Magellanic Tapaculo Scytalopus magellanicus Scientific name definitions

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



The Magellanic Tapaculo has a higher ratio of muscles/tarsi than its sister species the Dusky Tapaculo. This suggests that Magellanic Tapaculo has a higher motricity (measure of limb strength), possibly an adaptation to jump between branches inside dense stands of Chusquea sp., shrubs, and dead trees that comprise the rainy forests in southern Chile and Argentina.


Mapuche story of Magellanic Tapaculo.

The Magellanic Tapaculo, or tiftifken (clock bird), is so named for its regularly repeated song, and features in the mythology of the Mapuche. As relayed by Lorenzo Aillapan (modified from 1):

“Millenary bird that begins telling the time from dawn, in the morning, at noon and at sunset. His song tells the time in tune with nature, the cosmovision, the universe and rest, the great Cordillera, plains, rivers, lakes, volcanoes and seas, the great spirit and the four guardians who take care of the Mapuche world as 'Earthly Paradise,' the four winds from the west, southeast, northeast and north of the confines, where lives Dumpall guardian of the sea and its power, Pillán, guardian of the volcanoes and the Mapuche spiritual force, Anchümallen, princess of the sun and the female warmth, Witranalwe, who has the riches.

These guardians of the Holy Land keep track of time with the tiftifken wind-up clock bird. … This clock bird in turn indicates the rhythm to the human couple, always in action and in harmony with nature.”

From the Magellanic Tapaculo song, Aillapan questions the notion of progress, at the end of his poem about this bird it sings: “they say that the originary people are out of date, so now I am going to catch up” (1). In this way, with his song, the Magellanic Tapaculo, or clock bird –who has inhabited the forests of southern Chile from the beginning, as they have done since the Mapuche– ironizes the notion of progress. "What is the sense of abandoning the proper rhythm of the forests, to hurry in a race that dissociates one from the forests and leads to the suicide to all beings (1). The notion of 'web of life' acquires the Mapuche worldview a normative nature: you must listen and respect the rhythm of nature" (33).

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