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Species Guide

Plain Xenops

Xenops minutus

The Plain Xenops (Xenops genibarbis) is a small, unassuming bird, part of the Furnariidae family, which is known for its ovenbird relatives. This bird measures approximately 11 to 13 centimeters in length and tips the scales at a mere 10 to 13 grams. Both sexes are similar in appearance, and the juveniles share a strong resemblance to the adults.

Identification Tips

To identify the Plain Xenops, look for its wedge-shaped, slightly upturned bill, which is quite stubby. The bird's plumage is generally dull brown to rufous brown on the upperparts, with a darker, lightly streaked crown. A distinctive feature is the buff or whitish supercilium and a prominent white malar stripe. The tail is a mix of cinnamon and black, while the wings are cinnamon with an ochraceous band. The underparts are a plain dull grayish brown, with some buff spotting on the foreneck and breast. The bird's eyes are dark brown, the maxilla is dull black, and the mandible is a dull grayish white with a dark gray tip. The legs and feet are bluish gray.


The Plain Xenops is found in various forested environments, including terra firme and várzea forests in the tropical lowlands, as well as semideciduous and mature secondary forests.


This bird's range extends from southern Mexico through Central America and into South America as far as northern Bolivia and across Brazil. It is a year-round resident within this extensive range.


The Plain Xenops is an active forager, primarily feeding on arthropods. It is often seen in mixed-species foraging flocks, utilizing its upturned bill to glean, hammer, chisel, and pry for food. It typically forages from the forest understory to the mid-levels and occasionally ascends to the canopy.

Song & Calls

The Plain Xenops' vocalizations include a variety of trills and high-pitched notes that vary geographically. Descriptions range from a fast chattering trill to a series of high, lisping, rising notes. Calls are described as soft chips or sharp "peeyk" sounds.


Breeding behavior includes both parents excavating a cavity in rotten wood to nest. Clutch size is typically two eggs, and in some regions, two broods may be raised annually. Incubation lasts 15 to 17 days, with fledging occurring 13 to 14 days post-hatch.

Similar Species

The Plain Xenops can be distinguished from other xenops species by its minimal streaking and the wide malar stripe.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists almost entirely of arthropods, including termites, ants, bees, beetles, katydids, millipedes, and spiders. The bird forages on thin dead branches, often rotten, and along vines.

Conservation Status

The IUCN has classified the Plain Xenops as Least Concern. Although it has a very large range and no immediate threats have been identified, the population is believed to be decreasing. It shows some tolerance to human disturbances, but there have been instances of local disappearances in disturbed forests.

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Plain Xenops on Birda


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