- Tawny-winged Woodcreeper
 - Tawny-winged Woodcreeper
 - Tawny-winged Woodcreeper
 - Tawny-winged Woodcreeper

Tawny-winged Woodcreeper Dendrocincla anabatina Scientific name definitions

Curtis A. Marantz, Alexandre Aleixo, Louis R. Bevier, and Michael A. Patten
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated January 1, 2003

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The Tawny-winged Woodcreeper is one of three Dendrocincla woodcreepers found in Middle America. The present species is distributed from southern Mexico south to southeast Nicaragua on the Caribbean slope, and from Costa Rica to western Panama on the Pacific slope. Contrasting with the distinctly rufous wings and rather short tail, the rest of this mid-sized woodcreeper’s plumage is dark olive-brown, with a marginally paler supercilium and throat; the Tawny-winged Woodcreeper is further characterized by its straight bill and slightly crested appearance. It prefers humid evergreen forest, but also occurs in mangrove and semi-deciduous growth, and is predominantly lowland in distribution, although locally the Tawny-winged Woodcreeper ascends the foothills to 1500 m, at least in the south of its range.


17–19 cm; male 34–42 g, female 29–39 g (anabatina). Medium-sized woodcreeper with straight bill, relatively short tail, slightly crested appearance (shaggy nape). Nominate race has brown head with buffy supercilium, dark olive-brown crown, nape and back; cinnamon-rufous to rufous-chestnut uppertail-coverts and tail; wing-coverts like back, but remiges tawny with dusky tips, forming conspicuous panel in wing; throat pale buff, underparts light olive-brown, blending towards cinnamon on belly and undertail-coverts; iris yellowish-brown to grey, orbital skin grey; bill slaty grey, dark brown or black, lower mandible grey or bluish; legs and feet dark blue-grey to blackish. Sexes similar. Juvenile is like adult, but throat duller, supercilium broader and more diffuse, eyes sometimes white. Race typhla is more pallid than nominate, especially below; saturata is darker, more olivaceous, above, with duller centres of remiges.

Systematics History

Editor's Note: This article requires further editing work to merge existing content into the appropriate Subspecies sections. Please bear with us while this update takes place.

See D. tyrannina. Race saturata sometimes merged with nominate, but darker, more olive upperparts and allopatric distribution support recognition as separate race. Three subspecies recognized.



Dendrocincla anabatina anabatina Scientific name definitions

Caribbean slope from S Mexico (SE Veracruz and N Oaxaca E to S Quintana Roo) S and E to E Nicaragua.


Dendrocincla anabatina typhla Scientific name definitions

Yucatán Peninsula (E Yucatán, N Campeche, N Quintana Roo).


Dendrocincla anabatina saturata Scientific name definitions

Pacific slope of Costa Rica (S from Gulf of Nicoya) and W Panama (W Chiriquí).


Editor's Note: Additional distribution information for this taxon can be found in the 'Subspecies' article above. In the future we will develop a range-wide distribution article.


Humid evergreen forest; also mangroves and, on Yucatán Peninsula, semi-deciduous forest. Primarily mature forest and older second growth, but occasionally in edge situations and semi-open areas. Frequents undergrowth, usually quite close to ground. Mainly lowlands to 500 m, but ascends foothills to 1200 m in Mexico, occasionally 1500 m in Costa Rica.


Resident; individuals recaptured at same site in Belize both in same and in subsequent seasons, reflecting sedentary nature. Five individuals captured and later released at a nearby site in Mexico all returned to their original territories.

Diet and Foraging

Largely insectivorous, but small vertebrates (especially lizards) and some vegetable matter also taken. Prey taken when feeding over army ants were earwigs (Dermaptera), grasshoppers (Acrididae), moths, spiders, and ants other than army ants. Stomachs contained principally spiders, beetles, wasps, orthopterans, caterpillars, various types of ant, hemipteran bugs, and small quantities of other types of prey, including scorpions, pseudoscorpions, snails; seeds and pulp from both Ficus and Psychotria found in some stomachs. An obligate ant-follower, regularly checks inactive bivouacs, and routinely forages at more than one swarm on same day. Forages low over ant swarms (both Eciton burchelli and Labidus praedator), usually perching 0–3 m above ground on near-vertical trunks and branches, often those of small diameter. Regularly seen in same flocks as D. homochroa. Captures prey chiefly by short sallies to ground or low foliage, less frequently to other substrates and to open air. Apparently excluded from some sites by larger, more aggressive Ocellated Antbird (Phaenostictus mcleannani). Usually seen singly or in twos, and often highly aggressive towards its own and other species. Foraging behaviour away from army ants poorly known, but apparently a regular follower of Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri oerstedi) troops in S Costa Rica. Both “anting” behaviour and “wing-flashing” have been noted.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Song an extended rattle lasting to 70–80 seconds that sometimes stutters or changes cadence or quality, and occasionally ends in doubled “cheeu ‘cheeu”, resembles song of D. fuliginosa; calls a plaintive “squirp”, “deyeew”, “cheeuw” and “tchee-u”.


Newly hatched young in late May and dependent juvenile in mid-Jul in Belize; nest preparation beginning late Feb, eggs laid early Mar to Jun, hatching from May and nestlings to late Jul in Costa Rica; specimens in breeding condition late Feb to May in S Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras; male with small testes and moulting wing and tail in mid-Jul in Yucatán Peninsula; apparently one brood per season. Seen in pairs only in Nov–Jan in Costa Rica, suggesting short-term pair-bond. Nest built by one adult, presumably female, from mosses, fibrous rootlets, strips of papery bark, and lichens, generally within low (1·5–6 m up) cavity of bamboo pole, stump or root cluster; often uses natural cavity but occasionally old hole of woodpecker (Picidae). Clutch 2 white eggs; incubation and care of young apparently by only one parent, presumably female; incubates for 60–70% of day, in sessions of 15–90 minutes, with breaks of 10–40 minutes; incubation period 20–21 days; chick hatches with eyes closed, pink skin, yellow mouth-linings, sparse grey down; food items brought to nests in Costa Rica mostly insects, small at first, larger as young grew, numerous small lizards representing bulk of nestling diet in mass, though not number; nestling period 24 days. Unusual record of one bird rearing a Lepidocolaptes souleyetii from egg to fledging after usurping nest of its parents. Nest success in Costa Rica 57% overall, but only 33% for nests found before last egg laid.
Not globally threatened. Fairly common to common within humid forest over most of range from Mexico S to Costa Rica, but rare in deciduous forest in Yucatán Peninsula; less common at upper elevations, and uncommon to rare at margins of range in Oaxaca (Mexico), NE Nicaragua and W Panama. Although ant-following species in general are relatively intolerant of forest fragmentation, and present species in particular considered by some authors to be sensitive to human disturbance, individuals captured in overgrown fields in Belize and in Yucatán Peninsula suggest some tolerance of disturbance. It has even been speculated that this species could expand its range in S because it is less sensitive to disturbance than are aggressive thamnophilid antbirds that now exclude it from some sites. A study in S Mexico estimated size of home range at 2 ha. Considered an indicator of tropical lowland evergreen forest of Caribbean slope.
Distribution of the Tawny-winged Woodcreeper
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Tawny-winged Woodcreeper

Recommended Citation

Marantz, C. A., A. Aleixo, L. R. Bevier, and M. A. Patten (2020). Tawny-winged Woodcreeper (Dendrocincla anabatina), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.tawwoo1.01