, as is the bromeliad Tillandsia. Nests sited are 5 to 9 m above the ground, and about 25 cm tall and 8 cm across. Multiple nests have been reported adjacent to marshes, with one in the outer crown of a Rapanea ferruginea tree (Myrsnaceae), and the other in a Tipuano tipu (Leguminosae) tree. The clutch size is two (Whittaker et al. 2010). The female incubates the eggs and the male feeds the female while she is incubating; incubation lasts about 14 days with an additional 13-14 days for fledging (Whittaker et al. 2010). Courtship feeding away from the nest has also been observed (Kirwan 2009).

The fruits from Rapanea ferruginea and Pouteria ramiflora are commonly fed to nestlings (Whittaker et al. 2010).

Table 1. Details of nine Dacnis nigripes nests recorded by Whittaker et al. 2010

Nest #,

Date Discovered



Nest Materials

Height Off the Ground

Horizontal Placement Within Tree


Nest 1,

16 October 1994

Partially completed cup (5-8cm in diameter)

Schizolobium parahyba (Fabaceae);

bromeliads, epiphytes, lichen

~20 m

Around 12 m from center


Nest 2,

11 December 2006

Small cup under construction within a
large clump of Tillandsia sp.

Ficus sp. (Fig tree);

Tillandsia usneoides (Bromeliaceae)

~5.5 m



Nest 3,

late December 2008

Cup woven into a clump
of lichen

Cassia carnival (Fabaceae);

lichen (Usnea sp.)

~8 m

Near the center of the tree

2 fledglings

Nest 4,

mid-late December 2007

Small cup, woven into
a clump of lichen

Rapanea ferruginea (Myrsinaceae);

lichen (Usnea sp.)

~12 m

Near the center of the tree, 1 m from the trunk

2 young visible, at least 1 female fledged

Nest 5,

first week of December 2008

Small cup constructed
within bag-shaped
lichen with an oblong
side entrance

R. ferruginea;

lichen (Usnea sp.)

~8 m

Near center, < 1m


Nest 6,

early December 2008

Tight cup situated
within lichen shaped
like a U with a beard
and an oblong side

Tipuana tipu (Fabaceae);

lichen (Usnea sp.)

~3 m

Near center, about 1 m

2 female fledglings

Nest 7,

3 February 2009

Small cup woven into
clump of lichen

R. ferruginea;

lichen (Usnea sp.)

~7 m

About 4 m from center

2 fledglings, 1 male and 1 female

Nest 8,

late October 2009

Nest was at the base of
“basket” of lichen, had
a beard-like appearance,
looped around support

Not recorded;

Lichen (Usnea sp.)

~5 m



Nest 9,

8 November 2009

Under construction,
nest at the base of the
“basket” of lichen,
strands looped around
support branch

Not recorded;

Lichen (Usnea or Tillandsia sp.)

~3.5 m

Inner part of the tree


Recommended Citation

O'Hara, C., C. H. Richart, and K. J. Burns (2018). Black-legged Dacnis (Dacnis nigripes), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.