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Spotted Barbtail

Premnoplex brunnescens

The Spotted Barbtail, a diminutive and cryptically patterned bird, graces the montane forests with its presence. This species, Premnoplex brunnescens, is a member of the Furnariidae family, and it is adorned with a rich tapestry of spots and scalloped plumage that belies its small stature, measuring between 13 to 15 centimeters in length and weighing a mere 14 to 19 grams.

Identification Tips

Upon encountering this bird, one is struck by its lack of sexual dimorphism, with both males and females sharing the same intricate plumage. The forehead is a dark greyish-brown, speckled with tawny or ochraceous spots, leading to a narrow supercilium of similar patterning. The crown continues this theme, with dark-edged feathers creating a scalloped effect. The back is a somber dark brown, while the rump adds a subtle chestnut hue to the mix. The uppertail coverts are a more pronounced chestnut-brown, and the tail itself is distinctive with its spiny appearance due to barbless feather tips. The throat mirrors the forehead's tawny color, and the belly and breast are a dull brown with elongated, darkly outlined spots.


The Spotted Barbtail is a denizen of subtropical or tropical moist montane forests, with a particular affinity for areas rich in moss and epiphytes.


This bird can be found from the Talamancan montane forests to the northern Andes. Its elevation range varies from 1,200 to 2,600 meters, occasionally venturing higher or lower depending on the region.


The Spotted Barbtail is a sedentary species, often seen alone, in pairs, or within family groups, and sometimes joining mixed-species flocks. It forages in the forest understory, adeptly climbing along branches and using its tail for support, even hanging upside-down in its quest for food.

Song & calls

Unfortunately, the guide does not provide information on the song and calls of the Spotted Barbtail.


Breeding habits suggest monogamy, with breeding seasons varying by region. The species lays two disproportionately large white eggs, incubated for 27 days, with nestlings cared for over three weeks by both parents. The nest is a substantial spherical structure with a tube-like entrance, often situated near streams and within a couple of meters of the ground.

Similar Species

The Spotted Barbtail bears resemblance to the White-throated Barbtail but can be distinguished by its tawny spots, smaller and less dense breast spots, and a shallower beak.

Diet and Feeding

This bird's diet includes beetles, hymenopteran insects, cockroach eggs, and spiders. It gleans food from mossy tree sections, bark crevices, and among epiphytes, displaying remarkable agility in its feeding habits.

Conservation status

The Spotted Barbtail is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, with a stable presence across its range and adaptability to both fragmented and intact habitats.

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Spotted Barbtails on Birda

A map showing the sighting location
James M
28 Feb 2024 - 1:59pm
Costa Rica

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