|male (left) and female (right)|
(Verreaux and Verreaux, 1853)
One of four species of bellbird that live in Central and South America, the Three-wattled Bellbird is between 25 cm (9.8 in) and 30 cm (12 in) long. The body, tail, and wings of the male are uniformly chestnut-brown; its head, neck, and upper breast are white; and it has a black eye-ring, eye-stripe, and bill. Its name comes from the three worm-like wattles of skin that hang from the base of the bill. These wattles can be as long as 10 cm (3.9 in) when extended during songs and interactions. The wattles remain flaccid even when extended. The male shakes the wattles, but otherwise they hang straight down; they are neither erectile nor under muscular control. The side wattles do not stick out to the sides and the central one is not extended directly skywards as shown on some old illustrations and specimens. The female bellbirds are smaller and less striking in appearance, being overall olive with yellowish streaking below, pure yellow vent and no wattles.
Famous for having one of the most unusual and distinct vocalizations of any bird in its range, the three-wattled bellbird exists from western Honduras south to eastern Panama. While little is known about the migratory behavior of these birds, they breed primarily in Costa Rican highlands (March–September) and return to lower elevations for the interim months.
Because of the secretive behavior of this bird, it is often only detected by the distinctive bell-like call given by the males. At close range, the vocalization of many in Costa Rica is heard as a complex three-part song, the "bonk" giving the bird its name. This hollow, wooden "bonk" is thought to be among the loudest bird calls on Earth, audible to humans from over 0.5 mi (0.80 km) away. The song is different in Nicaragua and in also Panama, and these songs also include an extremely loud, but less bell-like, note.
Research by Donald Kroodsma on recordings archived at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology showed that the Three-wattled Bellbird is unique among members of its sub-order, in that it learns its song, rather than having the song determined by instinct, because the song changed over the years that it had been recorded.
- Snow, D.W. (1982). The Cotingas: Bellbirds, Umbrella birds and their allies. British Museum Press. ISBN 0-19-858511-X
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