Ground tyrant

The ground tyrants (Muscisaxicola) are a genus of passerine birds belonging to the tyrant flycatcher family Tyrannidae. There are about 13 different species. They are ground-dwelling birds which inhabit open country in South America, particularly the Andes and Patagonia. Several southern species are migratory, moving northward for the winter. Ground tyrants feed on insects and other invertebrates, mainly by picking them from the ground.

Ground tyrants
Perched Spot-billed Ground-tyrant (Muscisaxicola maculirostris) side view.jpg
Spot-billed ground tyrant (Muscisaxicola maculirostris)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Tyrannidae
Genus: Muscisaxicola
Orbigny & Lafresnaye, 1837

A flight display is performed during the breeding season. The nest is a cup of twigs or grass which, in most species, is built in a burrow, crevice or under rocks.

Ground tyrants are fairly small (13–20 cm in length) with longish legs, a slender bill and an erect posture. The plumage is dull and mainly grey or brown with paler underparts. The head is variably patterned with several species having rufous patches on the crown or white between the bill and eye. The birds have simple calls and are often silent.

Systematics and taxonomyEdit

A study of mitochondrial DNA by Chesser (2000) has shown that the little ground tyrant (M. fluviatilis) is highly divergent and not closely related to the other ground tyrants. All the remaining species are related and form a monophyletic group, although the spot-billed ground tyrant (M. maculirostris) is somewhat divergent from the others. The little and spot-billed ground tyrants are smaller and browner than the other species and the little ground tyrant also differs in its habitat, occurring near rivers in the Amazon rainforest.[1]

The paramo ground tyrant (M. alpinus) and Taczanowski's ground tyrant (M. griseus) were previously treated as a single species but are genetically divergent with the paramo ground tyrant belonging to a southern Andean and Patagonian clade within the genus and Taczanowski's ground tyrant belonging to a central Andean clade.[1] The name plain-capped ground tyrant is used by some authors to refer to M. griseus with paramo ground tyrant used for M. alpinus.

The genus name Muscisaxicola is masculine, therefore the species names griseus, cinereus, maclovianus, alpinus and capistratus are correct rather than grisea, cinerea, macloviana, alpina and capistrata. The names flavinucha and albilora are invariable.[2]

Species listEdit

The genus contains 12 species:[3]

The little ground tyrant was formerly placed in Muscisaxicola but was moved to the monotypic genus Syrtidicola following the publication of a phylogenetic study in 2020.[3][4]


  1. ^ a b Chesser, R. Terry (2000). "Evolution in the High Andes: the Phylogenetics of Muscisaxicola Ground-Tyrants" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 15 (3): 369–380. CiteSeerX doi:10.1006/mpev.1999.0774. PMID 10860646. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-09. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  2. ^ South American Classification Committee (2007) A classification of the bird species of South America, part 8 Archived 2007-06-25 at the Wayback Machine. citing David N. & Gosselin M. (2002). "The grammatical gender of avian genera". Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. 122: 257–282.
  3. ^ a b Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (July 2021). "Tyrant flycatchers". IOC World Bird List Version 11.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  4. ^ Chesser, R.T.; Harvey, M.H.; Brumfield, R.T.; Derryberry, E.P. (2020). "A revised classification of the Xolmiini (Aves: Tyrannidae: Fluvicolinae), including a new genus for Muscisaxicola fluviatilis". Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 133 (1): 35–48. doi:10.2988/20-00005.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Video, spottings and photos on Birds of the world.