Family Ovenbirds (Furnariidae)

Least Concern

Rufous Spinetail (Synallaxis unirufa)


French: Synallaxe roux German: Rostdickichtschlüpfer Spanish: Pijuí rufo

Synnalaxis [sic] unirufus


, 1843,

Colombia = “Bogotá”


Sister to S. castanea, based on genetic data#R; both probably also close to S. fuscorufa, and the three have been considered conspecific, but substantial vocal differences exist. Song of each race fairly distinctive, suggesting possible species-level differences#R, e.g. meridana differs from all others in its series of almost identical notes resulting in a length ratio of 1.06–1.4 (score 3) and on average highest number of notes (score 1), and from nominate and ochrogaster also in smaller frequency range (score 1 or 2); munoztebari differs from nominate/ochrogaster in shorter “long notes” resulting in smaller length ratio (score 2), a higher number of notes (ns[1]) and a smaller frequency range (score 1 or 2); ochrogaster differs from nominate in song having fewer notes (score 1) and a more disyllabic long note, also in having an alternative vocalization (score 1 or 2). Plumages, however, often very similar; proposal#R#R#R that munoztebari may merit species rank not well supported by specimen evidence, but further study needed. Birds in Cajamarca (N Peru), duller and less rufous than any others, apparently represent an undescribed race. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. u. munoztebari Phelps, Sr & Phelps, Jr, 1953 – Perija Rufous Spinetail – Sierra de Perijá of NE Colombia and NW Venezuela.
  • S. u. meridana E. J. O. Hartert & Goodson, 1917 – Merida Rufous Spinetail – Andes of W Venezuela (Trujillo S to Táchira) and NC Colombia (extreme NW part of E range in Norte de Santander).
  • S. u. unirufa Lafresnaye, 1843 – Colombian Rufous Spinetail – Andes of Colombia (S possibly from Chocó in W range, from Antioquia in C, and in Cundinamarca and W Casanare in E), Ecuador (on W slope S only to W Cotopaxi) and extreme N Peru (N & W of R Marañón).
  • S. u. ochrogaster J. T. Zimmer, 1935 – Peruvian Rufous Spinetail – Peruvian Andes S of R Marañón from Amazonas S to N Cuzco (Cordillera Vilcabamba).
  • Descriptive notes

    16–18 cm; 17–21 g. Relatively large and uniformly brightly coloured Synallaxis. Nominate race is almost entirely bright reddish rufous; forehead slightly... read more


    Most frequent vocalization a shrill “kweeéék”, “ku-kweeé... read more


    Montane evergreen forest and elfin forest; undergrowth and edge of humid cloudforest, often in ... read more

    Food and feeding

    Arthropods. Usually in pairs, occasionally in mixed-species flocks. Gleans items from foliage and small branches within 1–2 m of... read more


    Fledglings in Apr in Colombia. Presumably monogamous. No further information.



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Uncommon to fairly common throughout range. Occurs in Guaramacal National Park, in Venezuela, Munchique National Park, in Colombia, and Podocarpus... read more

    Recommended citation

    Remsen, J.V., Jr (2019). Rufous Spinetail (Synallaxis unirufa). 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 7 December 2019).