Tawny Antpitta Grallaria quitensis Scientific name definitions

Harold F. Greeney and Andrew J. Spencer
Version: 2.0 — Published September 1, 2023



"The most persistent sound from the marshes was the loud, low-pitched call of the long-legged Grallaria monticola, Lafr. This bird dashed about in the runways between the tall clumps of paja and was very difficult to flush. On one occasion I had the opportunity of observing it calling when only a few feet from me. It raised its entire body as well as head and stretched its stilt-like legs to the full limit. When the call was completed, the bird collapsed like a jack-in-the-box." – Robert T. Moore, Volcán Sangay, Ecuador (126:150).


When foraging, at least in the open, the Tawny Antpitta usually makes a few short hops across the ground, stops and peers, often with its head tilted sideways, and then leaps forward to pick prey from the ground (6, 8). It regularly forages away from the cover of trees and shrubs in grassland and paramo, especially just after dawn, just before dusk, or during foggy weather (19), but also throughout the day except during the sunniest of weather (8). While moving about, it occasionally flicks its wings and tail and bobs up and down, especially after devouring prey (6).


Details not specifically described. However, photographers have documented individuals bathing in shallow water, as well as preening and sunning themselves on the ground.

Agonistic Behavior

Physical and Communicative Interactions

There are no detailed observations of the agnostic behaviors of the Tawny Antpitta, but Krabbe and Schulenberg (6) noted that individuals often flick their wings and tail or bob up and down during a conflict.

Territorial Behavior

There are no published data on territorial defense, maintenance, or fidelity for the Tawny Antpitta, but it is thought to sing and maintain territories year-round (6).

Sexual Behavior

Although probably monogamous, this aspect of Tawny Antpitta natural history has not been investigated. There are no published data relating to sexual displays or courtship, but the Tawny Antpitta is a very vocal species. In fact, perhaps one of the most distinctive ways in which it deviates from the normal habits of Grallaria antpittas is its propensity to sing from partially to fully exposed locations (23, 212, 8). As mentioned by Parker et al. (19), however, songs are also frequently delivered from well-hidden perches at forest edges and in dense cover, generally from ca. 1 m above ground (see also Sounds and Vocal Behavior), When singing, the adult extends its long legs and holds its body vertically while throwing back its head and fluffing out the white feathers of the throat and neck (212).

Social and Interspecific Behavior

The Tawny Antpitta is most frequently observed as a solitary individual, only occasionally in pairs, and has not yet been reported to join mixed species foraging flocks (8).


No information.

Recommended Citation

Greeney, H. F. and A. J. Spencer (2023). Tawny Antpitta (Grallaria quitensis), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (N. D. Sly, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.