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Birds of North and Middle America, part V/Genus 22. Rhopoterpe Cabanis


Genus RHOPOTERPE Cabanis.

(?) Myrmornis Hermann, Tab. aff. Anim., 1783, 188, 235. (Type, Fourmillier Buffon.)[1]
Formicivorus Temminck, Cat. Syst. Cab. Orn., 1807, 92. (Type, by tautonomy, Formicivorus palikour Temminck = Turdus formicivorus Gmelin = Formicarius torquatus Boddaert.)
(?) Urotomus Swainson, Zool. Journ., i, no. 3, Oct., 1824, 302, in text (nomen nudum); iii, no. 10, Sept., 1827, 166 (diagnosis, but no species named).
Rhopoterpe[2] Cabanis, in Wiegmann's Archiv für Naturg., xiii, pt. i, 1847, 227, 337. (Type, Turdus formicivorus Gmelin = Formicarius torquatus Boddaert.)

Medium-sized Formicariidæ (length about 130-150 mm.) with planta tarsi broadly rounded (not ridged) behind; tarsus only one- fourth as long as wing; tail only two-fifths as long as wing, nearly even; bill as long as or longer than head (commissure longer than tarsus), with mesorhinium broad and flattened basally; coloration variegated, with a white or fulvous band across subbasal portion of remiges, and outer web of primaries crossed by an oblique subterminal band of buff or fulvous.

Bill as long as or longer than head, rather slender, rather broad and depressed basally, its width at loral antiæ greater than its depth at same point and equal to less than half the distance from nostril to tip of maxilla; culmen distinctly ridged (except extreme base, where broad and flattened), straight for most of its length, abruptly decurved terminally, the tip of maxilla moderately uncinate; tomia straight, slightly but distinctly notched subterminally; gonys slightly convex, rather prominent basally. Nostril exposed, separated rather widely from loral feathering, narrow, longitudinal (slit-like) overhung by a rather broad convex operculum. Rictal bristles obsolete, and feathers of chin, malar apex, loral antiæ, etc., short, without terminal setæ. Wing large, very concave beneath, rather pointed, the longest primaries projecting considerably beyond secondaries; sixth and seventh, or sixth, seventh, and eighth primaries longest, the tenth (outermost) three-fourths as long as the longest, the ninth longer than secondaries. Tail very short (only two-fifths as long as wing), nearly even, the rectrices rather narrow, soft, with subacuminate tip. Tarsus shorter than commissure, only one-fourth as long as wing, rather stout, distinctly scutellate, the planta rather broadly rounded (not ridged) posteriorly, the plantar scutella forming a single series which bends around from the outer to the inner side, where separated from the inner edge of the acrotarsium by a distinct groove; middle toe, with claw, longer than tarsus; outer toe, -without claw, not reaching to middle of subterminal phalanx of middle toe, the inner toe very slightly shorter; hallux as long as outer toe, but much stouter; basal phalanx of middle toe wholly united to outer toe, for about half its length to inner toe; claws moderate in size and curvature, that of the hallux shorter than the digit. Plumage rather thin, but feathers mostly broad and distinctly outlined, those of rump and flanks more elongated and lax; feathering of head very short (scale- like on superciliary region and sides of neck), the rictal and postocular regions naked.

Coloration. — Above brownish, with a concealed white dorsal patch; wings black with two buffy or fulvous bands (tips of middle and greater coverts) and an oblique band of same across subterminal portion of primaries; a broad white band across inner webs of remiges near base; under parts of body gray, the throat and upper chest black in male, rufous-tawny in female.

Range. — Nicaragua to Cayenne and Ecuadór. (Two species.[3])


a. Inner webs of remiges crossed by a band of white; remiges without buff or tawny terminal spots; upper tail-coverts and tail cinnamon-rufous. (Cayenne and British Guiana to eastern Ecuadór.)

Rhopoterpe torquata (extralimital).[4]

aa. Inner webs of remiges crossed by a band of buff or tawny; remiges tipped with a buff or tawny spot; upper tail-coverts and tail brown. (Eastern Nicaragua.)

Rhopoterpe stictoptera (p. 139).



Allied to R. torquata and of the same size and for the most part similar in coloration; but top of head darker, rump and tail more fuscous, outer web of remiges with a distinct terminal spot of fawn color, the inner webs with a spot of fawn color (not white), and greater wing-coverts tipped with clear fawn color.[5]

Nicaragua (Santo Domingo, Chontales).

Rhopoterpe stictoptera Salvin, Bull. Brit. Orn. Club, no. vi, March 1, 1893, p. xxxii; Ibis, 6th ser. v, no. 18, April, 1893, 264 (Santo Domingo, Chontales, Nicaragua; coll. Salvin and Godman).
[Rhopoterpe] stictoptera Sharpe, Hand-list, iii, 1901, 31.

  1. The "Fourmillier" of Buffon comprises thirteen species, belonging to eleven recognized genera and four families (Formicariidæ, Conopophagidæ, Pittidæ, and Troglodytidæ). So far as I can determine no one has ever fixed a type, and to do so by any other method than the "process of elimination" would involve an amount of time and labor which is not at my disposal. Under the circumstances, I prefer to retain the generic name Rhopoterpe, notwithstanding the unquestioned priority and pertinence of Formicivorus, leaving the final solution of the question to some one who has both the time and taste for such investigation.
  2. ? Gestrauch; ?, erquicken." (Cabanis.)
  3. The above description is based entirely on the type of the genus, R. torquata (Gmelin). R. stictoptera Salvin, of Nicaragua, which I have not seen, is apparently very similar in coloration, but has the band across inner webs of remiges fulvous instead of white.
  4. 'Formicarius torquatus Boddaert, Tabl. Pl. Enl., 1783, 43 (Cayenne; based on Le Fourmillier de Cayenne Daubenton, Pl. Enl., pl. 700, fig. 1). — Rhopoterpe torquata Sclater, Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1858, 275; Cat. Birds Brit. Mus., xv, 1890, 298. — [Turdus] formicivorus Gmelin, Syst. Nat., i, pt. 2, 1788, 828 (based on Fourmillier de Cayenne Daubenton, Pl. Enl., pl. 700, fig. 1). — Myrmothera formicivora Vieillot, Nouv. Diet. d'Hist. Nat., xii, 1817, 114, pl. D. 26. — Rhopoterpe formicivora Cabanis, Wiegmann's Archiv für Naturg., 1847, pt. i, 228. — Formicivorus palikour Temminck, Cat. Syst. Cabinet d'Orn., 1807, 93 (new name for Turdus formicivorus Gmelin). — Myioturdus palikour Ménétriés, Mém. Acad. St. Petersburg, sér. vi (Sci. Nat.), 1 (Livr. 5), 1835, 470.
  5. Free translation of the original Latin diagnosis.