Family Typical Antbirds (Thamnophilidae)

Least Concern

Chestnut-backed Antbird (Poliocrania exsul)


French: Alapi à dos roux German: Braunrücken-Ameisenvogel Spanish: Hormiguero dorsicastaño

Myrmeciza exsul

P. L. Sclater

, 1859,

Gatún, Colón, Panama


Hitherto considered conspecific with P. maculifer (which see). Plumage differences among races may reflect clinal variation. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. e. exsul (P. L. Sclater, 1859) – Caribbean slope from E Honduras#R S to W Panama (E to Canal region in Colón).
  • P. e. occidentalis (Cherrie, 1891) – Pacific slope in Costa Rica and W Panama (Chiriquí, Veraguas).
  • P. e. niglarus (Wetmore, 1962) – E Panama (from Colón E of Canal, and Pacific slope in Panamá Province and NW Darién) and adjacent extreme NW Colombia (N Chocó).
  • Descriptive notes

    13·5–14·5 cm; 24–30 g. Male nominate race has head, throat and upper breast greyish black; upperparts and tail dark chestnut, wing-coverts blacker,... read more


    Loudsong 2–3 mellow, slightly downslurred whistles, intervals between them typically longer... read more


    Understorey of humid evergreen forest and adjacent mature second-growth woodland; mostly below 900... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds on a variety of insects and other arthropods; also occasionally on small lizards and frogs. Stomach contents from Panama include... read more


    Season late Mar–Aug (perhaps Mar–Oct) in Costa Rica and Apr–Nov in Panama. Nest a compact or bulky and messy cup, one in... read more


    Presumed resident. Home-range size in SW Costa Rica varied from 1·02–2·76 ha to... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Fairly common to common throughout most of its range. Occurs in a number of protected areas, e.g. Saslaya National Park and Rí... read more

    Recommended citation

    Zimmer, K., Isler, M.L. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Chestnut-backed Antbird (Poliocrania exsul). 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 24 February 2020).