Bare-throated bellbird (Procnias nudicollis)
|Size||Length: 26 - 28 cm (2)|
The bare-throated bellbird is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).
A striking white bird of the Atlantic forest, the aptly named bare-throated bellbird (Procnias nudicollis) is one of the loudest birds in the world (3). Its call is a loud and far-reaching series of metallic, two-tone koink and prroink notes emitted from high in the forest canopy. This remarkable call is the result of extreme sexual selection, as is the male’s arresting appearance of all-white plumage with turquoise, black, bristly, bare skin around the eyes, throat and lower neck. The drabber and smaller female is olive brown above, with a blackish crown, blackish sides of the head, a white-streaked throat, and pale yellowish underparts with olive streaking (2).
The female bare-throated bellbird is similar in appearance to the sharpbill (Oxyruncus cristatus), but lacks the conical bill and scaly face that is characteristic of this similar species. It is also very similar to the female bearded bellbird (Procnias averano) but has a less dusky crown (2).
Only occurring in eastern South America, the bare-throated bellbird is known from a wide area of east Brazil, northeast Argentina and east Paraguay. However, it is thought to be extinct in relict Atlantic forest patches north of the São Francisco River, north-eastern Brazil, where it was formerly known from the Murici area (2).
The bare-throated bellbird is believed to be a migratory species, although almost nothing is known of its migratory behaviour. It is thought to be only a visitor to Argentina and southeast Brazil, but it may reside in north-eastern Paraguay year-round (2).
The bare-throated bellbird is only found in the Atlantic forest, a diverse and unique mix of vegetation that forms a relatively narrow strip down the eastern coastline of South America (2) (4).
Betrayed only by the piercing sounds of its calls during courtship and aggressive encounters, the bare-throated bellbird is a rather inconspicuous species and is rarely seen in the wild. As a consequence, very little is known about its ecology or behaviour. However, it is known to be a fruit eater like other bellbirds, and it is thought to undertake seasonal migrations in response to peaks in fruit production. Male bare-throated bellbirds have also been observed calling while undertaking these migrations and, therefore, probably defend territories en route (2).
The bare-throated bellbird global population is estimated to number no more than 10,000 in total, although it probably numbers fewer, and is thought to be in steep decline. This has most likely been caused by habitat loss and trapping for the cage-bird trade (2).
Centuries of logging and clearing for agriculture, plantations and mining has destroyed vast tracts of the Atlantic forest, and today it covers less than 10 percent of its original extent. Current threats to this habitat include urbanisation, industrialisation, agricultural expansion, colonisation and associated road-building. The narrow strip of coastal forest in north-eastern Brazil has all but gone – only three percent remains (4); and the bare-throated bellbird is thought to be extinct there (2).
Trapping pressure for the cage-bird trade is particularly heavy in southern Bahia, São Paulo and Santa Catarina in Brazil and is suspected to have had drastic effects on the bare-throated bellbird population there. Trapping is also a growing threat in Paraguay and caged bare-throated bellbirds can be readily seen in markets in the Paraguayan capital, Asunción (2).
Although the bare-throated bellbird has not been the target of any known conservation measures, it has been recorded in Iguazú National Park, Misiones, Argentina, and it is thought to occur in several protected areas in Paraguay. The level of protection afforded this species in such areas is unclear, however, as it is possible that, being a migratory species, it is only a visitor to them (2).
Further study of the bare-throated bellbird’s distribution, ecology and the threats it faces would help clarify its status and conservation needs, and thereby help safeguard its future (2). It would also benefit from monitoring and from awareness campaigns aiming to reduce trapping for the cage-bird trade, as well as the protection of sites where this species is known to occur (2). Despite its highly fragmented and diminishing status, the Atlantic forest still maintains a rich array of biodiversity, including many endemic species and, as such, it remains one of the highest priorities for conservation action in the world (4).
To find out about conservation projects where the bare-throated bellbird is found, see:
Conservation International – Atlantic Forest:
WWF – Atlantic Forest:
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- Atlantic Forest: a highly biodiverse region found along the east coast of South America, comprising several different vegetation types, including high-altitude grassland, and lowland and montane forest. The coastal Atlantic forest is a narrow strip of about 50 to 100 kilometres along the coast, which covers about 20 percent of the Atlantic Forest region.
- Endemic: a species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Sexual selection: the theory proposed by Darwin that some animals possess characteristics that are more attractive to potential mates. Individuals with such characteristics mate more than those without, so that more of the next generation will inherit the desirable trait. Such characters would be used either in male displays to attract females, or in combat between rival males.
- Territory: an area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a colony.
IUCN Red List (January, 2011)
BirdLife International (January, 2011)
- Perrins, C. (2009) The Encyclopedia of Birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Conservation International Biodiversity Hotspots – Atlantic forest (January, 2011)