Tapaculos take a variety of food, but mainly feed on insects and spiders. It has recently been found that some add a substantial amount of berries to their diet, at least seasonally.
The foraging mode varies between species. Pteroptochos and Scelorchilus walk or run quickly, then stop to scrape the ground with one foot, or with both feet simultaneously, throwing earth and leaves backwards in an awkward jump. Such "jump-scratching" has also been seen in Eugralla and is frequently seen in Acropternis. The grotesquely long hind claw of the latter may be an adaptation to this behavior. Scytalopus tapaculos glean prey from moss, litter, earth and rotting vegetation as they move along quickly in the undergrowth or on the ground with a mouse-like appearance. Myornis perch gleans clumps of bamboo. Merulaxis has been seen digging its head into leaf litter on the ground. Liosceles picks prey from the ground as it walks slowly, occasionally scratching with one foot, and appears to feed entirely on bugs. Rhinocrypta and Teledromas feed only on the ground, running quickly to cross open ground, the latter sometimes scratching the ground with one foot. Melanopareia runs on the ground like Teledromas, but also perch gleans insects while working through low branches like a Synallaxis spinetail. Psilorhamphus mainly hops through viny thickets of bamboo.
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