Great antshrike

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Great antshrike
Great Antshrike - Male.jpg
male at Alto Paraíso de Goiás, Goiás State, Brazil
Taraba major - Great Anshrike (female).JPG
female at Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul State, Brazil
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Thamnophilidae
Genus: Taraba
Lesson, 1831
T. major
Binomial name
Taraba major
(Vieillot, 1816)
Taraba major map.svg

The great antshrike (Taraba major) is a passerine bird in the antbird family, Thamnophilidae. It is the only member of the genus Taraba. It is a resident breeder in the tropical New World in southern Mexico, Central America, Trinidad and South America down to northern Argentina and southeastern Brazil.


The great antshrike was described by the French ornithologist Louis Vieillot in 1816 and given the binomial name Thamnophilus major.[2] The current genus Taraba was introduced by the French naturalist René Lesson in 1831.[3] There are ten recognised subspecies.[4]


The great antshrike is a large and distinctive antbird, typically 20.3 cm (about 8 inches) long, and weighs 56 g. It has a crest, heavy hooked bill, and brilliant red eyes. The adult male has black upperparts, with two white wingbars and white underparts. There is a white dorsal patch normally concealed except in threat display; young males are similar to the adult, but have rufous wing coverts. The female has rich rufous upperparts and white underparts.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

This is a bird of thickets, cocoa and citrus plantations and sometimes gardens, with a preference for dense undergrowth. It is usually found as territorial pairs.


The female lays two, sometimes three, grey-marked white eggs in a deep cup nest in a shrub, which are incubated by both sexes for 14 days to hatching. The chicks fledge in another 12 days.

The great antshrike feeds on insects and other arthropods gleaned from foliage. It will also take small lizards and mammals. It is a skulking species, which may be located by its song, 30 to 40 musical pook-pook-pook notes, or a snarled churrrr. Sleeping birds are readily located at sites such as the Asa Wright Nature Centre on Trinidad.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Taraba major". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Vieillot, Louis Jean Pierre (1816). Nouveau dictionnaire d'histoire naturelle, appliquée aux arts, à l'agriculture, à l'économie rurale et domestique, à la médecine, etc (in French). Volume 3. Paris: Deterville. p. 313. |volume= has extra text (help)
  3. ^ Lesson, René (1831). Traité d'ornithologie. Bruxelles: F.G. Levrault. p. 375.
  4. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2018). "Antbirds". World Bird List Version 8.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 23 February 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Skutch, Alexander F. (1969). "Great antshrike" (PDF). Life Histories of Central American Birds III: Families Cotingidae, Pipridae, Formicariidae, Furnariidae, Dendrocolaptidae, and Picidae. Pacific Coast Avifauna, Number 35. Berkeley, California: Cooper Ornithological Society. pp. 164–171.

External links[edit]