Bare-necked Umbrellabird

Bare-necked Umbrellabird (Cephalopterus glabricollis)Spanish name: Pajaro-sombrilla Cuellinudo, Pajaro Danta

This bird is found in the middle to upper levels of primary forest in Caribbean lowlands.

The Umbrellabird lives in Costa Rica and western Panama. While most of its year in spent in the foothills and adjacent lowlands of the Caribbean slope where females mostly live below 200 m and males from 100 to 500 m, the species migrates higher to breed between 800 and 2,000 m.

Physical Description
With one of the more unusual plumages found in Costa Rica, the uncommon Bare-necked Umbrellabird is an intriguing sight. Both sexes have a large stocky body, a hefty bill, a short tail and wide, long wings. The size of their heads is exaggerated by the umbrella crest that extends over their beaks. The male's crest is much larger than his counterpart's: the long black feathers cover the middle of his face and reach down to the end of his beak in a poofy manner. The female's crest is much shorter, almost resembling an odd crew-cut, making her head look flat. The male has bluish black back feathers which the female lacks; he also has a huge bright orange-red sac of skin on his throat that he can inflate during display in breeding rituals.

Interesting Biology
Outside of the breeding season, the Umbrellabird lives alone or migrates in a small flock. It forages in primary forest, from midlevel to the canopy, looking for fruiting trees. It may venture into tall second growth bordering the closed canopy zone as well. It is not a stealthy hunter, noisily coughing, grunting, or chuckling as it sallies from a perch to food or as it inspects the branch on which it sits for prey. The Umbrellabird smacks its prey against a branch before swallowing it.

During the breeding season, the Bare-necked Umbrellabird uses an exploded lek mating system, meaning the males form loosely bound groups to perch and display in a designated area. Leks of the Umbrellabird contain four males, who each pick three perches from 5 to 10 m high, where they spend all their daylight hours except when they need to feed. As they display, a male will inflate his throat sac until it looks like an enormous fruit emerging from the bird, and then he leans forward and releases a loud, booming HOOM that carries far and sounds like a bull or a hit to an oil drum, after which he leans back his head and finishes with raspier notes. The females approach these leks in the subcanopy when they hear this call.

In terms of fruit, the Bare-necked Umbrellabird mostly eats of palms such as Lauraceae and Annonaceae; for prey, this bird will catch large insects like katydids, grasshoppers, or cockroaches (and other Orthopterans), and caterpillars; they may also eat small lizards or frogs.

Adult male Umbrellabirds weigh 450 g and reach 41 cm in length; smaller females weigh 320 g and reach 36 cm in length.

Brief Taxonomy
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Cotingidae

Johnsgard, Paul A. Arena Birds: Sexual Selection and Behavior. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, 1994.

Skutch, Alexander F. and F. Gary Stiles. A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Utica: Cornell University Press,1989.

-Amy Strieter, Wildlife Writer