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10 Fascinating Facts About the Endangered Urrao Antpitta

The Urrao Antpitta, also known scientifically as Grallaria urraoensis, is a bird species found only in a small region of the Colombian Andes. Its discovery in 2010 was groundbreaking as it marked the first new species of antpitta discovered in over twenty years.

In this article, we will delve deeper into the identification of the Urrao Antpitta, its plumage, and molts.

Field Identification

The Urrao Antpitta is a small bird that measures around 16.5 cm in length. Its head and back are a deep chocolate brown while its breast and belly are a paler brown.

The bird also features white markings on its throat and eyebrows. Its legs are a pale pink while its eyes are a dark brown.

One of the key distinguishing features of the Urrao Antpitta is its uniquely shaped bill, which is triangular in shape and slightly curved downwards.

Similar Species

The Urrao Antpitta has some similar species that can be easily confused with it. For instance, the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, also found in the Colombian Andes, has a similar brown plumage.

However, it lacks the white markings found on the Urrao Antpitta’s throat and eyebrows. Additionally, other antpitta species such as the Rusty-tinged Antpitta and the Brown-banded Antpitta have the same kind of markings as the Urrao Antpitta.

However, these species have much paler plumages than the Urrao Antpitta’s rich brown color.


The Urrao Antpitta has two plumages: the juvenile plumage, and the adult plumage. When the bird is young, its plumage is generally paler than that of the adult bird, and its head and neck feature more white marks.

As the bird matures, its plumage becomes richer in color and its white markings become less prominent.


Like many other bird species, the Urrao Antpitta undergoes molts throughout its life cycle. During the molt process, the bird sheds its feathers and replaces them with new ones.

Molting is a necessary process for birds to maintain their feathers’ structure and functionality. The Urrao Antpitta typically undergoes a complete molt, which means that it replaces all of its feathers at once.

Wrap Up

The Urrao Antpitta is an intriguing and unique species of bird that is endemic to a small region of the Colombian Andes. Its striking plumage, distinctive bill shape, and white markings make it a fascinating bird for birdwatchers and ornithologists alike.

Understanding the identification of the Urrao Antpitta, its plumages, and molts is crucial to comprehending this species better. Hopefully, this article has shed some light on these topics for readers interested in the Urrao Antpitta and added to their knowledge of bird species in general.

Systematics History

The Urrao Antpitta, or Grallaria urraoensis, is a species of bird that belongs to the family Grallariidae. The Grallariidae family comprises of small to medium-sized ground-dwelling birds that are found in the Neotropical region.

The Urrao Antpitta was first discovered and identified in 2010 by a group of ornithologists who were studying birds in northwestern Colombia. Since the initial discovery, the bird has been the subject of much research, including the study of its systematics history.

Geographic Variation

Geographic variation refers to the differences in physical characteristics or behaviors that occur between populations in different geographical regions. The Urrao Antpitta is a species with some geographic variation depending on the region.

This difference is particularly noticeable in the bill sizes. For instance, Urrao Antpittas from the Central Cordillera region of the Andes Mountains tend to have larger bills than those from the Western and Eastern slopes of the mountains.


The Urrao Antpitta has several subspecies, which are distinguished from each other based on their physical features and geographic location. The five recognized subspecies of the Urrao Antpitta are Grallaria urraoensis urraoensis, Grallaria urraoensis leymebambae, Grallaria urraoensis plumbea, Grallaria urraoensis hylodroma, and Grallaria urraoensis chocoensis.

The primary differences between these subspecies lie in the size and shape of their bills and the color of their plumage. For instance, the Grallaria urraoensis plumbea subspecies has a grayer plumage than the other subspecies.

Related Species

The Urrao Antpitta is one of many species of antpittas found in the Andes of South America. Antpittas are small to medium-sized birds that are often hard to spot because of their reclusive nature.

The Urrao Antpitta is most closely related to the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, which is also found in the Colombian Andes. The two species share similar physical characteristics, including their brown plumage and triangular-shaped bills.

Nonetheless, the Urrao Antpitta is easily distinguished from the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta because of its white markings on the throat and eyebrows.

Historical Changes to Distribution

Historical changes to distribution refer to the changes in the range or distribution of a species over time. Like many bird species, the Urrao Antpitta’s historical range has been affected by a combination of natural factors such as climate change and human factors such as habitat destruction.

Currently, the bird is found only in a small region of the northwestern Andes Mountains, a range that was constrained during the last glacial maximum. The extensive deforestation and habitat destruction that have taken place in South America in recent decades have had a profound impact on the Urrao Antpitta’s population.

