Black-capped donacobius

The black-capped donacobius (Donacobius atricapilla) is a conspicuous, vocal South American bird. It is found in tropical swamps and wetlands in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela; also Panama of Central America.[1]

Black-capped donacobius
Donacobius atricapilla -Fazenda Campo de Ouro, Piraju, Sao Paulo, Brasil-8.jpg
In Piraju, São Paulo, Brazil
Note lower bird displaying yellow neck patch
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Donacobiidae
Aleixo & Pacheco, 2006
Genus: Donacobius
Swainson, 1831
D. atricapilla
Binomial name
Donacobius atricapilla
Donacobius atricapillus-map.jpg
All-year range

Turdus atricapilla Linnaeus, 1766


Little rush warbler (Bradypterus baboecala), apparently one of the closest living relatives of the donacobius

In 1760 the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson included a description of the black-capped donacobius in his Ornithologie based on a specimen that he mistakenly believed had been collected from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. He used the French name Le merle a test noire de Cap de Bonne Espérance and the Latin Merula Atricapilla Capitis Bonae Spei.[2] Although Brisson coined Latin names, these do not conform to the binomial system and are not recognised by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.[3] When in 1766 the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus updated his Systema Naturae for the twelfth edition, he added 240 species that had been previously described by Brisson.[3] One of these was the black-capped donacobius. Linnaeus included a brief description, coined the binomial name Turdus atricapilla and cited Brisson's work.[4] The type location was subsequently corrected to eastern Brazil.[5] The specific name atricapilla is Latin for "black-haired" from ater "black" and capillus "hair of the head".[6] This species is now placed in the genus Donacobius that was introduced by the English naturalist William John Swainson in 1831.[7] The name of the genus is from Ancient Greek donakos "reed" and bios "mode of life".[8]

The black-capped donacobius is the only member of the genus Donacobius. Its familial placement is not established, and ornithologists disagree as to its closest relations. In the 19th century, it was placed in the Turdidae, and in the 20th century, moved to the Mimidae. It had various English names, including the "black-capped mockingthrush". In the 1980s and 1990s, suggestions that it was a type of wren (Troglodytidae) were accepted by the South American Classification Committee (SACC), the American Ornithologists Union (AOU) and most other authorities. More recently, listing organizations and authors follow Van Remsen and Keith Barker's conclusion that it is not a wren either, but instead most closely related to an Old World (probably African) lineage.[9][10] A current proposal to the SACC would create a monotypic family, Donacobiidae, for this species, but this is not universally accepted as some authorities insist it may prove to be a member of an existing Old World family,[11] presumably the Locustellidae which seem to be its closest living relatives. These are long-tailed "warblers" from around the Indian Ocean region, many of which despite their cryptic coloration, smaller size and more solitary habits, are similar to the donacobius in stance, habitat and some aspects of their behavior (such as the nests); these "warblers" also have a similarly voice, but being higher-pitched they sound less grating and more like locusts (namely in Locustella).


Black-capped donacobiuses are common in a wide range of Amazonian wetlands, including oxbow lakes, riparian zones, and other areas with tall dense aquatic or semi-aquatic vegetation. A third of the species range is outside the Amazon Basin, from Panama, northern Colombia, and western Venezuela, the Orinoco River system of Venezuela, to southeast coastal and inland Brazil, and neighboring countries southward, Paraguay, and extreme northern Argentina.


Mating for life, pairs of black-capped donacobiuses can be seen frequently and throughout the day atop thickets of dense lakeside or streamside vegetation. They often will engage in antiphonic dueting. Adult offspring will remain with their parents and help raise siblings from subsequent nesting periods in a system of cooperative breeding.[10]


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Donacobius atricapilla". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Brisson, Mathurin Jacques (1760). Ornithologie, ou, Méthode contenant la division des oiseaux en ordres, sections, genres, especes & leurs variétés (in French and Latin). Supplement. Paris: Jean-Baptiste Bauche. pp. 47–50, Plate 3 fig 2. The two stars (**) at the start of the section indicates that Brisson based his description on the examination of a specimen.
  3. ^ a b Allen, J.A. (1910). "Collation of Brisson's genera of birds with those of Linnaeus". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 28: 317–335.
  4. ^ Linnaeus, Carl (1766). Systema naturae : per regna tria natura, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). Volume 1, Part 1 (12th ed.). Holmiae (Stockholm): Laurentii Salvii. p. 295.
  5. ^ Mayr, Ernst; Greenway, James C. Jr, eds. (1960). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 9. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 456.
  6. ^ Jobling, J.A. (2018). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). "Key to Scientific Names in Ornithology". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  7. ^ Swainson, William John (1831). Zoological illustrations, or, Original figures and descriptions of new, rare, or interesting animals. Series 2. Volume 2. London: Baldwin, Cradock. Plate 49 text.
  8. ^ Jobling, J.A. (2018). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). "Key to Scientific Names in Ornithology". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  9. ^ Remsen, Van & Keith Barker (2004). "Proposal (#118) to South American Check-list Committee: Remove Donacobius from the Troglodytidae". Archived from the original on 2007-06-30. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
  10. ^ a b "Donacobius page".
  11. ^ Aleixo, Alexandre & J. F. Pacheco (2007). "Proposal (#293) to South American Classification Committee: Recognize Donacobius in its own family, Donacobiidae". Archived from the original on 2014-01-04.

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