Family Ovenbirds (Furnariidae)

Least Concern

Rusty-backed Spinetail (Cranioleuca vulpina)


French: Synallaxe renard German: Rostrücken-Baumschlüpfer Spanish: Curutié vulpino

Synallaxis vulpina


, 1856,

Engenho do Gama, Rio Guaporé, Mato Grosso, Brazil


Usually considered conspecific with C. dissita (which see). Formerly considered conspecific with C. vulpecula, but the two are locally syntopic and widely sympatric, and field experiments suggest possible reproductive isolation created by song differences. Amazonian populations vary clinally in coloration of back and underparts; in N Brazil, proposed races alopecias (R Branco) and solimonensis (lower R Solimões) described on basis of less rufescent back and more ochraceous underparts, but not reliably distinguishable from nominate. Sight records from NC Bolivia (S Beni) presumed to be referable to race foxi. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. v. apurensis J. T. Zimmer & Phelps, Sr, 1948 – W Venezuela (W Apure).
  • C. v. vulpina (Pelzeln, 1856) – NE Colombia (E Boyacá S to Meta and E to Vichada), C & S Venezuela (Portuguesa, SW Guárico, E Apure, N Amazonas, and along R Orinoco in Bolívar E to Delta Amacuro), W Guyana, N & C Brazil (along R Amazon from extreme W Amazonas, and R Branco and lower R Negro, E to E Pará, and from lower R Madeira E & S to Mato Grosso, Goiás and W São Paulo), extreme E Bolivia (NE Santa Cruz) and, rarely, to extreme NE & E Paraguay.
  • C. v. foxi J. Bond & Meyer de Schauensee, 1940 – C Bolivia (E Cochabamba; sight records also from S Beni).
  • C. v. reiseri (Reichenberger, 1922) – NE Brazil (Piauí, W Pernambuco, W Bahia).
  • Descriptive notes

    15–16 cm; 14–17·4 g. Very red Cranioleuca. Nominate race has buff supercilium, narrow dark brownish postocular line, rest of face light brownish... read more


    Song a rapid series of emphatic notes gradually accelerating but fading, lasting c. 2·5... read more


    Gallery forest, river-island scrub, riparian thickets; variety of wooded water-edge habitats,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Arthropods; recorded items are Lepidoptera larvae (including Geometridae) and Coleoptera (including Elateridae). Singly or in pairs,... read more


    Eggs in Jun–Jul in W Venezuela and Nov in E Brazil. Presumably monogamous. Nest a roughly globular mass c. 20–40 cm in diameter... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Fairly common to common throughout large range.

    Recommended citation

    Remsen, J.V., Jr & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Rusty-backed Spinetail (Cranioleuca vulpina). 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 22 January 2020).