Growing up in the rainforest: A Razor-billed curassow chick growth captured by a camera trap for over a month!

June 19, 2018

The razor-billed curassow (Mitu tuberosum) is one of the largest species of cracids (Galliformes:Aves) and a relatively uncommon bird in western Amazonian rainforest because of their low reproductive rates and highly vulnerable status due human disturbances such as hunting and habitat loss. These permanent threats have already driven one of the 24 species of Cracids, the Alagoas curassow (Mitu mitu), considered for many years a geographic variation of Mitu tuberosum, to extinction in the wild. Cracids’ presence is considered an indicator of healthy forests where hunting is absent or low, allowing them to play important ecological roles as seed dispersers and seed predators.

Los Amigos harbors 4 species of cracids, such as the Speckled chachalaca (Ortalis guttata), the Spix’s guan (Penelope jacquacu), Blue-throated piping guan (Pipile cumanensis), and the Razor-billed curassow (Mitu tuberosum), all of which have diurnal and terrestrial behavior. Camera traps have become an important tool to monitor and obtain ecological information about terrestrial birds. At the beginning of this year, LABO’s cameras registered the presence of a Razor-billed curassow chick, and what we believe to be its growth during a time lapse of over 40 days.

On January 4, one of our camera traps deployed in the interior of a bamboo patch captured the presence of two razor-billed curassows. The images indicate the occurrence of, perhaps, an adult male and female, based on the physical traits, specifically the size of their bills since males have a larger bill formation compared to females. Two weeks after, one individual was registered with a chick, walking right under the long terminal tail of the adult. The chick presented dark feathers, mostly black and brown coloration with some lighter patterns throughout the body and head, and a white belly. The characteristic laterally compressed and bright red bill of this species was not yet developed. After 42 days, the camera captured an adult individual with a visibly grown nestling walking again under the adult’s tail. Could it had been the same chick captured more than a month before? Perhaps yes! This time the immature offspring had body plumage coloration similar to an adult, mostly black, except the head; and the red bill was also noticeable, but not fully developed. In the video, the adult individual was feeding its offspring, confirming the probability of being the mother.

The razor-billed curassow, locally known as “paujil,” is a commonly hunted cracid in Amazonia. Despite the IUCN Red List considering it as “least concern”, there are not many studies or available literature that describes its biology and/or ecology. More studies on their population size, reproductive behavior, breeding and nesting information, are required to determine their current status. Cracids, in general, lay on average two eggs every year; hatchlings are exposed to high mortality rates during their first year, and reach maturity after the third year! This is a fairly long maturation period, but the wait is worth it just to admire a beautiful large terrestrial bird like the razor-billed curassow!

What are your guesses? Could this camera be showing us the growth of the same curassow chick?