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Black-capped Donacobius - BirdForum Opus

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Nominate subspecies
Photo © by Bananafishbones
San Pablo Marshes, Venezuela, 16 March 2012

Alternative names: Black-capped Mockingthrush; Black-capped Mockingwren

Donacobius atricapilla


Juvenile, nominate subspecies
Photo © by Rosmo01
Pantanal, Brazil, 19 November 2013

21-22cm (8¼-8¾ in)

  • Shiny black head and shoulders
  • Brown back
  • Olive brown rump
  • Black tail with white tips
  • Blackish wings with white flash
  • Yellow underparts, black bars on its side
  • Bright yellow eyes
  • Dusky green legs
  • Yellow distendable cheek pouch

Juvenile is more dusky, has darker eye, and shows a white line behind the eye.


Nominate atricapilla is larger and lacks evident barring on its flanks. Subspecies albovittatus shows the white postocular line in all ages. Subspecies nigrodorsalis has black back.


The Black-capped Donacobius ranges from eastern Panama to Colombia and the Guianas to northern Bolivia, Paraguay and north-eastern Argentina.


Formerly classified variously as a thrush, thrasher or wren, this unique bird is now placed in its own family, the Donacobiidae believed to be allied with certain Old World warblers.


Subspecies nigrodorsalis
Photo © by Luis R Figueroa
La Rioja Wetlands, San Martín, Peru, 25 March 2018

There are 4 subspecies[1]:

  • D. a. brachypterus :
  • D. a. nigrodorsalis:
  • D. a. atricapilla:
  • D. a. albovittatus:
  • Eastern Bolivia (Beni, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz); adjacent Brazil?


Grass or marsh surrounding pools, lakes and rivers in lowlands.



The nest is an open cup always with a close relationship to water (near or over). Eggs are a purplish white with reddish or purplish spots and blotches. The female incubates the eggs for 16-18 days. Both sexes, with the assistance of young from a previous, year feed the chicks.


Almost exclusively invertebrates including hymenopterans, beetles (Coleoptera), orthopterans, and neuropterans.


This species is famous for duetting antiphonally, each member of a pair singing different parts of a combined song. Bare yellow skin on the sides of its neck form air sacs inflated during song. Male gives a series of loud, ringing upward-slurred liquid whistles. Sometimes described as sounding like a "car alarm."




  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. animals.jrank.org
  3. Birdforum thread discussing a juvenile of this species
  4. Black-capped Donacobius (Donacobius atricapilla), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/bkcdon
  5. Kroodsma, D. & Brewer, D. (2019). Donacobius (Donacobius atricapilla). 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 https://www.hbw.com/node/58176 on 1 July 2019).

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