Long-billed gnatwren

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Long-billed gnatwren
Long-billed Gnatwren.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Polioptilidae
Genus: Ramphocaenus
Vieillot, 1819
Species: R. melanurus
Binomial name
Ramphocaenus melanurus
(Vieillot, 1819)

The long-billed gnatwren (Ramphocaenus melanurus) is a very small bird in the gnatcatcher family. It is the only member of the genus Ramphocaenus (Vieillot, 1819), which means ‘unusual beak’, from the Ancient Greek rhamphos (ῥάµϕος, ‘beak’)[2] and cænos (καινός, ‘strange’).[3]


It is found in the undergrowth and vines of dry forest and secondary woodland from Mexico south to Peru and Brazil, and on Trinidad.

Long-billed gnatwrens build a deep cup nest very low in a small plant or sapling. The two white eggs are incubated by both parents for 16–17 days to hatching, with a further 11–12 days to fledging.


Adult long-billed gnatwrens are 10.9 cm long and weigh 10.3 g. They have a long, thin bill and a short cocked tail. The upperparts are grey-brown, with rufous on the sides of the head. The throat is white, shading to buff on the rest of the underparts. The tail is black with white tips to all but the central feathers, and is frequently wagged.

R. m. trinitatis, of eastern Colombia, Venezuela and Trinidad has paler underparts, and buff flanks and head sides.


Long-billed gnatwrens forage actively in vegetation, eating mainly insects, insect eggs and spiders. The call is a trilled drdrdrdrdrdrdrdrdrdr. This unmistakable bird usually occurs in pairs or family groups.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Ramphocaenus melanurus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ "rhamphoid". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. A & C Black. p. 330. ISBN 978-1-4081-2878-7. Gr. rhamphos bill; kainos novel, strange.
  • Birds of Venezuela by Hilty, ISBN 0-7136-6418-5
  • ffrench, Richard (1991). A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago (2nd ed.). Comstock Publishing. ISBN 0-8014-9792-2.

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