Family Thrushes (Turdidae)

Least Concern

Slaty-backed Nightingale-thrush (Catharus fuscater)


French: Grive ardoisée German: Graurücken-Musendrossel Spanish: Zorzalito sombrío

M[yioturdus]. fuscater


, 1845,

Bogotá, Colombia


Isolated form hellmayri possibly represents a separate species. Proposed taxon fumosus apparently based on hybrid between present species and C. mexicanus. Racial affiliation of population recently discovered in C Andes of Colombia#R not determined. Seven subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. f. hellmayri Berlepsch, 1902 – Black-backed Nightingale-thrush – Costa Rica and W Panama.
  • C. f. mirabilis Nelson, 1912 – E Panama (Cerro Pirre area, SC Darién).
  • C. f. fuscater (Lafresnaye, 1845) – Slaty-backed Nightingale-thrush – E Panama (Cerro Tacarcuna, E Darién), E Andes of Colombia S to W Ecuador, and W Venezuela.
  • C. f. sanctaemartae Ridgway, 1904 – Santa Marta Mts, in N Colombia.
  • C. f. opertaneus Wetmore, 1955 – W Colombia (N part of W Andes).
  • C. f. caniceps Chapman, 1924 – NW & C Peru, probably also SW Ecuador.
  • C. f. mentalis P. L. Sclater & Salvin, 1876 – SE Peru and NW Bolivia (S to Santa Cruz).
  • Present also, race unknown, in Cordillera Central of Colombia#R.

    Descriptive notes

    17–19 cm; 35–38 g. Male nominate race is blackish-grey above from below eye to tail, blackest on crown and in front of eye; whitish below, with grey-flecked... read more


    Song resembles that of C. dryas, but more repetitive and leisurely, dreamy and mesmerizing... read more


    Undergrowth of dense mossy humid and wet montane forest, subtropical forest and cloudforest, in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, sowbugs, spiders and, commonly, earthworms; also many berries of Rubiaceae, Gesneriaceae, etc. Commonly forages on ground, often... read more


    Apr–Aug in Costa Rica; Apr–Sept (Feb–Jun in C Andes) in Colombia; fledglings in Jul in Ecuador; Dec–Jan, with... read more


    Sedentary, so far as known.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Uncommon to locally fairly common. Common in Costa Rica on both slopes, and sometimes abundant in Guanacaste and Tilarán... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. (2020). Slaty-backed Nightingale-thrush (Catharus fuscater). 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 28 January 2020).