Bird O'clock

Uncovering the Secrets of the Barred Antshrike: Behavior Plumage and More

The Barred Antshrike, Thamnophilus doliatus, is a Neotropical bird species that belongs to the family Thamnophilidae. These birds are insectivorous, often found perched in the forest understory, hunting for their prey in dense vegetation.


Field Identification

The Barred Antshrike is a medium-sized bird that measures up to 7.9 inches (20 cm) in length. The male has a black head and upperparts, with a white spot above the eye.

The throat and underparts are chestnut-colored with white barring. The female, on the other hand, has a brown head and upperparts, with white spots above the eyes.

The throat and underparts are also chestnut-colored but lack the white barring found in males.

Similar Species

The Barred Antshrike can be sometimes confused with similar antshrike species, such as the Streak-crowned Antvireo and the Checker-throated Antwren. Both species share the chestnut-colored underparts and white spots above the eyes but can be differentiated by their overall coloration and barring patterns.


The Barred Antshrike has two plumages – the basic and alternate plumages. The basic plumage is seen in immature birds and females, characterized by brownish upperparts and underparts, with light brown or whitish spots above the eyes.

The wings and tails are also barred with rusty-brown. The alternate plumage is exhibited by adult males during the breeding season.

They have a black head and upperparts with a white spot above the eye. The throat and underparts are chestnut-colored with white barring.


Like many bird species, the Barred Antshrike undergoes molt, a process of shedding and replacing feathers. The prebasic molt, or non-breeding molt, occurs after the breeding season when the birds replace their old feathers with new ones.

During this process, the birds lose their bright colors and distinctive markings, making them more vulnerable to predators. The prealternate molt, or breeding molt, occurs in male birds as they replace their basic plumage with their alternate plumage.

This is an important stage in the breeding season as the brighter colors and distinctive markings help attract mating partners. In conclusion, the Barred Antshrike is a distinctive bird species found in the Neotropical region.

Their distinctive plumage and hunting habits make them fascinating to birdwatchers and ornithologists alike. By studying and learning about these unique bird species, we can gain a better understanding of their role in the ecosystem and appreciate their beauty.

Systematics History

The Barred Antshrike, Thamnophilus doliatus, is a member of the family Thamnophilidae, which includes over 200 species of antbirds found in the Neotropics. The species was first described by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1758 and was initially placed in the genus “Lanius.” However, in 1764, the French naturalist Mathurin Jacques Brisson assigned it to the genus Thamnophilus.

Geographic Variation

The Barred Antshrike is distributed across Central and South America, with different populations exhibiting geographic variation. The species can be found from Mexico to northern Argentina, with some populations found on Caribbean islands, including Trinidad and Tobago.


Currently, there are 14 recognized subspecies of Barred Antshrike, which are distinguished by their physical characteristics and geographic distribution. These subspecies are:

– Thamnophilus doliatus doliatus, found in eastern Venezuela and Guyana

– Thamnophilus doliatus aeneus, found in southern Venezuela and northern Brazil

– Thamnophilus doliatus signatus, found in northern Colombia and Venezuela

– Thamnophilus doliatus armstrongi, found in western Ecuador

– Thamnophilus doliatus confinis, found in northeastern Colombia

– Thamnophilus doliatus sierrae, found in the Andes of southwestern Colombia and western Ecuador

– Thamnophilus doliatus hypostictus, found in eastern Colombia and northern Peru

– Thamnophilus doliatus sucunduri, found in central Amazonian Brazil

– Thamnophilus doliatus insularis, found on Tobago

– Thamnophilus doliatus schistaceus, found in northern Brazil

– Thamnophilus doliatus viridis, found in southeastern Brazil

– Thamnophilus doliatus melanurus, found in southeastern Brazil, Uruguay, and northeastern Argentina

– Thamnophilus doliatus dolosus, found in southwestern Brazil and Bolivia

– Thamnophilus doliatus nigrocinereus, found in southeastern Brazil

Related Species

The Barred Antshrike is part of a larger group of antbirds known as the “Thamnophilus antbirds.” This group includes over 30 species, each with distinct physical characteristics and geographic distribution.

