Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Umbrellabird

The umbrellabird.  I'm sure you can picture exactly what they look like, right?

Well as adorable as this little guy is, he's not an umbrellabird, per say.  There are 3 species of umbrellabird, all of them native to the rainforests of Central and South America.  There is the Amazonian Umbrellabird (Cephalopterus ornatus), Long-Wattled Umbrellabird (C. penduliger), and Bare-Necked Umbrellabird (C. glabricollis).  All three species look relatively similar, with their key characteristic being the umbrella-shaped feathers on top of their heads.

The males will use this crest during mating, extending the feathers out until it covers their entire head.  They then make rumbling sounds, enhanced by the wattle on their fronts.  All of this show will hopefully attract an interested female.  Unfortunately the males compete in large groups of other males, called a lek.

Umbrellabirds are the largest species of perching bird in South America.  Because of this size they sometimes have trouble flying through the trees.  Instead, they tend to hop from branch to branch through the canopy.  As with many other tropical perching birds they are also omnivores, eating fruit, insects and spiders, frogs, and other small birds.

After mating, the female will make a nest, often in the same tree used in previous years, where she will lay a single egg.  The egg is incubated for one month.  Both parents raise the chick for about two months before it leaves the nest.  The birds reach maturity around 2-4 years and can live up to 16 years on the wild.

All three species are surprisingly un-threatened.  They do face deforestation in their lowland habitat as well as targets for hunting during their seasonal mating.  The majority of populations left now reside in protected areas.  However, because they live high up in the canopy their main danger resides with predators such as monkeys, snakes, and hawks.  The Long-Wattled and Bare-Necked umbrellabirds are considered threatened while the Amazonian umbrellabird is listed as an animal of least concern.

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