Family Typical Antbirds (Thamnophilidae)

Least Concern

Great Antshrike (Taraba major)


French: Grand Batara German: Weißbrust-Ameisenwürger Spanish: Batará mayor

Thamnophilus major


, 1816,



Although groupings of subspecies here have been suggested as indicative of species-level division on basis mainly of differences in song (song of forms W of Andes and into NW Venezuela ending in trill, songs E of Andes accelerating far less), these vocal differences appear, despite earlier statements (HBW), not to correlate with differences in plumage found in recent examination of specimens. Plumage differences in populations of Middle America and the Pacific slope appear to be clinal, and recognition of races may not be warranted; further study required. Plumage and vocal differences of races E of Andes more substantial, but careful analysis required to determine extent of intergradation and constancy of characters. Ten subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. m. melanocrissus (P. L. Sclater, 1860) – Caribbean slope from E Mexico (S Veracruz S to N Oaxaca, Tabasco and N Chiapas) S to W Panama (Bocas del Toro, in Almirante Bay region).
  • T. m. obscurus J. T. Zimmer, 1933 – W Costa Rica (Pacific slope), Panama (except Almirante Bay region) and W Colombia (middle Cauca Valley, and Pacific slope except extreme SW).
  • T. m. transandeanus (P. L. Sclater, 1855) – Western Great Antshrike – Pacific slope of extreme SW Colombia (Nariño), W Ecuador and extreme NW Peru (Tumbes).
  • T. m. granadensis (Cabanis, 1872) – N & C Colombia (Caribbean slope from Magdalena S to Córdoba, S in Magdalena Valley to Tolima, and base of E Andes in Arauca, Casanare, Boyacá and Meta) and NW Venezuela (Zulia and Táchira E to NEMiranda).
  • T. m. semifasciatus (Cabanis, 1872) – extreme E Colombia (Vichada), and NE & S Venezuela (SE Miranda and Guárico E to Paria Peninsula, and S of R Orinoco), Trinidad, the Guianas, and NE & SC Amazonian Brazil (S to R Negro and R Amazon and, S of R Amazon, from extreme E Amazonas E to W Maranhão and S to N Mato Grosso and NW Goiás).
  • T. m. duidae Chapman, 1929 – S Amazonas (Cerro de la Neblina) and SW Bolívar (Cerro Jaua), S Venezuela.
  • T. m. melanurus (P. L. Sclater, 1855) – SE Colombia (Caquetá, Putumayo, Amazonas), E Ecuador, E Peru and SW Amazonian Brazil (S of R Amazon in W Amazonas and Acre E to middle R Purus and N bank of R Abunã).
  • T. m. borbae (Pelzeln, 1868) – SC Amazonian Brazil (E Amazonas along lower R Purus and R Madeira, and extreme N Rondônia).
  • T. m. stagurus (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823) – E & NE Brazil (E Maranhão E to Pernambuco and S to E Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo).
  • T. m. major (Vieillot, 1816) – Eastern Great Antshrike – N & E Bolivia, SC Brazil (S Mato Grosso, S Goiás, W Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul and W São Paulo), W Paraguay (E to both banks of R Paraguay) and N Argentina (S to Córdoba and N Buenos Aires).
  • Descriptive notes

    19–20 cm; 47·5–70 g. Large bill; prominent crest; red iris. Male nominate race has upperparts mostly black, black extending to below eye on side of head;... read more


    Loudsong a long, accelerating series of c. 40 notes, 5–14 seconds, usually ending in a snarl... read more


    Understorey of dense thickets in gallery forest, savanna woodland, second growth, and edges and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds on a variety of insects, other arthropods, and snails and other molluscs; also small vertebrates, including lizards, frogs, tadpoles... read more


    Apr–Jul in Costa Rica, Mar and May–Jul in Trinidad, Jan–Jun in Surinam, Jan–Apr in Brazil (Pará) and Oct... read more


    Presumed resident throughout most of range; some ringing evidence suggests possible seasonal... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Fairly common throughout most of its extensive range. Occurs in several protected areas. Its preference for a variety of edge and second-growth... read more

    Recommended citation

    Zimmer, K. & Isler, M.L. (2020). Great Antshrike (Taraba major). 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 17 February 2020).