Pink-legged graveteiro -- 粉腿针尾雀 (Acrobatornis fonsecai)

Pink-legged graveteiro perched
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Pink-legged graveteiro fact file

Pink-legged graveteiro description

GenusAcrobatornis (1)

Only discovered as recently as 1994, the pink-legged graveteiro (Acrobatornis fonsecai) is most easily distinguished, as its name suggests, by its bright pink legs and feet. This species gains its scientific name, Acrobatornis, from the acrobatic moves it performs while foraging (3).

The adult pink-legged graveteiro has ashy-grey upperparts with blackish mottling on the back. The lower back and rump are pale grey and the crown, wings and tail are blackish (3). The juvenile is similarly patterned but is more reddish-brown in colour (2).

Although rather unremarkable in appearance from a distance, the pink-legged graveteiro can attract attention with its high-pitched song, which starts with sparse notes at first, then accelerates and finally finishes with a long trill (2).

Length: 14 cm (2)
14 g (3)

Pink-legged graveteiro biology

The pink-legged graveteiro is a highly acrobatic bird, with a tendency to hang upside-down under the canopies of trees where it creeps along branches in search of its next meal (3). The diet of the pink-legged graveteiro mainly comprises beetles (2), but it also takes termites, moths, ants, insect larvae, insect eggs, spiders and other arthropods (3).

Both the male and female pink-legged graveteiro contribute to the construction of quite remarkable and conspicuous nests, which are easily visible from the roadside in the tops of mostly leafless trees (6). Each nest has an entrance corridor of varying lengths, made from woven sticks, which leads to a single ‘incubation chamber’ that is heavily lined with leaves and moss. The outer layer is carefully woven with twigs and the entire assemblage has been known to measure between 24 and 45 centimetres (6).

Even more notably, it has been found that the pink-legged graveteiro makes up to five of these astonishing constructions within a single tree, but only one is active (6). The others are thought to be “dummy” nests, used to confuse predators and parasites, but they may also serve as places to store nest construction materials (6).

The pink-legged graveteiro has been recorded breeding between September and October (2). Within the nest, both the male and female play a role in the feeding of the two to three young (3). However, immature individuals have also been observed helping with this duty, along with performing some repairs around the nest. This is a behaviour seldom seen in other species of the Furnariidae (ovenbird) family (6).


Pink-legged graveteiro range

The pink-legged graveteiro is endemic to Brazil, where it occurs in the rapidly declining Atlantic Forest in the states of south-east Bahia and north-east Minas Gerais (2). These regions coincide with vast cocoa plantations that form the main production area of cocoa in the country (4).


Pink-legged graveteiro habitat

The pink-legged graveteiro inhabits humid forest and woodland (5) and can also be found in trees which shade the extensive cocoa plantations. It has been found at elevations up to 550 metres (2).


Pink-legged graveteiro status

The pink-legged graveteiro is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Pink-legged graveteiro threats

Within the range of the pink-legged graveteiro, virtually all forest habitat below elevations of 400 metres has been converted to cocoa plantations or completely cleared. This is exacerbated by the fact that weeding of the understorey prevents the forest from regenerating (2).

The pink-legged graveteiro can survive in cocoa plantations, as it inhabits the trees that shade the plantations. However, during the 1990s, falls in the price of cocoa and the introduction of a fungal disease, Crinipellis perniciosa, resulted in a decline in cocoa production (2). As a result, landowners have reverted to logging the shading forests to make money from timber sales, and have started converting some cocoa plantations to other crop types or to livestock grazing, which destroys the vital forest canopy that formerly extended over the cocoa plantations (2).


Pink-legged graveteiro conservation

Currently, several reserves are in the process of being created within the pink-legged graveteiro’s range, which will help protect habitat that is essential for this species’ survival (2). It has been recommended that further areas should also be protected, and that landowners should be given incentives to preserve the remaining forest. However, more concrete knowledge of the range, ecological requirements and population trends of this relatively recently discovered bird is needed as a pre-requisite to these plans (2).


Find out more

Find out more about the pink-legged graveteiro and its conservation:

Find out more about efforts to conserve the wildlife of the Atlantic Forest:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



A very diverse phylum (a major grouping of animals) that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
Atlantic forest
A highly biodiverse region found along the east coast of South America, comprising several different vegetation types, including high-altitude grassland, and lowland and montane forest.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
The act of incubating eggs, that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
An organism that derives its food from, and lives in or on, another living organism at the host’s expense.


  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
  2. BirdLife International (November, 2010)
  3. Pacheco, J.F., Whitney, B.M. and Gonzaga, L.P. (1996) A new genus and species of Furnariid (Aves: Furnariidae) from the cocoa-growing region of southeastern Bahia, Brazil. The Wilson Bulletin, 108(3): 397-433.
  4. Faria, D., Laps, R.R., Baumgarten, J. and Cetra, M. (2006) Bat and bird assemblages from forests and shade cacao plantations in two contrasting landscapes in the Atlantic Forest of southern Bahia, Brazil. Biodiversity and Conservation, 15(2): 587-612.
  5. Ridgely, R.S. and Tudor, G. (2009) Field Guide to the Songbirds of South America. The Passerines. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas. 
  6. Whitney, B.M., Pacheco, J.F., Fonseca, P.S.M. and Barth Jr, R.H. (1996) The nest and nesting ecology of Acrobatornis fonsecai (Furnariidae), with implications for intrafamilial relationships. The Wilson Bulletin, 108(3): 434-448.

Image credit

Pink-legged graveteiro perched  
Pink-legged graveteiro perched

© Arthur Grosset

Arthur Grosset


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