White-necked crow (Corvus leucognaphalus)

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White-necked crow
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White-necked crow fact file

White-necked crow description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyCorvidae
GenusCorvus (1)

The largest, and now the rarest, of the West Indian crows (2), the white-necked crow is a large, black corvid with a long, heavy, slightly down-curving beak, distinctive reddish-brown (or sometimes yellow) eyes, and a purplish or bluish gloss to the plumage. The bases of the neck feathers are white, giving this species its common name, although the white colour may not always be seen when the feathers lie flat. The beak, legs and feet are black (2) (3) (4) (5) (6). The face bears conspicuous, bristle-like ‘nasal’ feathers which, unlike in most other crows, do not completely cover the nostrils, and there is a patch of dark grey bare skin behind the eye and at the base of the beak (2) (3) (4) (5). The male white-necked crow is distinctly larger than the female, but otherwise similar in appearance (2).

The white-necked crow may be difficult to distinguish from the closely related Cuban crow (Corvus nasicus) and palm crow (Corvus palmarum), but is larger in size, has white rather than grey bases to the feathers, and has a more direct, less flapping flight (2) (3) (6) (7). The white-necked crow also has a distinctive voice, its complex repertoire including raucous, raven-like calls and an unusual, parrot-like babbling and squawking (2) (3) (6) (7) (8).

Size
Length: 42 - 46 cm (2) (3)
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White-necked crow biology

Little is currently known about the biology of the white-necked crow. Usually found in pairs or small groups, or in larger gatherings at roost sites, it feeds mainly in the forest canopy, and has a varied diet that may include fruit, seeds, insects and other small animals, such as toads or nestling birds (2) (3) (8). Unlike the closely related palm crow, the white-necked crow typically flies high over the forest and also soars and glides (2) (3). The white-necked crow breeds between late January and May, building a large, bulky nest high in a large tree or palm (2) (3) (8). The eggs are incubated for 18 to 22 days, and the young fledge around 35 to 44 days later (8).

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White-necked crow range

The white-necked crow is confined to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, on the island of Hispaniola, and has also been recorded from the offshore islands of Gonâve, Saona and Vache. The species was once abundant on Puerto Rico, but is now believed to be extinct on the island, having last been recorded there in 1977 (2) (3) (4) (6) (7).

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White-necked crow habitat

This species inhabits both lowland and montane forest, from coastal mangroves to mountain pine forest, and even cactus forest and palm savanna. Thought to favour old, mature forest, it may avoid areas that have been opened up by forest clearance (2) (3) (6) (8).

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White-necked crow status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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White-necked crow threats

The white-necked crow was once considered widespread and abundant, but its extinction from Puerto Rico is believed to have resulted from a combination of habitat loss and hunting, with forests cleared for agriculture, timber and development, and crows killed for food and, mistakenly, as crop pests. Unfortunately, the same factors threaten the species within the rest of its limited range, and the population on Hispaniola is now small, fragmented, and continuing to decline in both numbers and range (2) (3) (7) (8). The human population of Hispaniola is increasing, and much of the native forest has already been cleared (9) (10). In addition, the pearly-eyed thrasher, Margarops fuscatus, a nest predator that spreads into degraded areas, may have contributed to the white-necked crow’s demise on Puerto Rico, and, having recently arrived on Hispaniola, is likely to worsen the crow’s demise there (3) (8).

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White-necked crow conservation

Significant populations of the white-necked crow are now confined to Los Haitises, Jaragua and Sierra de Baoruco National Parks in the Dominican Republic (3), although widespread deforestation has continued even in these protected areas (9). The white-necked crow is listed as Endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (4) (7), and recommended conservation actions for the species include population surveys to assess its decline, and monitoring the effects of the pearly-eyed thrasher. Although reintroducing the white-necked crow to Puerto Rico has been considered, there are fears that it may have a negative impact on the Puerto Rican parrot, Amazonia vittata, itself a Critically Endangered species (3).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

To find out more about the white-necked crow and about conservation on Hispaniola, see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Corvid
Of the family Corvidae, which includes crows, jays, magpies, nutcrackers and rooks.
Incubate
To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
Montane
Of mountains, or growing in mountains.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Madge, S. and Burn, H. (1994) Crows and Jays: A Guide to the Crows, Jays and Magpies of the World. Christopher Helm, London.
  3. BirdLife International (December, 2009)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=5782&m=0
  4. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Species Profile - White-Necked Crow (Corvus leucognaphalus) (December, 2009)
    http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=B08A
  5. Marzluff, J.M. and Angell, T. (2007) In the Company of Crows and Ravens. Yale University Press, Newhaven, Connecticut.
  6. Bond, J. (1993) Birds of the West Indies. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, Massachusetts.
  7. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1991) Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Endangered Status for White-Necked Crow. Federal Register, 56(64): 13598-13600. Available at:
    http://ecos.fws.gov/
  8. Wiley, J.W. (2006) The ecology, behavior, and conservation of a West Indian corvid, the white-necked crow (Corvus leucognaphalus). Ornitologia Neotropical, 17: 105-146.
  9. Brothers, T.S. (1997) Rapid destruction of a lowland tropical forest, Los Haitises, Dominican Republic. Ambio, 26(8): 551-552.
  10. WWF: Hispaniolan dry forests (December, 2009)
    http://www.nationalgeographic.com/wildworld/profiles/terrestrial/nt/nt0215.html
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Image credit

White-necked crow  
White-necked crow

© Jurgen Hoppe

Jurgen Hoppe
info@caribemotion.com
http://www.caribemotion.com

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