Three-wattled Bellbird

Three-wattled Bellbird (Procnias tricarunculata)Spanish name: Campanero Tricarunculado, Pajaro Campano, Rin-ran

Usually the bellbird is found in middle to upper forest levels within lowland to montane regions between 900-3,000 m or higher. It is usually found in lower elevations outside the breeding season.

The Three-wattled Bellbird lives between eastern Honduras and western Panama.

Physical Description
An abrasive BONK is often heard in the muted sounds of the forests where this Bellbird perches. The male's well-projected call can be heard up to half a kilometer away, especially because the bellbird often sings in the highest branches of the canopy. The Three-Wattled Bellbird is named for the male's three skinny, extended gray-black wattles-worm-looking skin structures-which hang from his bill.

The female lack these wattles, and in fact looks entirely different from the male. Adults of both sexes have a sturdy, heavy body and a large black bill. The female is olive green with thin yellow lines on her head, a skinny yellow eye-ring, and a bright yellow underside with wide dark olive-green stripes. The female is thusly well hidden among the lush green of the canopy. The male, on the other hand, is shrouded with a bright white on its head, neck and chest, and a solid chestnut-rufous color over the rest of its body.

Interesting Biology
In the breeding season these birds stay in the middle to upper zones of montane forests. During the rest of the year they may spend time at lower levels or in secondary growth and tall trees in semi-open areas. They forage for tree fruits by sallying, or repeatedly returning to a certain perch between trips to food targets.

Males display and BONK from perches that expose them above the rest of the canopy. They establish territories around these branches and spend much of their time there, especially during the breeding season from March to June when they leave only briefly to feed. They do not sing melodies as much as tones that may be wooden, metallic, or bell-like, from a BONK or BRENK to a jreet or other single notes. While they project these loud sounds, the males stretch open their huge, gaping black mouths and make their wattles quiver. The large mouth allows the bird to swallow larger fruits as well as signal threat when a visitor enters his territory. The male will approach the intruder and bonk! near its head and intimidate with his monstrously large black mouth and wobbling wattles. When the visitor is a female bellbird, however, the male performs display flights from perch to perch, and comes close to the female to bonk! in her ear; this excites the female, and the two may proceed with courtship rituals. She will depart from him afterwards to build a nest and raise the chicks alone.

The Three-Wattled Bellbird swallows the fruits of trees, particularly those in the Lauraceae family, of which the avocado is a member.

Adult male bellbirds are 30 cm long and weigh 220 g; the smaller females are 25 cm long and weigh 145 g.

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.
Stiles, F. G. in: Janzen, Daniel H. Costa Rican Natural History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

-Amy Strieter, Wildlife Writer