White-throated Spadebills

The White-throated Spadebill, Platyrinchus mystaceus, is a tiny passerine bird in the tyrant flycatcher family. It breeds from Costa Rica through South America to western Ecuador, Brazil, and northeastern Argentina. It also occurs on both Trinidad and Tobago.

This species is found in hill forests and secondary growth.

Nesting / Breeding

The deep cup nest is made of dead grass and plant fibres and placed low in a sapling. The typical clutch is two yellow-tinged white eggs with a rufous wreath.


The adult White-throated Spadebill is 9.7 cm long, weighs 9.3g, and has large eyes and a very short tail. The large head is distinctively marked, with a long yellowish supercilium, blackish ear coverts (feathers covering the ears), yellow eyering, and a black stripe down each side of the neck. The crown has a concealed yellow crest, which is erected as a fan by the singing male. The upperparts are dark olive brown, and the underparts are buff apart from the white throat.

The bill is black above and brown below, and is very broad and flat, the feature which gives rise to the English and scientific names for this genus.

Males and females look alike, other than the female having a smaller crown patch, but young birds are brighter and ruddier above, lack the crown patch, and have a grey throat and breast shading to a whitish belly.

White-throated Spadebills are solitary active birds, difficult to see as they move rapidly through the undergrowth in search of small insects, which are taken from under the foliage with a sudden upwards dart and audible bill-snap. They are not particularly vocal but have a sharp chweet call.

Distribution / Range

The described race P. m. insularis occurs only in Trinidad, Tobago and in Venezuela, other forms differing in the brightness of the underparts or the crown color. The taxonomy of this species is uncertain, with some dubious subspecies, but also the possibility that there is more than one species within the range.

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