Family Tapaculos (Rhinocryptidae)

Least Concern

White-crowned Tapaculo (Scytalopus atratus)


French: Mérulaxe couronné German: Weißscheiteltapaculo Spanish: Churrín coroniblanco
Other common names: Northern White-crowned Tapaculo

Scytalopus atratus


, 1922,

Río Negro, Boyacá, Colombia


For many years considered conspecific with broadly sympatric S. femoralis. Systematics, and ranges of races listed, still unresolved: song in E Colombia and Ecuador (usually 1 second long, of 8–10 sharp upstroke notes at 2.5–2.6 kHz, even pace of 8–11 per second, song repeated at intervals of 1–3 seconds) very different from songs in SW Venezuela (c. 30 seconds, of sharp downstrokes at 2.8 kHz, 3–7 per second) and in Peru S & E of R Marañón (sharp 2.4–3 kHz downstroke, 4–7 per second, varying between single notes and short series of 2–7 at irregular intervals, or as continuous series for up to 30 seconds or more), suggesting that birds in E Andes of Colombia and Ecuador probably represent a separate species from populations to N, W and S; further study required. Three subspecies presently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. a. nigricans Phelps, Sr & Phelps, Jr, 1953 – W Venezuela in Sierra de Perijá, and S slope of Andes in Táchira and Mérida.
  • S. a. confusus J. T. Zimmer, 1939 – C Andes and E slope of W Andes in Colombia.
  • S. a. atratus Hellmayr, 1922 – E Andes of Colombia and E Ecuador, and C Andes of Peru (S Amazonas S to Cuzco), Cordillera Azul and Cerros del Sira.
  • Descriptive notes

    12 cm; male 24·6–32·5 g, one female 25·3 g. Blackish tapaculo with white crown patch and dark-barred brown flanks. Male has white crown patch; otherwise, mostly... read more


    Song in Peru (S & E of R Marañón) a single sharp 2·4–3 kHz downstroke note (first... read more


    Undergrowth of humid montane forest and forest edges, at 850–1900 m. To some extent, replaced... read more

    Food and feeding

    Eight stomachs all contained insects. Forages on and near the ground.


    In Ecuador, juvenile collected in Jan and adult with enlarged gonads in Nov; vocal and territorial in all months. No further data.


    Probably sedentary.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally uncommon; locally fairly common, e.g. in Ecuador and Peru. Found in lowest parts of Gran Sumaco National Park and Podocarpus National Park... read more

    Recommended citation

    Krabbe, N.K. & Schulenberg, T.S. (2020). White-crowned Tapaculo (Scytalopus atratus). 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 21 February 2020).