The bearded wood-partridge is a distinctive, long-tailed partridge with a bluish-grey head and neck, and a brownish crown and crest. The plumage on the upperparts is reddish-brown and streaked with grey, whilst the underparts are cinnamon with mottled grey and brown on the thighs and flanks, and the underside of the tail is dark with a white tip (4). The most conspicuous features of the bearded wood-partridge are the bright red eye-ring, bill, and legs (3). The call of the bearded wood-partridge consists of a loud series of whistles, three or four syllables long, ko-orr-ee-ee, with emphasis on the last notes. The female bearded wood-partridge can be distinguished from the male by its softer call, which also has more notes (4).
There is very little published information on the ecology of the bearded wood-partridge (2), which is known to be a wary and secretive bird (5). However, observations of this bird in captivity have indicated that egg-laying takes place from February to April. The clutch size of the bearded wood-partridge ranges from four to eight eggs, with an average of six, and the incubation period is typically 28 to 32 days (4).
The bearded wood-partridgeis confined to the Sierra Madre Oriental and Sierra Madre de Oaxaca mountain ranges in the east of Mexico, where the total population was estimated in 2009 to comprise fewer than 5,400 individuals (4). The largest populations are in Veracruz and Querétaro and are thought to hold less than 3,000 individuals (4).
The bearded wood-partridge inhabits humid montane and pine-oak forest at elevations between 900 and 3,100 metres (4), often close to small rivers and streams (3). It has also been recorded in secondary forest and disturbed habitats associated with agriculture, such as areas where coffee is grown under the forest canopy (4).
The main threat to the bearded wood-partridge is from habitat destruction and fragmentation, the result of logging, clearance for agriculture, road-building, tourist developments, intensive urbanisation, sheep-ranching and grazing (3). Agricultural intensification is a prominent threat; widespread conversion of habitat to monoculture crops is greatly impacting wildlife in the Mexican state of Veracruz. Conversion from shade coffee (coffee that is grown under the forest canopy) to sun coffee (which requires the forest to be cleared) is also a serious threat in some areas (4). Not only does this destroy the partridge’s habitat, but farmers are also believed to use agricultural pesticides to poison bearded wood-partridges to prevent them feeding on coffee beans (5). Hunting is also said to be a threat to the bearded wood-partridge; in Veracruz this species is reportedly hunted with dogs (4).
The bearded wood-partridge occurs within the protected areas of Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve and Pico Orizaba National Park, and possibly also in Cofre de Perote and Cañon del Río Blanco National Parks (4). It has been recommended that a conservation awareness programme should be implemented in villages located near to populations of the bearded wood-partridge (4).
Eitniear, J.C., Sergio, A.R., Gonzalez, V., Roberto, P.R. and Baccus, J.T. (2000) New records of bearded wood-partridge, Dendrortyx barbatus, (Aves: Phasianidae) in Mexico. The Southwestern Naturalist, 45(2): 238-241.
Elphick, C., Dunning, J. and Sibley, D. (2001) The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior. Chanticleer Press Inc, New York.
Fuller, R.A., Carroll, J.P. and McGowan, P.J.K. (2000) Partridges, Quails, Francolins, Snowcocks, Guineafowl, and Turkeys. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 2000–2004. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
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