Family Tyrant-flycatchers (Tyrannidae)

Least Concern

Boat-billed Flycatcher (Megarynchus pitangua)


French: Tyran pitangua German: Starkschnabel-Maskentyrann Spanish: Bienteveo pitanguá

[Lanius] Pitangva

[sic] Linnaeus

, 1766,

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Nominate race has structurally very different daytime “rattle” call involving alternations of a very burry nasal note and a more whistled nasal note (latter flat or upslurred), without an obvious long note at end (score 2–3) (other taxa have burry or flat rattling notes ending with longer, usually emphasized note); chrysogaster fairly distinct, a short series of burry downslurred notes ending with longer note, quite similar to calls in W Mexico (“mexicanus group”); race mexicanus stands apart, with higher number of notes, shorter note length and faster pace (all scoring 2–3, giving total score of about 5)#R; more research needed on taxonomic implications. Trinidad birds described as race parvirostris, supposedly with smaller bill, but otherwise indistinguishable from South American birds. Some races seem readily distinguishable, others less so; populations of nominate from S Brazil and Paraguay appear somewhat larger and darker on average than those in N, but much individual variation; critical re-evaluation of races is needed. Six subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. p. tardiusculus R. T. Moore, 1941 – W Mexico (SW Sinaloa, W of main Sierra Madre, S to W Nayarit).
  • M. p. caniceps Ridgway, 1906 – W Mexico (SW Jalisco).
  • M. p. mexicanus (Lafresnaye, 1851) – Northern Boat-billed Flycatcher – E & S Mexico (from S Tamaulipas in E, from Guerrero in W) S to Panama and NW Colombia (NW Chocó S to R Juradó).
  • M. p. deserticola Griscom, 1930 – arid valley of R Negro, in C Guatemala.
  • M. p. chrysogaster P. L. Sclater, 1860 – Tumbes Boat-billed Flycatcher – W Ecuador (S from W Esmeraldas) and extreme NW Peru (Tumbes, N Piura), possibly crossing Andes into S Ecuador.
  • M. p. pitangua (Linnaeus, 1766) – Southern Boat-billed Flycatcher – N, C & E Colombia (Caribbean lowlands, Magdalena Valley S to Huila, and throughout E of Andes), Venezuela, Trinidad, the Guianas, E Ecuador (except Zamora area), E Peru, Brazil (S to Rio Grande do Sul), N & E Bolivia, Paraguay and NE Argentina (S to E Formosa and Corrientes).
  • Descriptive notes

    21·5–24 cm; 53–70 g. Nominate race has blackish-brown or dull sooty-black crown, yellow to orange-rufous coronal patch (semi-concealed); long, broad and... read more


    Common calls, sometimes accompanied by head-bobbing, varied, loud, rather harsh and slightly... read more


    Variety of woodland and forest habitats, from humid to arid and deciduous, but most often observed... read more

    Food and feeding

    Invertebrates, especially cicadas (Cicadidae) and other very large insects; also known to consume small vertebrates, and figs (Ficus... read more


    Feb–Jun in Trinidad; in Colombia, nest-building in Jul and Oct, incubation in Aug in extreme SW (Leticia), males in breeding... read more


    Not very well understood. Some populations of nominate race in S Brazil and NE Argentina considered... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Uncommon to common. Occurs in numerous national parks and other protected areas throughout its very large range. Adaptable; found in wide variety of... read more

    Recommended citation

    Mobley, J. (2019). Boat-billed Flycatcher (Megarynchus pitangua). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 16 December 2019).