Thursday, November 22, 2007

Here We Come a-Wattling

Well, I had hoped to get this (or something) up earlier, but finals and the end of the semester got in my way. Today, in honor of Thanksgiving1, I’m writing about an Endangered Ugly Galliform. For those who don’t know the orders within Class Aves off the top of their heads, Galliformes is the order that includes the chicken-esque birds, such as pheasants, grouse, quails, and, of course, turkey2. Granted, this week’s EUT is none of those, but it’s the taxon that counts.

Image from Birding Peru
Image from Birding Peru

The Wattled Curassow (Crax globulosa) is a seven-pound bird that inhabits the rain forests of western South America. They are fairly omnivorous, finding what fruits they can, but mostly eating invertebrates they find in the flooded forest and riverbanks. Despite spending all day foraging on the forest floor, they roost in trees, though specific information on their nesting habits seems a little thin.

Surprisingly enough, the Wattled Curassow has, in fact, a wattle. Around their beak is a set of conspicuous, fleshy protrusions. These turn bright red on the males during the mating season in June. Another visual oddity in these birds is their crest, which, to my eyes, looks exactly like meticulously gelled curly hair. Their white rumps are prominently displayed in the mating ritual, in which the males make high-pitched whistling noises, as opposed to most other curassows, which “boom.”

As I did introduce these as chicken-like, it should be little surprise that the largest threat to these birds is hunting. The addition of shotguns to the arsenal of people in those areas is cited as the cause of the huge population drop of the Wattled Curassow. Human population expansion is the easiest along rivers, and since this is the Curassow’s habitat, they are frequently picked off.

There are a number of people working on the conservation of this bird. A Bolivian Bird Conservation group has a Wattled Curassow Project in place, and they are trying to find suitable habitats. Ecotourism may be used to better protect their habitats, and many groups are trying to determine how these methods might be used for conservation.

Edit: I just found out that WWF has an Eastern Hellbender plushie. This makes me exceedingly happy, and leads me to believe that maybe I should let up on the WWF just a little.

1The American one. The Canadians actually hold Thanksgiving about the same time of year the Puritans had theirs.
2I just found out that the North American Wild Turkey is the largest galliform in the world. Neat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can we really use the terms "Hellbender" and "plushie" together? ;-)It just seems so odd...

Have you seen the parasite pals plushies? Lil' Tapeworm!