Bahia Tapaculo
(Eleoscytalopus psychopompus)
As its name suggests this rare tapaculo is endemic to Bahia state of Brazil. This elusive species has been difficult to track down and, until very recently, was known from just one record in 1944 and one in 1983. Thanks to extensive surveys subpopulations have been discovered six different locations along the coast of Bahia state. Although these findings bode well for the global count of Bahia Tapaculo these populations survive in small, isolated fragments of forest. Deforestation has been rife in Bahia and habitat loss has been the main factor in the decline of the species. One reserve where the tapaculo has been recorded has been the focus of conservation efforts and four guards now patrol the area regularly. These rangers have been instrumental in curtailing illegal logging and hunting within the reserve. Similar measures are needed at all localities where the Bahia Tapaculo is located.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Forest fragments within the species range need to be surveyed for undiscovered subpopulations. Known areas of habitat should be protected from further degradation and destruction. Research is needed to understand the species’ ecological requirements.
Endemic to Bahia state of Brazil.
Some people believe the tapaculo got its name from the Spanish for “cover your behind” because the tail is often seen cocked and pointing to the head.
Media from ARKive
Arkive image - Bahia tapaculo
Arkive image - Bahia tapaculo perched
Arkive image - Bahia tapaculo
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Rhinocryptidae
The positioning of the Rhinocryptidae, (more commonly known as the tapaculos) still needs to be clarified. It has been suggested that it should remain in its traditional placement as a distinct family within the Passeriformes. However, recent research suggests that on the basis of affinity to the Formicariidae, or anthrushes, that they should be placed within this family as the tribe Rhinocryptini. Further phylogenetic analysis is needed to untangle the relationships between and within these groups of birds. Until 2008, the Bahia Tapaculo belonged to the genus Scytalopus. The species limits within this group are among the most confusing within the avian class. Members of Scytalopus show a high degree of similarity in morphology, so researchers are turning to vocal differences and altitudinal ranges to determine phylogenetic relationships between species. The Bahia Tapaculo and the White-breasted Tapaculo were moved into their own genus Eleoscytalopus on the basis of their closer relationship to the bristlefronts, genus Merulaxis.
The tree below shows the evolutionary relationships between this species and all other birds. The colours of the tree indicate EDGE scores with the red shades indicating the higher priority species; the bright red leaves correspond to the top 100 EDGE bird species. Further information on every species can be found by zooming in to its leaf on the tree.
The bill is unusual in that the top half is black, whilst the lower is yellow to pale grey. The eyes are dark brown. The head, upper back and flanks are a dark blue-grey colour. The plumage on the lower back and rump is red-brown. The cheeks, breast and belly are white but with cinnamon-red patches on the sides and vent (the area below the rump). The thighs are grey and the legs are yellow-brown or pinkish. The voice has never been described.
Almost nothing is known about the ecology of this species.
The Bahia Tapaculo inhabits areas of dense vegetation in wet lowland forest between 15–200m in altitude. It is thought to prefer flooded areas of forest or swamp.
Endemic to Bahia state in Brazil, this elusive bird has been difficult to track down and until very recently, was known from one record in 1944 and one in 1983. It has since been found at Reserva Ecologica da Michelin near Itubera and Una Biological Reserve, both in Bahia. Thanks to research by Birdlife and SAVE Brasil, the species is also known to survive in Ilheus, Marau, Taperoa and Valenca, all found in the state of Bahia.
Critically Endangered
The Atlantic Forest of Brazil has been devastated by deforestation and habitat degradation. Forest has been cleared to make way for agriculture, primarily sugarcane plantations and now only small fragments remain.
BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Eleoscytalopus psychopompus. Downloaded from www.birdlife.org on 24/04/2013.

Krabbe, N. K. and Schulenberg, T. S. (2003). Family Rhinocryptidae (Tapaculos). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A. and Christie, D.A. (ed.), Handbook of birds of the world, pp. 748-787. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Maurício, N. M, Mata, H., Bornschein, M. R., Cadena, C. D., Alvarenga, H., and Bonatto, S. L. (2008). Hidden generic diversity in Neotropical birds: Molecular and anatomical data support a new genus for the “Scytalopus” indigoticus species-group (Aves: Rhinocryptidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 49(1): 125-135.

Rice, Nathan H. (2005a): Phylogenetic relationships of antpitta genera (Passeriformes: Formicariidae). Auk 122(2): 673-683.

Rice, Nathan H. (2005b): Further Evidence for Paraphyly of the Formicariidae (Passeriformes). Condor 107(4): 910-915

Tobias, J. A., Butchart S. H. M. and Collar, N. (2006) Lost and found: a gap analysis for the

Neotropical avifauna. Neotropical Birding 1:3–22.
Text compiled by Michelle Harrison.

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