Return of Bird of the Week: Rufous-vented Chachalaca


Last week we looked at the Rufous-headed Chachalaca. This week we go to the other end of the bird for the critical field mark. Mrs. WC thinks it’s unseemly to name a bird after its naughty bits, but there it is.

Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Tobago Island, Trinidad and Tobago

These photos are more than fourteen years old, taken with an Olympus E-1, Olympus’s first Four-Thirds Digital Single Lens Reflex camera. It was state of the art at the itme, but the lamest, cheapest smart phone camera takes much better photos today. These photos, taken at f5 (wide open), 1/200 and ISO800 with a 50-200mm zoom and a 1.4 teleconverter are full of digital noise. But this is the only time WC has been in the species’ range, so these are the only photos WC has.

Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Tobago Island, Trinidad and Tobago

Worse than that, they are on a feeder. They flew in and flew out, so there really wasn’t much choice.

This species is found in northeastern South America and a few islands in the southern Caribbean. There are two subspecies. Even for a chachalaca, they are incredibly noisy. One bird will give low-pitched grating “OTRA MAS” and the other answering with much higher-pitched “WATCH-a-lak”; neighbouring groups respond. It really is cacophonic.

They are reasonably well-studied. The diet is mostly fruit, as you see here, supplemented by leaves and flowers. They also opportunisticly take insects and small reptiles. They forage in flocks of 4 to 15 birds. Those may be family groups.

They build a basket-like structure as a nest, about 12 inches by 18 inches, made of twigs and leaves. The nest is built in trees or in vines, sometimes adapted from an abandoned nest of another bird, usually 3 to 15 feet above ground, occasionally higher na sometimes on the gorund. They lay 3 to 4 eggs, which hatch in about 28 days. Both parents incubate.

The species is caategorized as Least Threatened. It is common across all of its range, and adapts well to human-altered environments. One Tobago bird WC saw hung out at the beach, mooching food from tourists.

For more bird photographs, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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