Historical Changes to Distribution

Like many other bird species in the Neotropics, the Barred Antshrike has experienced changes in its distribution over time. These changes have been influenced by factors such as habitat loss, climate change, and human activities.

In the early 20th century, the Barred Antshrike was common across its range, including northern Mexico, Central America, and much of South America. However, deforestation and habitat fragmentation have caused declines in populations in some areas.

For example, in parts of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil, populations have declined due to forest loss caused by timber harvesting and agriculture. Climate change may also be influencing the distribution of the Barred Antshrike.

As temperatures continue to rise, some populations may be forced to move to cooler areas or adapt to changing environmental conditions. Human activities, such as the introduction of exotic species and urbanization, have also impacted the distribution and abundance of the Barred Antshrike.

For example, in some parts of its range, the introduction of cats and rats has led to declines in populations due to predation of eggs and young. Overall, the Barred Antshrike is a resilient species that has adapted to changing environmental conditions over time.

However, continued conservation efforts are needed to protect its habitat and ensure its survival for future generations.


The Barred Antshrike is a bird species that can be found in a variety of habitats across its range, including forests, woodlands, scrublands, and even urban areas. They are particularly common in humid and semi-humid forests, both lowland and montane.

In some areas, they have adapted to disturbed habitats, such as secondary forests, plantations, and even gardens and parks. These birds are generally found in the lower to mid-levels of forests, often perching on low branches or shrubs to hunt for their insect prey.

They are also found in dense vegetation, such as thickets, and can be difficult to spot due to their camouflaged plumage and elusive behavior.

Movements and Migration

The Barred Antshrike is a non-migratory bird species, meaning that they do not undertake long-distance movements or migrations. However, some populations may exhibit local movements in response to seasonal changes in food availability or habitat conditions.

In general, the Barred Antshrike is a territorial species and tends to remain in the same area year-round. They may undertake short-distance movements within their home range in response to changes in the availability of food resources or other environmental factors.

During the breeding season, males will defend their territory and attract females through song and displays. They are known for their distinctive songs, which are often heard in the early morning hours.

Females will construct a nest in a tree or shrub, and both parents will help incubate the eggs and raise the young. Outside of the breeding season, the Barred Antshrike may form small flocks, foraging together in search of food resources.

These flocks may consist of family groups or unrelated individuals. Overall, the movements and behavior of the Barred Antshrike are influenced by the availability of food resources, habitat conditions, and social interactions.

While they do not undertake long-distance migrations, these birds are still an important part of the ecosystems in which they live, helping to control insect populations and contributing to the overall biodiversity of their habitats.

Conservation Status

The Barred Antshrike is currently classified as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), due to its relatively stable populations and broad distribution across Central and South America. However, some populations are declining due to habitat loss and habitat fragmentation caused by human activities.

In some areas, conservation efforts are underway to protect the Barred Antshrike and their habitats. For example, in Brazil, the Atlantic Forest Conservation Units for the Barred Antshrike project aims to reduce habitat loss and improve connectivity of fragmented forest habitats to facilitate movement and dispersal of these birds.

By promoting conservation of this species and its habitats, we can help to ensure that these beautiful and important birds continue to thrive in the future.

Diet and Foraging


The Barred Antshrike is primarily an insectivorous bird species, with a varied diet that includes a wide range of insects. They are known to feed on beetles, spiders, ants, and other insects found in the forest understory.

Barred Antshrikes are active foragers that hunt for their prey by searching through dense vegetation for insects. They are often seen perched on low branches or shrubs as they scan for potential prey.


The diet of the Barred Antshrike can also vary depending on the season and habitat. For example, in areas with more open habitats, such as savannas, they may feed on a variety of grasshoppers and other grassland insects.

In contrast, in more dense forest habitats, they may primarily feed on beetles and ants. In some areas, the Barred Antshrike has been observed feeding on fruit, although this is believed to be a rare occurrence.

They may occasionally supplement their diet with other small prey, such as lizards or small frogs.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Barred Antshrike, like other bird species, has a high metabolism and body temperature compared to mammals. This is because birds require a lot of energy to power their flight and other activities.

