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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Furnariidae
Subfamily: Dendrocolaptinae
many; see article text

The woodcreepers, Dendrocolaptinae, comprise a subfamily of sub-oscine passerine birds endemic to the neotropics. They were formerly considered a distinct family, Dendrocolaptidae.

Generally brownish birds, the true woodcreepers maintain an upright vertical posture, supported by their stiff tail vanes, and feed mainly on insects taken from tree trunks. However, woodcreepers often form part of the core group at the center of flocks attending army ant swarms. Though unrelated, they superficially resemble the Old World treecreepers. Woodcreepers are arboreal cavity-nesting birds; 2-3 white eggs are laid and incubated for about 15 days.

These birds can be difficult to identify in that they tend to have similar brown upperparts, and the more distinctive underparts are hard to see on a bird pressed against a trunk in deep forest shade. The bill shape and call are useful aids to determining species.


The former family has been merged into the ovenbird family, Furnariidae, due to genetic work showing Sclerus leaftossers and Geositta miners to be basal to the Furnariidae and the woodcreepers. Maintaining Dendrocolaptidae as a separate family between them and the other furnariids created a paraphyletic Furnariidae, hence the merger.

Interestingly, the xenops, which were usually considered to be ovenbirds with a somewhat woodcreeper-like plumage, are in fact closely related to the latter (Fjeldså et al., 2005). They are best considered to form a separate tribe and give a good impression of how the ancestors of the woodcreepers must have looked like. The true woodcreepers are characterized by a belly feather growth pattern not found in any other birds.

The systematics of the Dendrocolaptinae were reviewed by Raikow (1994, based on morphology) and Irestedt et al. (2004, based on analysis of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequences). As the latter paper revealed, the commonplace convergent evolution of bill morphology hampered Raikow's analysis. Color patterns, on the other hand, were more in agreement with the molecular data, but the generally drab coloration of the woodcreepers renders this character less informative than desirable. The work of Irested et al., on the other hand, was severely limited by unavailability of samples of many phylogenetically interesting taxa.

For example, the Deconychura species apparently belong into separate genera, but only D. longicauda was available for molecular analysis. Moving Lepidocolaptes fuscus to Xiphorhynchus restores monophyly of Lepidocolaptes, and Xiphorhynchus was very much under-split (Aleixo, 2002a,b). Hylexetastes may contain anything from 1 to 4 species.

It remains unresolved whether the Scimitar-billed and Long-billed Woodcreepers' distinctiveness is due to strong selective pressure (and therefore rapid morphological evolution) of forms related to Lepidocolaptes and Dendrexetastes, respectively, or to long-time evolution of distinct lineages which separated early in the evolution of the group, with genetic similarity due to long branch attraction. The data gained from the myoglobin intron II DNA sequence disagrees strongly with mtDNA cytochrome b sequence data regarding the validity of Lepidocolaptes in general Irestedt et al. (2004); as the latter agrees much better with morphological and biogeographical data it therefore is used here.

More detailed studies are needed to resolve these questions, namely reevaluation of morphological data in the light of the molecular findings, and new molecular studies which thoroughly sample the questionable genera.

Subfamily Dendrocolaptinae - woodcreepers

Tribe Xenopini - xenops

  • Genus Megaxenops - Great Xenops
    • Great Xenops, Megaxenops parnaguae
  • Genus Xenops
    • Rufous-tailed Xenops, Xenops milleri
      Slender-billed Xenops, Xenops tenuirostris
      Plain Xenops, Xenops minutus
      Streaked Xenops, Xenops rutilans

