The Story of a Three Wattled Bellbird

Dear Rainforest Friends,

This Three Wattled Bellbird has lived as a part of both the Costa Rican and Panamanian Bellbird populations. Photograph by Marc Hoffman.

The Three Wattled Bellbird is one of the many species throughout the world that is in serious danger of extinction. The bird has some amazing qualities, and like all other species struggling to survive in a shrinking natural world, it needs our help. Debra Hamilton and her team at the Costa Rican Conservation Foundation (who have worked closely with the Monteverde Conservation League in reforestation efforts) have known this for years, and are working harder and harder to restore the natural habitat and necessary food sources for one of the last remaining Bellbird populations on the planet. I invite you to take a few minutes of your time to learn about the Three Wattled Bellbird and the possible actions you can take to assure the survival of this amazing creature.

The Three Wattled Bellbird

Procnias tricarunculata, or the Three Wattled Bellbird, is one of over 400 native resident bird species found in Costa Rica. It is estimated that only about four populations remain, and can be found between Nicaragua and Panama. The male is a very distinct individual due to the its striking plumage, and of course, its three black wattles. The female, on the other hand, blends right into the canopy with her drab coloration (a mixture of olive with yellow streaking on the chest), lack of wattles, and secretive behavior. The Bellbird’s claim to fame, however, is its call which humans can hear up to about one kilometer away- one of the loudest bird calls in the world!

The Three Wattled Bellbird is a migratory species, meaning that during certain times of the year they are found in different locations. The Bellbirds are normally seen (and heard) in Monteverde during their breeding season, which spans between March and September. During the rest of the year, some individuals travel to Nicaragua, while others end up in Panama. Many of the birds, however, depend upon the food sources in the Tropical Rain Shadow Forests of the Pacific Highlands in Costa Rica.

The Three Wattled Bellbird’s food of choice comes mainly from the plant family Lauraceae, or wild avocado family (also favored by the Resplendant Quetzal and the Black Guan, among others). They thrive on the small green fruits, yet with such extreme habitat destruction within their feeding grounds, the avocado trees are few and far between. The Bellbird population has definitely suffered because of this, and according to the Costa Rican Conservation Foundation (CRCF) both census work and anecdotal data have shown a steady decrease in the population since 1997.

A Special Individual

Through banding techniques, the CRCF team has been able to track and monitor Three Wattled Bellbird populations as they visit Monteverde during their breeding season. One of these individuals banded by the CRCF was caught on camera by our one and only Marc Hoffman, professional wildlife photographer and frequent visitor to the CER. Marc, through various connections, was able to get his photograph to the CRCF, and the bird was identified as a male that had dissappeared for twelve years!

As a matter of fact, the bird was noted to have a Costa Rican call in 1997 (a “squeak-bonk”), but in 2007 was heard calling with a Panamanian dialect (a “wonk-bonk”). Our friend had traveled with the Costa Rican group for a while, and then decided to join up with the Panamania population for an extended period…coming back with a Panamanian accent, so to speak!

Hope in Monteverde

Fortunately, the Three Wattle Bellbird’s story is not over yet, thanks to the CRCF, the MCL and other local conservation organizations. The CRCF has been working with Monteverde and its surrouding communities and farmers to plant native trees on their properties in order to support wild animal populations, including the Three Wattled Bellbird. By working with the communities to connect protected areas in Monteverde to the Gulf of Nicoya with biological corridors, the long term survival of these precious species is a reachable goal.

The MCL, along with the Tropical Science Center, Monteverde Institute and the University of Georgia, have been working together with the CRCF to recuperate the lost habitat that Costa Rican migratory species need so much. Hopefully through reforestation efforts and the development of a biological corridor, we will not be reading about the Three Wattled Bellbird in the history books.

How You Can Help

If you would like to help the Three Wattled Bellbird and other species under the pressures of habitat loss, please make a donation to MCLUS or the CRCF. The priority for both organizations is to reforest properties on the Pacific side of the Tilaran Mountain Range, with the goal to create a biological corridor between the protected areas of Monteverde and the Gulf of Nicoya.

Please visit http://www.mclus.org or http://www.fccmonteverde.org to make your donation and help save the Three Wattled Bellbird.

For the Forest,

Mia Roberts

 

 

 

 

 

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