Chestnut-backed Antbird Poliocrania exsul

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thamnophilidae
  • Polytypic: 5 subspecies
  • Authors: Stefan Woltmann, Ryan S. Terrill, Matthew J. Miller, and Matthew L. Brady


  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Chestnut-backed Antbird
eBird range map for Chestnut-backed Antbird

Generated from eBird observations (Year-Round, 1900-present)

Distribution in the Americas

The Americas

Breeding range and Nonbreeding (“winter”) range

Southeastern Honduras to western Ecuador (Figure 8). Extent of distribution in Honduras poorly documented (Marcus 1983).
Figure 8: Approximate geographic ranges of the five recognized subspecies of Chestnut-backed Antbird. The species-wide range map is based firstly on NatureServe data (Ridgely et al. 2007). Subspecific ranges are derived largely from Zimmer and Isler (2003) and field experience (occidentalis, niglarus, cassini; MJM). Question marks indicate regions where limits are unclear.


None recorded or suspected.

Extralimital (“other”) records

Nothing published.

Other considerations

Generally below 1,000 m asl; occasionally up to 1,500 m (cassini; Ridgely and Greenfield 2001b). In northeastern Costa Rica (subspecies exsul) more or less equally abundant from 50 to 500 m asl, but not found at 1,000 m asl (Blake and Loiselle 2000). Common in Braullio Carillo National Park (Costa Rica) at least to 700 m.

Distribution outside the Americas

Not recorded.


Most commonly found in understory of mature humid and wet evergreen forests, where it prefers dense thickets, vine tangles and older treefall gaps; often near wet areas (Figure 9). Also found in older second growth and even young second growth Figure 9. Representative habitat of Chestnut-backed Antbird (nominate exsul) in northern Costa Rica (left, center) and southern Nicaragua (right).where this occurs near mature forest (Howell 1957, Slud 1964, Skutch 1969, Willis and Oniki 1972, Hilty and Brown 1986, Ridgely and Gwynne 1989, Stiles and Skutch 1989, Ridgely and Tudor 1994, Blake and Loiselle 2001, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001a, Garrigues and Dean 2007). In northeastern Costa Rica, most abundant in old-growth forest, followed by old second-growth (25-35 years old; Blake and Loiselle 2001). Least abundant, but somewhat regular in young second-growth (4–14 years old; Blake and Loiselle 2001), but the use of young second growth inconsistent throughout range (Zimmer and Isler 2003). Often avoids drier ridgetops in forest (Skutch 1969, SW unpub. data), but may be displaced from very humid or wet ravines by Dull-mantled Antbird (M. laemosticta) where they co-occur (Hilty and Brown 1986). On Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama, seems to prefer ridgetops (W. D. Robinson, pers. com.). Rarely observed moving through cacao (Theobroma cacao) plantations in Panama (Van Bael et al. 2007), but may become common once such plantations are abandoned and forest allowed to regenerate (SW, MLB, RST, pers. obs.). Has occasionally been considered by some authors to be characteristic of second-growth or treefall gaps (Karr 1977, Cody 2000).

Subspecies occidentalis found in drier forests (“more open, semi-humid transitional forest” (Zimmer and Isler 2003).

Historical changes

Little published. Extensive loss of lowland forest throughout range doubtless has caused decreases in overall numbers, but the species has an ability to persist in often highly degraded landscapes where at least some forest patches remain (Wetmore 1972, Matlock et al. 2001, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001a, Roberts 2007).

Fossil history

No information.

Recommended Citation

Woltmann, S., R. S. Terrill, M. J. Miller, and M. L. Brady (2010). Chestnut-backed Antbird (Poliocrania exsul), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.