To maintain their high metabolism and body temperature, birds must have efficient systems for obtaining and processing food. The Barred Antshrike, as an insectivorous species, is well adapted to this by having a specialized digestive system that allows them to extract nutrients from their prey quickly and efficiently.

They also have a specialized respiratory system that allows them to extract more oxygen from the air than mammals. This enables them to supply their muscles with the oxygen they need to maintain their high metabolism.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Barred Antshrike is known for its distinctive vocalization, which is often described as a series of sharp, high-pitched notes. They have a varied repertoire of vocalizations, including calls used for territorial defense, mate attraction, and communication with other members of their flock.

During the breeding season, males will sing a loud, distinctive song to attract females and establish their territory. They may also use a variety of other calls and displays to communicate with their mate.

Outside of the breeding season, the Barred Antshrike may join small flocks of other bird species, and they may use a different set of vocalizations to communicate with members of their flock. Overall, the Barred Antshrike is a vocal and social species, using a wide range of calls and vocalizations to communicate with other members of their species and maintain relationships.

Their distinctive vocalizations make them a popular subject for birdwatchers and researchers alike.



The Barred Antshrike is a highly skilled flier, capable of rapid and agile flight to navigate through dense forest vegetation. They may also hop or climb through branches and shrubs as they move through their habitat.

On the ground, they may hop or walk on their legs, which are relatively short compared to their body size. Some populations have also been observed using roads and clearings to move through their habitat.


Barred Antshrikes are known to be fastidious birds that spend a significant amount of time on self-maintenance. They use their bills to clean and groom their feathers, remove dirt and debris, and maintain their plumage in good condition.

They may also take regular dust baths to keep their feathers clean.

Agonistic Behavior

The Barred Antshrike is a territorial bird species, with males aggressively defending their territory against other males or perceived threats. They may use vocalizations or physical displays, such as raising their feathers or spreading their wings, to intimidate rival males.

Females may also exhibit territorial behavior, defending their nest and young against potential predators or threats. They may use a variety of vocalizations and physical displays to communicate their dominance or aggression.

Sexual Behavior

During the breeding season, male Barred Antshrikes will establish territories and try to attract a female mate. They may use a variety of vocalizations and physical displays to advertise their presence and attract females.

Once a male and female pair up, they will engage in courtship behaviors, such as mutual preening and allopreening (grooming each others feathers), and vocalizations.


The breeding season for the Barred Antshrike varies depending on the geographic location. In some parts of their range, breeding may occur year-round, while in others it may be more seasonal.

After pairing up, the female will construct a nest using twigs, leaves, and other materials. Nests are typically located in trees or shrubs, often near the ground.

Once the nest is built, the female will lay a clutch of two to three eggs. Both parents will incubate the eggs, sharing the responsibility for keeping them warm and protected from predators.

After the eggs hatch, both parents will feed and care for the young. They will bring insects and other prey back to the nest to feed the growing chicks, and may continue to care for them until they are able to leave the nest and fend for themselves.

Demography and Populations

The Barred Antshrike is a widespread bird species with stable populations across much of its range. While some populations may be declining due to habitat fragmentation or loss, overall the species is considered to be of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The population size and demography of this species vary depending on the geographic location. In some areas, the Barred Antshrike may be locally common, while in others it may be less abundant.

Researchers studying Barred Antshrikes have used a variety of techniques to estimate population size and study demography, including mist netting and banding, radio telemetry, and habitat surveys. By studying these populations, researchers can gain a better understanding of the factors influencing their distribution and abundance, and better inform conservation efforts to protect them.

In summary, the Barred Antshrike is a Neotropical bird species that can be found in a variety of habitats across Central and South America. They are highly skilled fliers and insectivores that play an important role in maintaining the balance of their ecosystems.

Their distinctive plumage, vocalizations, and social behavior make them fascinating subjects for birdwatchers and researchers alike. While some populations are declining due to human activities, conservation efforts are underway to protect their habitats and ensure their survival for future generations.

Understanding the behavior and ecology of this species can help us to appreciate their importance and contribute to their conservation, ensuring that they continue to thrive in their natural habitats.

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