Rufous twistwing -- 棕霸鹟 (Cnipodectes superrufus)

Rufous twistwing, side view
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Rufous twistwing fact file

Rufous twistwing description

GenusCnipodectes (1)

The rufous twistwing is a large tyrant flycatcher, characterised by its rich reddish-brown colour and shaggy appearance (3). It also has a broad, flat bill, grey toes and red eyes, although these can appear dark from a distance (4). Male and female rufous twistwings are very similar in appearance, aside from the male being larger in size (3). Young males may also have an initial yellowy-grey plumage before it develops the deep reddish-brown colouration of the adult (3).

This specialised bird is larger than the brownish twistwing (Cnipodectes subbrunneus), the only other species in its genus, and can also be distinguished by its unique bright colour (3) and three types of vocalisations (2) (5).

Length: 18 – 24 cm (2)
Male weight: 29 – 42 g (2) (3)
Female weight: 22 - 27 g (2) (3)

Rufous twistwing biology

The rufous twistwing is a somewhat elusive bird, said to have an “erratic” and “slightly floppy” flight style while moving between perches (2). The most common activity to be observed has been an individual perched one to three metres above the ground, making frequent swift flights to catch and feed upon arthropods (3) (6). Individuals are normally silent while foraging for insects, but perform characteristically sluggish wing raises, although the purpose of these is unknown (2) (3).

The difference in size between males and females (2) (3) and the use of vocalisations and displays by males from perches suggests the twistwing may have a polygynous mating system, in which males mate with more than one female (2). It is also thought that during courtship displays, the rufous twistwing uses a specialised set of modified feathers that are able to produce a rattling sound (3) (4), as is the case for similar bird species (2)


Rufous twistwing range

The rufous twistwing’s known range is restricted to 13 locations in southwest Amazonia (2), crossing the borders of Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil (4), between 250 and 380 metres above sea level (2) (3).


Rufous twistwing habitat

All sightings of this species have been from within or close to areas of dense bamboo forest (2), particularly Guadua bamboo (6). It is thought that the rufous twistwing prefers large patches of mature bamboo (at least five metres tall) (2) (3), where it is observed perching just a couple of metres above the ground (2).


Rufous twistwing status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Rufous twistwing threats

The main threat to the rufous twistwing is destruction or fragmentation of its habitat. Although Guadua bamboo is able to re-colonise deforested land (6), it is the older and larger patches of forest that the twistwing prefers (2). Therefore, the twistwing’s population is expected to decline as the habitat is lost or fragmented by activities such as the construction of the Trans-Oceanica Highway between Brazil and Peru (4), land conversion for grazing or biofuel production (6), and the harvesting of bamboo for use as a construction material (4).


Rufous twistwing conservation

Current conservation work aims to monitor the species and further assess the population size and range (6). Two of the thirteen sites where the species has been observed are located in the Manu Biosphere Reserve in Peru (3) and therefore are assured certain levels of habitat protection. Further recommended conservation actions include assessing the relationship between the species and the Guadua habitat to determine the size and maturity of bamboo forest patches required to support this species (6).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

To learn about bird conservation in South America see:



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:

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


A very diverse group of animals that all have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton). Includes crabs, woodlice, insects and spiders.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Animals in which males have more than one female partner.


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
  2. Tobias, J.A., Lebbin, D.J., Aleixo, A., Andersen, M.J., Guilherme, E., Hosner, P.A. and Seddon, N. (2008) Distribution, behaviour and conservation status of the rufous twistwing (Cnipodectes superrufus). The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 120(1): 38-49.
  3. Lane, D., Servat, G.P., Valqui, H.T. and Lambert, F.R. (2007) A distinctive new species of tyrant flycatcher (Passerifomer: Tyrannidae: Cnipodectes) from south-eastern Peru. The Auk, 124(3): 762-772.
  4. Lebbin, D.J. (2010) Rufous twistwing (Cnipodectes superrufus). In: Schulenberg, T.S. (Ed.) Neotropical Birds Online. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca. Available at:
  5. Xeno-Canto (April, 2010)
  6. BirdLife International (April, 2010)

Image credit

Rufous twistwing, side view  
Rufous twistwing, side view

© Dr Joseph Tobias

Dr Joseph Tobias
Edward Grey Institute
Department of Zoology
University of Oxford
South Parks Road
United Kingdom
Tel: +00 44 (0) 1865 271244


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