Family New World Warblers (Parulidae)

Least Concern

Spectacled Whitestart (Myioborus melanocephalus)


French: Paruline à lunettes German: Brillenwaldsänger Spanish: Candelita de anteojos
Other common names: Spectacled Redstart

Setophaga melanocephala


, 1844,

Maraynioc, Junín, Peru


Closely related to M. ornatus, M. chrysops and M. albifrons; these form a monophyletic clade. Has been suggested that present species and M. ornatus are better regarded as conspecific, but such treatment appears not to be supported by recent study of phylogeny of genus, although race ruficoronatus appears to be more closely related to latter species than to other races of present species#R. Seems especially close to M. chrysops (previously treated as a race of M. ornatus), with several records in potential zone of overlap (extreme SW Colombia and adjacent NW Ecuador) of individuals intermediate in head pattern between race ruficoronatus and M. chrysops; these originally thought to be variants of ruficoronatus, but may be result of hybridization, or even be an undescribed race of one or other species; recent record of pair of apparently phenotypically pure M. chrysops from this area lends weight to hybrid theory. Within present species, rufous-capped races ruficoronatus and griseonuchus formerly considered to represent a separate species; latter race, however, has small rufous crown patch and shares pattern of extended black on face with adjacent black-crowned race malaris; thus, griseonuchus and malaris appear to link black-crowned and rufous-crowned forms. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. m. ruficoronatus (Kaup, 1852) – Rufous-crowned Whitestart – Andes in extreme SW Colombia (Nariño) and Ecuador (S to Loja).
  • M. m. griseonuchus Chapman, 1927 – W Andes in NW Peru (Piura, Cajamarca).
  • M. m. malaris J. T. Zimmer, 1949 – C Andes in N Peru (Amazonas).
  • M. m. melanocephalus (Tschudi, 1844) – Spectacled Whitestart – E Andes in C Peru (S to Ayacucho).
  • M. m. bolivianus Chapman, 1919 – Andes in S Peru (S from Cuzco) and W Bolivia (La Paz, Cochabamba).
  • Descriptive notes

    13–13·5 cm; 10–13 g. Nominate race has crown and face black, prominent yellow eyering and supraloral stripe ("spec­tacles"); nape and... read more


    Song a variable series of high-pitched, twittering "tsee" notes; contact call a high-... read more


    Humid montane forest, elfin forest, cloudforest, forest edges and adjacent scrub, at 2000–... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds on insects and other arthropods. Forages at all levels, but especially high in canopy and at tops of smaller bushes. Obtains food... read more


    In E Ecuador breeding May–early Jan, during the drier months; recently fledged young seen in mid-Feb in S Ecuador (near Cuenca), Mar... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally common throughout its range. No population estimates available.

    Recommended citation

    Curson, J. & de Juana, E. (2019). Spectacled Whitestart (Myioborus melanocephalus). 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 September 2019).