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Red-billed Ground Cuckoo Neomorphus pucheranii lepidophanes

The Red-billed Ground Cuckoo Neomorphus
pucheranii is one of the least known and
most sought-after of all Amazonian birds,
occurring in western Amazonia in Peru and Brazil.
Two subspecies are currently recognised: the
nominate N. p. pucheranii occurring north of the
river Amazon and N. p. lepidophanes (BirdLife
International 2013) south of it. In common with
other ground cuckoos, the species is known
to associate with Eciton army ants, herds of
peccaries, mixed-species bird flocks and mixed-
species groups of tamarins (Saddleback Saguinus
fuscicollis and Moustached S. mystax); concealed
arthropod prey is flushed by these groups of
moving animals and captured by the cuckoos
(Siegel et al. 1989, Peres 1992, Schulenberg et
al. 2007, Erritzøe et al. 2012). ey have also
been observed to consume partially eaten fruits
droppedto the forest floor by the primates (Siegel
et al. 1989).
We carried out an extensive camera trap
survey in the Kanamari and Deni Indigenous
Territories, a remote part of the western Brazilian
Amazon located in the Juruá river basin in the
State of Amazonas. Between 14 June and 10
August 2012, we photographed over 18,750
images of wildlife, including 31 images of Red-
billed Ground Cuckoos, which are amongst the
first ever taken of this elusive creature. So far
we have recorded the species from at least three
independent camera trap stations. ese cameras
were all placed in pristine terra firme forest
more than 20 km from the nearest indigenous
settlement. We were of course surprised to have
captured such a rare species on camera so many
times, but there is a previous published image
ofthis species from the same region (Erritzøe
We presented the photographs to a number of
hunters in the region, who recognised the species
and we learnt that this ground cuckoo plays an
important part in the folklore of the region’s
Kanamari Indians. Hunters know the bird as the
‘alma de porco’ (‘soul of the peccary’) on account
of the resemblance of the bird’s bill-clacking to
that of the tooth-gnashing of the peccaries with
which it often associates. Local hunters described
this species as roosting in burrows (as do Collared
Peccaries) and following peccary herds to capture
the horseflies that plague these pigs, although
these claims have not been corroborated. Our data
suggest that this species may not be as rare in these
western Amazonian forests as previously thought
and they highlight the utility of camera trap
surveys for studying large and elusive terrestrial
bird species. Camera-trapping may reveal much
about the behaviour, ecological requirements and
population density of this enigmatic creature.
Here we showcase a series of photographs of the
southern sub-species N. p. lepidophanes taken
by one of our camera traps around midday on 23
December 2011.
We are extremely indebted to the hospitality shown
by the Deni and Kanamari Indigenous groups and for
granting us permission to carry out this work. anks
also to Ageu Nascimento de Souza and Claudimar
Oliveira de Araújo for invaluable help in the field and
the Research Council of Norway for funding the project
(grant nr. 201382/H30). We thank Alexander C. Lees for
providing comments on an earlier version of this note.
BirdLife International (2013) IUCN Red List for birds
(Downloaded from on 11
January 2013)
Erritzøe, J. Mann, C.F., Brammer, F. & Fuller, R. A. (2012)
Cuckoos of the world. London: Christopher Helm.
Peres, C. A. (1992) Prey-capture benefits in a mixed-
species group of Amazonian tamarins, Saguinus
fuscicollis and S. mystax. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 31:
Schulenberg, T. S., Stotz, D. F., Lane, D. F., O’Neill, J. P. &
Parker, T. A. (2007) Birds of Peru. New Jersey, USA:
Princeton University Press.
Siegel, C. E., Hamilton, J. M. & Castro, N. R. (1989)
Observations of the red-billed ground-cuckoo
(Neomorphus pucheranii) in association with
tamarins (Saguinas) in northeastern Amazonian
Peru. Condor 91: 720-722.
55 Neotropical Birding 12
Red-billed Ground Cuckoo
Neomorphus pucheranii lepidophanes
Torbjørn Haugaasen, Whaldener Endo,
Laura Luna-Maira & Carlos A. Peres
56 Neotropical Birding 12
Department of Ecology and Natural Resource
Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, P.
O. Box 5003, 1432 Ås, Norway
School of Environmental Sciences, University of East
Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
Photographs taken by one of our camera traps,
placed in pristine terra rme forest at 135 m.a.s.l.,
Juruá, Amazonas, Brazil, December 2011. These
images nicely illustrate the salient eld-marks of
the southern sub-species with their entirely black
forehead and conspicuously black scaled breast, as
opposed to the nominate’s light brown forehead and
fairly uniform breast.
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Full-text available
Tamarins of the genus Saguinus feed on a wide range of arthropods and small vertebrates, which compose a critical component of their diet. This paper examines the foraging patterns and capture success of the Avila-Peres saddle-back (S. fuscicollis avilapiresi) and the red-capped moustached tamarin (S. mystax pileatus) in very stable mixed-species groups, and whether and how any foraging benefits for either species resulted from their association. Moustached tamarins actively searched for prey items which were mainly well exposed on the midstorey foliage. Saddle-back tamarins, on the other hand, foraged at lower heights, largely by manipulating a variety of microhabitats potentially concealing embedded prey. The foraging activity of the numerically dominant and larger-bodied moustached tamarins often resulted in prey items escaping to lower substrates, usually the forest leaf-litter. The beating effect of this species substantially facilitated captures of large, mobile prey items by saddle-backs, which were highly adept at locating and retrieving flushed prey. It is estimated that, while saddle-backs obtained 66–73% of their prey biomass from flushed items, this proportion was substantially lower (2–9%) for moustached tamarins. Commensal insectivory appears to involve a highly asymmetric benefit to saddle-backs, and a low cost to moustached tamarins, which partly explains the stability of mixed-species groups.
IUCN Red List for birds (Downloaded from http://www.birdlife
BirdLife International (2013) IUCN Red List for birds (Downloaded from on 11
  • J Erritzøe
  • C F Mann
  • F Brammer
  • R A Fuller
Erritzøe, J. Mann, C.F., Brammer, F. & Fuller, R. A. (2012) Cuckoos of the world. London: Christopher Helm.