Tribe Dendrocolaptini - true woodcreepers

  • Genus Glyphorynchus
    • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Glyphorynchus spirurus
  • Genus Dendrocincla
    • Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Dendrocincla tyrannina
      Thrush-like Woodcreeper, Dendrocincla turdina
      Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Dendrocincla anabatina
      Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Dendrocincla fuliginosa
      White-chinned Woodcreeper, Dendrocincla merula
      Ruddy Woodcreeper, Dendrocincla homochroa
  • Genus Deconychura
    • Long-tailed Woodcreeper, Deconychura longicauda
      Spot-throated Woodcreeper, Deconychura stictolaema - probably a genus on its own
  • Genus Sittasomus
    • Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Sittasomus griseicapillus
  • Genus Nasica
    • Long-billed Woodcreeper, Nasica longirostris
  • Genus Dendrexetastes
    • Cinnamon-throated Woodcreeper, Dendrexetastes rufigula
  • Genus Dendrocolaptes
    • Northern Barred-Woodcreeper, Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae
      Amazonian Barred-Woodcreeper, Dendrocolaptes certhia
      Hoffmann's Woodcreeper, Dendrocolaptes hoffmannsi
      Black-banded Woodcreeper, Dendrocolaptes picumnus
      Planalto Woodcreeper, Dendrocolaptes platyrostris
  • Genus Hylexetastes
    • Bar-bellied Woodcreeper, Hylexetastes stresemanni
    • Red-billed Woodcreeper, Hylexetastes perrotii
      • Uniform Woodcreeper, Hylexetastes (perrotii) uniformis
      • Brigida's Woodcreeper, Hylexetastes (perrotii) brigidai
  • Genus Xiphocolaptes
    • White-throated Woodcreeper, Xiphocolaptes albicollis
      Moustached Woodcreeper, Xiphocolaptes falcirostris
      Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Xiphocolaptes major
      Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus
  • Genus Campylorhamphus
    • Greater Scythebill, Campylorhamphus pucherani
      Red-billed Scythebill, Campylorhamphus trochilirostris
      Brown-billed Scythebill, Campylorhamphus pusillus
      Black-billed Scythebill, Campylorhamphus falcularius
      Curve-billed Scythebill, Campylorhamphus procurvoides
  • Genus Dendroplex - formerly in Xiphorhynchus
    • Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Dendroplex picus
      Zimmer's Woodcreeper, Dendroplex kienerii - formerly Xiphorhynchus necopinus
  • Genus Xiphorhynchus (possibly polyphyletic)
    • Lesser Woodcreeper, Xiphorhynchus fuscus - formerly Lepidocolaptes
      Spix's Woodcreeper, Xiphorhynchus spixii
      Elegant Woodcreeper, Xiphorhynchus elegans
      Tschudi's Woodcreeper, Xiphorhynchus chunchotambo
      Ocellated Woodcreeper, Xiphorhynchus ocellatus
      Chestnut-rumped Woodcreeper, Xiphorhynchus pardalotus
      Striped Woodcreeper, Xiphorhynchus obsoletus
      Spotted Woodcreeper, Xiphorhynchus erythropygius
      Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Xiphorhynchus triangularis
      Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Xiphorhynchus flavigaster
      Black-striped Woodcreeper, Xiphorhynchus lachrymosus
      Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Xiphorhynchus guttatus
      Lafesnaye's Woodcreeper, Xiphorhynchus guttatoides
    • Cocoa Woodcreeper, Xiphorhynchus susurrans
      • Lawrence's Woodcreeper, Xiphorhynchus (susurrans) nanus
  • Genus Drymornis
    • Scimitar-billed Woodcreeper, Drymornis bridgesii
  • Genus Lepidocolaptes
    • White-striped Woodcreeper, Lepidocolaptes leucogaster
      Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Lepidocolaptes souleyetii
      Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Lepidocolaptes angustirostris
      Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Lepidocolaptes affinis
      Montane Woodcreeper, Lepidocolaptes lacrymiger
      Scaled Woodcreeper, Lepidocolaptes squamatus
      Lineated Woodcreeper, Lepidocolaptes albolineatus


  • Aleixo, Alexandre (2002): Molecular systematics, phylogeography, and population genetics of Xiphorhynchus (Aves: Dendrocolaptidae) in the Amazon basin. Ph.D. dissertation, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA. PDF fulltext
  • Aleixo, Alexandre (2002): Molecular Systematics and the Role of the "Várzea"-"Terra-Firme" Ecotone in the Diversification of Xiphorhynchus Woodcreepers (Aves: Dendrocolaptidae). Auk 119(3): 621-640. DOI: 10.1642/0004-8038(2002)119[0621:MSATRO]2.0.CO;2 HTML abstract
  • Fjeldså, Jon; Irestedt, Martin & Ericson, Per G. P. (2005): Molecular data reveal some major adaptational shifts in the early evolution of the most diverse avian family, the Furnariidae. Journal of Ornithology 146: 1–13. [English with German abstract] DOI:10.1007/s10336-004-0054-5 (HTML abstract) PDF fulltext
  • Irestedt, Martin; Fjeldså, Jon & Ericson, Per G. P. (2004): Phylogenetic relationships of woodcreepers (Aves: Dendrocolaptinae) - incongruence between molecular and morphological data. Journal of Avian Biology 35(3): 280-288. DOI:10.1111/j.0908-8857.2004.03234.x (HTML abstract)
  • Rajkow, Robert J. (1994): A phylogeny of the woodcreepers (Dendrocolaptinae). Auk 111(1): 104–114. PDF fulltext
  • Remsen, J. Van (2003): Family Dendrocolaptidae (Woodcreepers). In: del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew & Sargatal, Jordi (editors): Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 6: Broadbills to Tapaculos: 358-447. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-50-4

External links

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| Dinornithidae
| Dipper
| Drepanididae
| Dromadidae
| Dromornithidae

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