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Version 1.0

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White-crested Elaenia Elaenia albiceps

Thomas S. Schulenberg
Version: 1.0 — Published September 10, 2009


Distribution in the Americas

The White-crested Elaenia is resident in the Andes of southwestern Colombia south, along both slopes of the Andes in Ecuador and to the west slope of the Andes in northwestern Peru (griseogularis); resident in the Andes of central Peru, on both slopes (Pacific slope, and in the Marañón valley) of the Western Andes, and on the western (Marañón valley) slopes of the eastern Andes (diversa); resident in the Andes of southern Peru in Cuzco (urubambae), and along the east slope of the Andes in southern Peru and in northwestern Bolivia (albiceps).
Subspecies chilensis breeds from southern Bolivia south to the Andes of northwestern Argentina, and then south at lower elevations through Argentina to Tierra del Fuego. Also breeds in central and southern Chile. Chilensis is almost completely migratory. It arrives in Chile in September; it departs the breeding range by March or early April. The non-breeding distribution of White-crested Elaenia still is not known completely. Chilensis occurs as a non-breeder along the east slope of the Andes north at least to northern Peru (and possibly to Ecuador or even to Colombia), overlapping with the resident taxa griseogularis, diversa, urubambae and albiceps, and also with the migratory modesta. Chilensis also occurs as a non-breeder in northeastern Brazil. There are also are a few specimen records from sites in the central Amazon basin, although there are few or no recent records from this region, and its status there is not clear.
Subspecies modesta breeds (November –June) near the coast, and on the western slopes of the Andes (up to 1600 m), in western Peru, from La Libertad south to extreme northern Chile. Most of the population migrates east across the Andes and winters (June-December) along the east slope of the Andes of Peru from San Martín south to Madre de Dios. In southern Peru and in northern Chile, at least some individuals may be found year round, although it is not known if these are resident individuals, or whether local breeders migrate away and are replaced by birds from another population.

Vagrant to the Falkland Islands. A White-crested Elaenia, identified as chilensis, also was seen (and photographed) in South Texas (USA) from 9-10 February 2008 (Reid and Jones 2009).

Distribution outside the Americas

There are very few records of White-crested Elaenia outside of the Americas. Roberto Straneck saw an elaenia, identified as White-crested Elaenia, flying south at sea half-way to South Shetland Island, between southern Argentina and Antarctica (Ridgely and Tudor 1994).


Huacarpay Lake, Cusco dept., Peru, 21 July 2008, © Fabrice SchmittLampa, Chile, 6 October 2007, © Fabrice SchmittLike many other species of Elaenia, White-crested Elaenia is found in a variety of wooded habitats. Throughout most of its breeding distribution in the Andes, White-crested Elaenia is found at forest edge, in second growth, and in semihumid scrub. In at least some areas, it breeds in drier intermontane valleys, rather than the more humid forests occupied by Sierran Elaenia, but the habitat relationships between the two species have not been studied in detail. In northwestern Argentina, where White-crested Elaenia overlaps with Small-billed Elaenia, there is some degree of segregation by habitat: Small-billed Elaenia breeds in tall woods, and primaril below 1500 m, whereas White-crested Elaenia occurs in smaller trees and in agricultural areas, with an elevational distribution of 1500-3500 m.

As a breeding bird, chilensis often is associated with Nothofagus and Araucaria-dominated forests, but occurs in a variety of habitats, as long as trees or taller scrub is present. The nonbreeding habitats of chilensis apparently are similar to the breeding habitats of the northern resident subspecies: forest edge, second growth, and scrub. The habitats of modesta have not been described in detail, but probably are similar to those of the other subspecies.

Historical changes

No information.

Fossil history

No information.

Distribution of the White-crested Elaenia - Range Map
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the White-crested Elaenia

Recommended Citation

Schulenberg, T. S. (2009). White-crested Elaenia (Elaenia albiceps), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.whcela1.01