Magellanic Tapaculo Scytalopus magellanicus Scientific name definitions

Vicente Pantoja and César Muñoz
Version: 2.0 — Published January 13, 2023


Field Identification

The adult is a very small and compact bird of about 11 cm with blackish to dark slate-gray plumage. The plumage is usually fairly uniform, but may show some brownish and slight barring on the flanks and undertail coverts. Some, especially in southern populations, can show a distinct whitish cap. Like other tapaculos, it normally stands with its relatively short tail cocked towards the head. The legs and feet are pink or dark pink, and the bill is blackish. The juvenile has an all-brownish, barred plumage, including the tail.

Similar Species Summary

Magellanic Tapaculo is very similar to Dusky Tapaculo (Scytalopus fuscus), although the species are largely allopatric. In areas of co-occurrence, the species are best separated by voice, although the Magellanic Tapaculo can also have a white crown that the Dusky Tapaculo lacks (2).

Similar Species

Magellanic Tapaculo is allopatric with Dusky Tapaculo across most of its distribution; however, they are sympatric in some places at the edge of their distribution, such as in the pre-cordillera of Santiago and lower areas at the Bío-Bío and Araucanía regions (3, 4, 5). In Zapallar (32°S), a sympatric population was recently discovered, suggesting it is likely that there are additional coastal populations of the two species that co-occur in relict forests in central Chile (6). They are almost identical in appearance; Dusky Tapaculo has darker plumage, and some individuals of Magellanic Tapaculo show a white crown, which Dusky Tapaculo never has. The two mainly differ in their vocalizations, with the primary song of Magellanic Tapaculo consisting of two separate syllables, often written as pa trás, pa trás, pa trás song, while the song of Dusky Tapaculo consists of two syllables that are slurred together into a single note, often written as chu-rrín, chu-rrín, chu-rrín.

While most similar to Dusky Tapaculo, Magellanic Tapaculo also overlaps with another small tapaculo, Ochre-flanked Tapaculo (Eugralla paradoxa); Magellanic Tapaculo differs in its uniformly dark blackish to slate-gray plumage, while Ochre-flanked Tapaculo is paler gray with fairly extensive pale brownish to sometimes rusty colored flanks and undertail coverts, also, is considerably bigger. Magellanic Tapaculo can also be confused with wrens (Troglodytidae), such as House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) or Grass Wren (Cistothorus platensis), or with tit-tyrants (Anairetes), such as the Tufted Tit-Tyrant (Anairetes parulus), but Magellanic Tapaculo differs in its entirely dark plumage, and their tail is generally much shorter than other wrens or tit-tyrants it may co-occur with.

Recommended Citation

Pantoja, V. and C. Muñoz (2023). Magellanic Tapaculo (Scytalopus magellanicus), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.magtap1.02