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Description and behaviour
This cotinga occurs in humid forests and woodland. It is mainly resident, but some populations take part in altitudinal migrations; breeding at altitudes of up to 1900 m (6250 ft) and spending the non-breeding season in the lowlands. It is a localised and uncommon bird in Venezuela, but is fairly common in Trinidad. The nominate Brazilian race is relatively rare due to extensive habitat destruction in its range and heavy trapping for the cagebird trade, and as such is considered "vulnerable" by Brazilian environmental authority (IBAMA) .
Like other cotingas, the bearded bellbird has a broad hooked-tipped bill, rounded wings, strong legs and a striking appearance. The male is approx 28 cm 11 in long, and weighs 180 g (6½ oz). His plumage is white or greyish-white apart from the black wings and warm brown head. He sports a grotesque "beard" of un-feathered, black stringy wattles.
The female is smaller, at approx. 27 cm (10½ in) and 130 g (4½ oz). Her upperparts are olive-green (duskier on the head), most of the underparts are yellow streaked with green, and the vent is pure yellow. She lacks the facial wattles ("beard"). Both sexes have dark eyes, a black bill and grey to black legs.
These arboreal bellbirds feeds entirely on fruit and berries, mainly taken on the wing. Lauraceae and Burseraceae are particularly favoured, and the young are fed regurgitated Lauraceae by the female.
The males' advertising calls are a very loud dull Bock repeated every few seconds and a somewhat less loud, metallic hammering tonk-tonk-tonk-tonk. It sounds like a hammer rapidly hitting an anvil and is repeated 20-30 times. Additionally, a number of regional calls are known, e.g. an unmusical, almost hissing, bisset in southern Venezuela and a disyllabic teek-terong in northern Venezuela. Apparently, the last mentioned call is no longer heard in Trinidad. The female is essentially silent.
The flimsy nest of twigs is built by the female and usually placed in the outer branches of a tree. The nests are not located in the jungle, but in free-standing trees in semi-cleared areas, probably to reduce the risk from the many effective predators of nests in the jungle such as monkeys, toucans and snakes.
The single brown-mottled, light tan egg is incubated entirely by the female, leaving the polygamous male free to spend much of his time advertising with his distinctive songs. Laying season varies over its range; April-Nov. in Trinidad and May-Sep. in N. Venezuela. The first recorded egg was discovered near Cumaca, Trinidad, in the mid-1950s.
- Birds of Venezuela by Hilty, ISBN 0-7136-6418-5
- ffrench, Richard (1991). A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago (2nd edition ed.). Comstock Publishing. ISBN 0-8014-9792-2.
- Birds of South America vol. 2 by Ridgely & Tudor (1994), ISBN 0-19-857218-2
- Herklots, G. A. C. 1961. The Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. Collins, London.
- Snow, D.W. (2008). Birds in Our Life. William Sessions Limited. ISBN 978-1-85072-381-3 (pbk), pp. 132–137.