The plantcutters are a group of passerine birds in the cotinga family, Cotingidae. They were previously in their own family, Phytotomidae. The three plantcutters are all placed in the genus Phytotoma.

Rufous-tailed Plantcutter.jpg
Rufous-tailed plantcutter (Phytotoma rara)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Cotingidae
Genus: Phytotoma
Molina, 1782
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These are robust birds of open woodland, scrub and farmland in southern and western South America. They resemble finches, and are among the few primarily folivorous birds, though they also take some fruits, berries and flowers. The common name is a reference to their stubby bills with fine serrations along the cutting edge – an adaptation for cutting plant material.

They are sexually dichromatic, with males having black wings with white patches, and at least partially rufous underparts. The plumage of the females is greyish-white or brownish-white with dense dark streaking throughout.

These pair-living birds lay 2 - 4 brown-spotted green eggs in a tree nest. Only the female incubates, but both sexes participate in the nest-building and feeding of the chicks. The chicks are fed almost exclusively with insects.


Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
  Phytotoma rutila White-tipped plantcutter or reddish plantcutter lowlands east of the Andes
  Phytotoma rara Rufous-tailed plantcutter or Chilean plantcutter Chile and western Argentina
Phytotoma raimondii Peruvian plantcutter north-western Peru


  • Fitzpatrick, J. W. (2004). Plantcutters (Phytotoma). pp. 73–74 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., & Christie, D. A. eds. (2004). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 9. Cotingas to Wagtails. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-69-5