This destruction of forests is the primary reason the Urrao Antpitta is listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is feared that habitat loss and modification will result in further declines of the Urrao Antpitta population.

Wrap Up

The Urrao Antpitta is a unique bird species with interesting systematics history due to its geographic variation, subspecies, and related species. The bird’s range or distribution over time has changed, and its population is threatened due to deforestation and habitat loss.

With increased research and conservation efforts, the Urrao Antpitta and other species of antpittas found in the Andes Mountains can continue to thrive, and their unique and intriguing presence in the world of ornithology can continue to be appreciated and studied.


The Urrao Antpitta is a bird species that is endemic to a small region of northwestern Colombia. It is found primarily in the dense forests and undergrowth of the high-altitude cloud forests.

These habitats provide the bird with the perfect environment to forage for food and breed. The bird is found in the understory areas of the forest, generally at elevations between 1800 and 2700 meters above sea level.

The cloud forests in which the Urrao Antpitta lives, have high humidity and abundant plant life, creating a perfect environment for this habitat specialist. The Urrao Antpitta inhabits dense forests with a thick understory of bamboo, shrubs, and low-growing plants.

These forests are characterized by their high diversity of trees, ferns, mosses, and epiphytes, creating a complex and dense vegetative layer. The bird is often found foraging on the forest floor, flipping leaves and probing the soil for insects and other invertebrates.

Movements and Migration

The Urrao Antpitta is known to be a sedentary bird species, which means it typically does not migrate. Studies have shown that the bird’s range is confined to a small geographic area which it rarely leaves, meaning that the bird does not travel long distances, at least not voluntarily.

The Urrao Antpitta appears to be resident, with limited and localized movements, as it is thought to only travel short distances in search of food and mates. Like other antpittas, the Urrao Antpitta has a distinctive way of moving, creeping slowly along the forest floor with quick steps.

They move with a deliberate pace compared with ground-loving birds that run. The bird’s ability to move silently along the floor of the forest is critical to avoiding detection by predators and finding prey.

This creeping movement also gives it access to the understory, where it can search for its delicate prey. While Urrao Antpittas have limited movements, some studies have shown that the birds can move altitudinally.

The Urrao Antpitta seems to be adaptable enough to survive in a variety of altitudes within its known distribution range. The bird’s preference for the cloud forest is a relatively narrow band in the Andes, but it has been reported at higher altitudes in the past, possibly due to the changing in climate.

As global climate change affects habitats worldwide, we could see an expansion or a contraction of the Urrao Antpitta’s range and further examination of this movement could assist in determining if there has been a change in range.

Wrap Up

The Urrao Antpitta’s habitat and movements reflect the species’ life history and ecology. The bird is restricted to dense and high-altitude cloud forests with a thick understory, where it can forage for food and breed.

Its habitat also needs a consistent supply of cloud cover and moisture, making an ecosystem that is somewhat fragile concerning environmental changes. The bird is resident and has limited movements within its range and not known to be a migrant, but there is evidence for some localized altitudinal movements.

Further studies of the Urrao Antpitta’s movement and migrations could provide some new insights into the species’ range expansion or contraction in response to potential shifts in habitat brought on by environmental changes.

Diet and Foraging


The Urrao Antpitta is predominantly an insectivore and spends the majority of its time foraging on the ground. The bird has a distinctive foraging style using its feet, beak, and wings to clear leaves and probes the soil for invertebrates.

Urrao Antpittas move slowly on the ground with small steps and are known for their careful, deliberate methods of locating and capturing prey.


Studies have shown that the Urrao Antpitta’s diet consists mainly of insects, including beetles, caterpillars, and spiders. In their quest for food, they flip over leaves, and remove soil and other detritus to find their prey items.

While they are primarily insectivorous, they will occasionally supplement their diet with fruits, especially during the breeding season. Compared to other bird species in the same ecosystem, the Urrao Antpitta has a slower metabolism.

Studies indicate that its metabolism is about 45% lower than other birds of similar body size, which allows Urrao Antpittas to survive on a diet that is relatively low in calories. Also, their diet may confer some advantage as it is often full of high nutrition available with lesser competition from other birds that prefer larger insects.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Urrao Antpitta’s low metabolism rate raises questions about how it regulates its body temperature and tolerates extreme altitudes where it lives. It has been hypothesized that the bird has adapted to its environment by having a low resting metabolic rate over an elevated metabolic rate once active, which reduces the amount of energy spent per second.

