Plant Cutter, a conirostral bird, the type of the subfamily phytotominm, by some placed with the finches and by others with the chatterers. In the single genus phytotoma (Mol.) the bill is short, strong, conical, broad at the base, with arched culmen and lateral margins finely serrated; wings moderate, the quills from the third to the fifth equal and longest; tail moderate and even; tarsi strong, shorter than the middle toe, and covered with transverse scales; toes long and slender, hind one long, and all armed with curved claws; the intestine is short, an exception to the rule in vegetable feeders. Only a few species are described, in temperate South America, in woody and dry regions, often visiting cultivated fields; they live in pairs or in small flocks, and do -considerable mischief in orchards and gardens by cutting off huds, fruits, and plants with their serrated bills, destroying, as if in mere wantonness, much more than is required for food; they also eat insects. The flight is short and low, and the notes very disagreeable, resembling the grating of the teeth of saws rubbed over each other.
The best known species is the P. rara (Mol.) of Chili; it is about the size of a thrush, brown above, each feather edged with lighter; top of head rufous brown, which color prevails in the lower parts; tail rufous, with a terminal dark brown bar; wings dark brown, the primaries with a white bar, and the wing coverts edged with the same. The nest is made in high trees.
Plant Cutter (Phytotoma rara).