Bare-necked umbrellabird (Cephalopterus glabricollis)

GenusCephalopterus (1)
SizeLength: 36 - 41 cm (2) (3)
Male weight: ca. 450 g (2)
Female weight: ca. 320 g (2)

The bare-necked umbrellabird is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The male bare-necked umbrellabird (Cephalopterus glabricollis) is a large and unmistakable bird, with glossy black plumage, an umbrella-shaped crest of feathers on the head, and a conspicuous bright red patch of bare skin hanging from the throat, sides of the neck and upper breast. This unusual structure terminates in a thin central wattle, tipped with elongated feathers, and is inflated during display (2) (3) (4). The long feathers of the crest curl forwards, and can be lowered to cover almost the entire beak (2) (3). The female bare-necked umbrellabird is smaller and duller than the male, which a much smaller crest, small bare patches only on the sides of the neck, and no wattle (2) (3) (4), while the juvenile resembles the female, but is greyer, with a shorter crest and a smaller area of bare skin (2).

The bare-necked umbrellabird is restricted to the Caribbean slopes of Costa Rica and western Panama, east as far as Veraguas and Coclé (2) (3) (5).

This species undertakes a seasonal vertical migration, spending the breeding season in subtropical forest in the highlands, at elevations of around 750 to 2,100 metres, and the non-breeding season in lowland forest, below 500 metres (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7). The bare-necked umbrellabird mainly inhabits the upper understorey to mid-canopy levels of the forest (5).

The bare-necked umbrellabird feeds mainly on fruit, supplemented with lizards, frogs and large insects. Food items are plucked from the vegetation in flight, or taken while perched, and larger prey items may be beaten against a perch before being swallowed (2) (6). The species has also been recorded joining flocks of other birds foraging on prey flushed by swarming army ants (8). In Costa Rica, the bare-necked umbrellabird’s seasonal movements have been shown to coincide with the periods of highest fruit abundance at different altitudes (7).

Although the bare-necked umbrellabird is usually solitary, small groups may occur during seasonal movements, and when males are displaying (5). Breeding occurs between March and June (2) (5) (6), although only one nest has ever been described, which was rather bulky, built in a tree, from twigs, leaves and moss, and contained a single egg. Incubation is performed by the female (6). During the breeding season, male bare-necked umbrellabirds perform elaborate courtship displays in widely spaced, loose groups, in areas known as leks. During display, the male will inflate air-sacs in the throat and expand the red wattle, then give a deep, resounding, double-barrelled ‘boom’, also leaning forward in a short bow and extending the frontal crest forward. Harsh, hacking calls may also be given (2) (5) (6). Females visit the leks and mate with the dominant males (2). The male bare-necked umbrellabird appears to return to the same displaying area each year (6) (7).

The bare-necked umbrellabird appears to be relatively uncommon throughout its range, with a small and declining global population. Although it occurs in adequately protected highland forests, much of the species’ lowland habitat is unprotected, and is under continued threat from deforestation and conversion to plantations and cattle ranches (2) (3) (5) (6) (7). A lack of suitable habitat corridors between lowland and highland areas may also be a problem (5), and recent highway construction is further removing the species’ habitat and opening the region up to increased settlement and land clearance (3) (5). In addition to these threats, global climate change could potentially shift the bare-necked umbrellabird’s range up to higher elevations, eventually leaving the species with nowhere else to go (6).

The bare-necked umbrellabird breeds in several protected areas, including La Amistad International Park and Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica (3) (5). The adjacent lowlands where these birds spend the non-breeding season are less well protected (3) (7), but lowland protected areas used by the bare-necked umbrellabird include San San-Pond Sak, a Ramsar site in Panama (2) (9) and La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica (3). Further conservation actions recommended for the bare-necked umbrellabird include population monitoring, the preservation and promotion of forest corridors, and the establishment and expansion of protected areas, especially in lowland areas (2) (3) (5) (7). Protecting the habitats of this distinctive bird would also help to preserve many other species that depend on these forests for survival (7).

Find out more about the bare-necked umbrellabird:

Authenticated (09/10/10) by Dr Johel Chaves-Campos, Department of Biological Sciences, University of New Orleans.

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2012)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D. (2004) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 9: Cotingas to Pipits and Wagtails. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. BirdLife International (October, 2009)
  4. Ridgely, R.S. and Gwynne, J.A. (1992) A Guide to the Birds of Panama: with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Second Edition. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
  5. BirdLife International (1992) Bare-necked umbrellabird Cephalopterus glabricollis. In: BirdLife International. Threatened Birds of the Americas. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK. Available at:
  6. Fogden, M.P.L. and Fogden, P.M. (1997) Notes on the behaviour of bare-necked umbrellabird Cephalopterus glabricollis in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, Costa Rica. Cotinga, 8: 23-26. Available at:
  7. Chaves-Campos, J., Arévalo, J.E. and Araya, M. (2003) Altitudinal movements and conservation of bare-necked umbrellabird Cephalopterus glabricollis of the Tilarán Mountains, Costa Rica. Bird Conservation International, 13: 45-58.
  8. Chaves-Campos, J. (2005) Bare-necked umbrellabird (Cephalopterus glabricollis) foraging at an unusually large assemblage of army ant-following birds. The Wilson Bulletin, 117(4): 418-420.
  9. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands: The Annotated Ramsar List - Panama (October, 2009)