Ocellated Antbird Phaenostictus mcleannani

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thamnophilidae
  • Polytypic: 3 subspecies
  • Authors: Hope Batcheller

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


All vocalzation types are as described in Willis (1973).

Songs: There are three separate song types which both sexes sing, though songs of females are generally higher and quieter than are those of the male. Wandering birds cue into vocalizations given by conspecifics, presumably as an aid to locating ant swarms (Willis 1973). Other species may also be attracted to antbird songs, as these may be indicative of an active antswarm (Chaves-Campos 2003).

Loud-song: high, thin series of whistles that rises then falls, with latter notes gaining in harsh quality. Given as communication between mates or rivals at swarms, as well as when birds leave an army ant swarm (Chaves-Campos 2003 Chaves-Campos 2011).

Faint-song: similar pattern as the loud-song, but much quieter. Compared to the loud-song, generally has more notes during the ascending potion, and lacks the harsh notes at the end of the song. It is occasionally given by birds that are about to commence travelling (Chaves-Campos 2011).

Serpentine-songs: Similar to faint-songs, but with interspersed chirring notes. Generally used during mate attraction, or in communication with dependent young.

Chirring: This snarl-like call is often given in response to terrestrial animals, including humans. This call is the one frequently heard upon human approach to an antswarm where birds are foraging. Birds may give variations in hand or during some aggressive interactions (Willis 1973).

Keening: A soft, high-pitched whistle given in reaction to uncertain danger.

Chipping: Sharp chip-ip notes given in an alarm after aggressive encounter or when a predator appears. Birds may continue giving a more muffled version after the initial startle calls.

Grunting: Short, harsh notes given toward smaller competitors, such as Bicolored Antbirds (Gymnopithys leucaspis).

Chittering: stuttering calls of subordinate birds being displaced by dominant conspecifics. Sometimes approaches similarity to the faint song.

Whining: scratchy grunts from subordinate birds being crowded out from feeding around the swarm area.

Screaming: high-pitched whines that approach a squealing quality. Often followed by a subdued version of the chirr call. Similar sounds may be given by birds in hand.

Squaking: an abrupt call given when a subordinate bird is displaced.

Peeping: Quavering notes given by young both as location and begging calls. This eventually grades into vocalizations similar to the song.

Squeaking: A squeaking call that young dependents give while being fed.

Caroling: given during feeding interactions, both by adults feeding young, or by males feeding females. Whistled notes given in a descending, irregular series.

Growling: low chittering given by female antbirds refusing food from her mate.

Chirps: subdued chirps given between antbird pairs.

Additional recordings of vocalizations of Ocellated Antbird can be heard at Macaulay Library and at xeno-canto.

Nonvocal Sounds

Birds sometimes snap the bill loudly and fly with whirring wings when displacing subordinate birds from perches (Willis 1973).

Recommended Citation

Batcheller, H. (2012). Ocellated Antbird (Phaenostictus mcleannani), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.oceant1.01