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Few tyrannids exhibit such striking sexual dimorphism as this tiny and highly attractive Amazonian species. Males fit the species’ vernacular name, being principally black above, with narrow white lores and broad tertial markings, and basically white below, whereas females are fundamentally olive-green above, with the same distinctive markings on the tertials, but are more grayish below, and have a bright rufous crown. Despite their attractive plumage, the birds are most easily located by virtue of their somewhat insect-like tik vocalizations. Also known as the Black-and-white Tody-Tyrant, it is principally distributed in upper Amazonia, in southern Colombia to eastern Peru, and southwest Amazonian Brazil, and has also been found, very spottily across southern and eastern Amazonian Brazil. The species is usually found in bamboo thickets or heavily vine-dominated tangles, and pairs often maintain close contact, but feed apart from any mixed-species flocks that wander through their territories.
9·4–9·6 cm; 5·6–8 g. Male has distinctive glossy black upperparts, except for small white supraloral spot and eyering, broad pale yellow edges of tertials, occasionally pale outer web of outermost primary (“tricolor”); entirely white below, except for black intruding on upper side of throat and upper breast side (sometimes forming partial pectoral band), pale yellow tinge on flanks and crissum; iris reddish-brown; upper mandible black, lower mandible pale orange-yellow; legs grey. Female has distinctive chestnut cap, buffy lores and eyering, olive upperparts, blackish tail and wings, olive-edged flight-feathers, broad pale yellow tertial edges, grey on side of head and upper breast side, remaining underparts white except for pale yellow flanks and crissum, legs yellow-olive.
S Colombia (SE Nariño, SW Putumayo), E Ecuador, NE & E Peru (S to Pasco) and W Brazil (SW Amazonas, Rondônia, NW Mato Grosso (1) ).
Bamboo and tangled viny thickets along streams, roads, and edges of humid lowland and foothill forest; also found in dense undergrowth of second growth without bamboo. Recorded up to 1350m.
Diet and Foraging
Insectivore. Feeds alone or in pairs, independent of mixed flocks, in dense vegetation close to ground; uses short forward or upward sally-gleans.
Sounds and Vocal Behavior
Call a fast sharp “tik, t-r-r-r-r-r-r-ew”, when agitated more explosive “tk, tk, tk, whey-whey-whey-whuh”.
Only published data involve a pensile, ovoid-shaped nest under construction (by both pair members) in SE Ecuador in early Oct: it was sited in an old treefall gap, at c 1·3 m above ground in a 2·5 m tall understorey tree, being suspended from very narrow branch (approximately halfway between main trunk and branch’s tip), constructed from fine strips of bark, dark rootlets, live and dead leaf parts, and rhizomorphs, measuring 143 mm top to bottom, with ‘tail’ of vegetation extending an additional 120 mm below the nest, and 133 mm across, with an egg chamber of 47·5 mm by 55 mm (2).
Not globally threatened. Generally considered rare to uncommon and local; perhaps often overlooked. More common around Kapawi Lodge (Pastaza) and Tiputini Biodiversity Center in Yasuní National Park (Napo), both in Ecuador. Status in SW Brazil requires investigation.