These slower rates also allow the bird to produce less heat, reducing the body’s temperature in the cold, high-altitude environment in which it lives. Additionally, studies of the feathers of the Urrao ant Pitta suggest the feathers may insulate the bird from the cold by trapping air below a layer of down.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Urrao Antpitta has distinct vocalizations that are used for a variety of reasons, including courtship and territorial defense. Males and females produce a series of low-pitched notes, generally consisting of 5 to 10 notes, in various tonal and dynamic variations.

These calls are an important part of their life history and are crucial in indicating their presence, location, breeding success, and signaling for help or defense. The Urrao Antpitta uses a range of sounds, chirps, twitters, and warbles to communicate with its counterparts.

In conclusion, the Urrao Antpitta is a unique and fascinating bird species with intricate relationships with its ecosystem. It feeds mainly on insects, supporting this characteristic of being insectivorous with the unique actions such as flipping leaves, and clearing surface debris to find prey.

The bird’s ability to sustain on a relatively low calorie diet is supported by a slow metabolism. The vocalizations and sounds produced by the bird also play a significant ecological role in its life, aiding in its communication with other birds.



The Urrao Antpitta is a ground-dwelling bird species that can move quickly and gracefully over rocky and uneven terrain. The bird’s movement is deliberate and careful, taking small steps while leaning and scouting the ground for its food.

Urrao Antpittas can also run short distances on the ground to escape predators. They are unsteady fliers and usually take flight only when startled or threatened.

Self Maintenance

Like other birds, the Urrao Antpitta engages in various self-maintenance behaviors such as preening its feathers, which helps to keep them clean, maintained, and free of parasites. They do this by using their beaks to smooth and align their feathers.

The Urrao Antpitta also bathes in water, which helps keep their feathers clean and free of debris.

Agonistic Behavior

Agonistic behavior refers to behavior associated with conflict and competition between individuals of the same species. While the Urrao Antpitta generally inhabits its own territory, it is not a highly aggressive bird species.

When confronted with another Urrao Antpitta, the bird may use vocalizations to establish a boundary or become confrontational if necessary. However, physical altercations between birds are rare.

Sexual Behavior

The Urrao Antpitta is a monogamous bird species, meaning that males and females typically pair up during the breeding season and remain together throughout the season. Males engage in courtship behavior by using song and displaying their colorful feathers.

Once a pair has formed, they continue to engage in various behaviors to maintain their bond, such as preening each other’s feathers.


The breeding season of the Urrao Antpitta occurs from April to June, and it coincides with the rainy season in the Andes. During this time, the male establishes a territory and begins courtship behavior with females.

The female typically lays two eggs in a nest constructed on the ground, in a small hole or crevice. The eggs are oval-shaped and have a bluish-white color.

Incubation of the eggs lasts for approximately 32 days, with both parents contributing to incubation. Once hatched, the young birds have a relatively long fledging period and are reliant on their parents for several weeks.

Demography and Populations

The Urrao Antpitta is restricted to a small geographic area within the northwestern Andes mountains, and its habitat has been significantly reduced by forest degradation, fragmentation, and deforestation. As a result, the Urrao Antpitta is classified as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Since its discovery in 2010, numerous conservation measures have been implemented to protect the Urrao Antpitta’s habitat. These measures include the establishment of conservation reserves, forest restoration, and community engagement.

The future of the Urrao Antpitta’s population will depend on the successful implementation of these measures and continued research to better understand the bird’s ecology, distribution, and behavior.

In conclusion, the behavior of the Urrao Antpitta is closely tied to its evolutionary and ecological history.

As a ground-dwelling bird with a slow metabolism, the Urrao Antpitta has developed a unique foraging strategy for finding food and surviving in a high-altitude environment. The bird engages in various behaviors such as self-maintenance, agonistic behavior, and sexual behavior that help maintain its territory and bond with its partner.

The bird’s breeding patterns are also remarkably well-suited to the limited resources that characterize its niche habitat. Finally, its limited population range is threatened by habitat destruction, leading to it being classified as vulnerable.

The Urrao Antpitta is a remarkable bird species with a unique ecological and evolutionary history that has allowed it to survive in the high-altitude cloud forests of northwestern Colombia. The bird’s habits, behavior, and population are closely linked to this environment, setting it apart from other birds that inhabit the same region.

The Urrao Antpitta has a slow metabolism, distinctive foraging style, and specific mating and breeding behavior. The narrow range of the Urrao Antpitta and its vulnerability has brought

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