Unsorted Wild Birds

Rufous-tailed or Chilean Plantcutters

The Rufous-tailed Plantcutters (Phytotoma rara, sometimes called Chilean Plantcutter) is a fairly small passerine bird of southern South America, now placed in the cotinga family.

Distribution / Range

The Rufous-tailed Plantcutter is found further south than any other cotinga, inhabiting scrub, forest edge and river valleys in Chile and western Argentina.

The range extends from Magallanes region north to Atacama in Chile and from Santa Cruz north to Mendoza in Argentina. Birds breeding in southern or high-altitude regions move northwards or towards the lowlands in winter. It has been recorded as a vagrant to the Falkland Islands.

Birds are often seen in gardens, farmland and orchards and are sometimes considered to be a pest.


It is a stocky bird, 18-20 centimetres in length, with short wings and a red eye. The longish tail is black with a reddish base. The upperparts of the male are grey-brown with dark streaks while the crown and underparts are chestnut-colored. There is a white bar on the wing and a pattern of dark and pale areas on the face.

Females have buff underparts with brown streaks and have buff rather than white in the wings. They do not have the males’ chestnut crown but may show a cinnamon wash to the forehead and throat.

Calls / Vocalizations

The song is a series of stuttering notes followed by a rasping trill similar to a fishing reel.

Diet / Feeding

The finch-like bill is short and thick with serrated edges and is used for stripping off buds, leaves and fruits. Insects are eaten on occasions and are fed to the chicks.

Breeding / Nesting

The nest is a cup of root fibres and twigs built in a fork in a shrub or tree. Two to four eggs are laid, they are blue-green with dark spots concentrated at the larger end.

Plantcutters … Cotingas

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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