Rufous-crowned Antpittas are similar in silhouette to the more familiar and numerous Grallaria antpittas, sharing their upright posture, long legs, and short tails. In their lowland and foothill habitats, however, the rufous chestnut crown and nape, subtended by a black supercilium, render Rufous-crowned Antpittas unmistakable. The upper parts are olive brown with broad black stripes. The wings are brownish with small whitish spots on the wing coverts and tertials. The cheek, neck, and throat are pale ochraceous, sometimes sparsely dotted with black, while the breast, belly and flanks are buffy ochraceous with heavy black barring. Females are similar but with less barring below and white speckling on the black superciliary.
The boldly patterned Rufous-crowned Antpitta is nearly unmistakable within its range. It is easily distinguished from its only congener, Black-crowned Antpitta (Pittasoma michleri), by having the head extensively rufous, rather than mostly black. These two species do not have any known range overlap, however.
The following description refers to nominate rufopileatum; see also Geographic Variation:
Adult male: The bright rufous crown of adult males is separated from the buffy or ochraceous sides of the neck and face by a bold black band extending backwards from the lores to the nape. The upper parts are olive brown with broad black streaking or scaling on the back. The wings and tail are slightly browner than the back and rump, and the tips of wing coverts and tertials bear small whitish or buffy spots. The underparts are whitish, buffier on the throat and crissum and more ochraceous buff on the flanks. From the lower throat or neck and below, the underparts are prominently marked with wavy black barring.
Adult female: Females are similar in appearance to males but the crown is less bright and the lower portions of the head (especially auriculars and sides of neck) are more rufous buff than in males. The black supercilium of females is weaker and bears small white spotting, further reducing its prominence. Below, females are creamier and with weaker black barring. The small spots on the wings coverts are buffier and less prominent.
No specific information.
Iris: chocolate brown or red brown
Tarsi and toes: gray to bluish slate
Total length: 15 cm (Dunning 1982), 16 cm (Dunning 1987, McMullan et al. 2010), 16-17.5 cm (Krabbe and Schulenberg 2003, Restall et al. 2006), 16.5 cm (Meyer de Schauensee 1970, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001), 16.5-18 cm (Hilty and Brown 1986), 17.8 cm (Meyer de Schauensee 1964)
subspecies rosenbergi: wing length 97 mm; tail length 34 mm; bill length 24.5 mm; tarsus length, 45 mm (male, holotype; Hellmayr 1911a).
wing length: range 88.5-90.5 mm, mean 89.3 mm; tail length: range 30-32 mm, mean 30.6 mm; culmen length: range 26.5-28 mm, mean 27.4 mm; tarsus length: range 45-47.5 mm, mean 45.9 mm (n = 4 males; type series; Chapman 1917): wing 92, 92 mm; tail 29.5, 32 mm; culmen 27.5, 28 mm; tarsus 45, 48 mm (n = 2 females; type series; Chapman 1917).
wing length 95-101 mm; tail length ca. 30 mm; bill length at nares 28 mm; tarsus length 47-50 mm (males, type series; Hartert 1901); wing length 95-97 mm (females, type series; Hartert 1901); wing length 96-99 mm (n = 8 males; Cory and Hellmayr 1924): wing length 93 mm (n = 2 females; Cory and Hellmayr 1924); tail length 30-34 mm; bill length 25-26.5 mm (n = 8 males, 2 females; Cory and Hellmayr 1924).
Mass: 1 male = 96 g; 1 female = 97 g (Krabbe and Schulenberg 2003)