Physical characteristics

Tapaculos comprise a rather diverse array of forms with only a few common characteristics. They all have nostrils covered by a tactile flap and possess a sternum with four posterior notches. A similar sternum is only found in the gnateaters and some ground antbirds, both families being close relatives of the tapaculos. Presumably as a consequence of their limited use of flight, tapaculos have no keel on the sternum. The bill is straight and fairly weak, in some species with an elevated base.

The bones are exceptionally soft, and in the genus Scy-talopus the brain case never ossifies at all. Except for

An elegant crescentchest (Melanopareia elegans) perches on a branch. (Photo by J. Dunning/VIREO. Reproduced by permission.)

rather bright chestnut, black and white colors in striking patterns.

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