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Version 1.0

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Banded Ground-Cuckoo Neomorphus radiolosus

Janice M. Hughes
Version: 1.0 — Published November 10, 2017


Distinguishing Characteristics

Banded Ground-Cuckoo is a large, terrestrial cuckoo (about 46 cm in length) that is reminiscent in shape and behavior of Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) of the American Southwest and Mexico, with its large, sharply-ridged bill, prominent crest, long tail, and strong feet and toes. Banded Ground-Cuckoo, however, is mostly shiny blackish, with bold buffy scaling on its upper back, breast, and belly. Its wings and lower back are a rich chestnut color. Banded Ground-Cuckoo has a dark brown iris, blue skin around its eyes, and a dark bill with a bluish-gray tip.

Similar Species

There are five species of Neomorphus ground-cuckoos in the Neotropics, but they replace one another geographically so that only one species generally inhabits a given forest region. Also the five species differ in the color and patterning of their anterior underparts and upperparts, and in the color of their bill and bare orbital skin (Haffer 1977).

Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo (N. geoffroyi) also occurs in western Columbia. There is no known range overlap with Banded (Erritzöe et al. 2012), although Hilty and Brown (1986) suggest that these two species probably meet in central western Colombia. Rufous-vented can be distinguished from Banded Ground-Cuckoo by its yellow bill, bronzy-brown upperparts including tail, glossy green wings, and narrow broken black chest-band (BirdLife International 2017).

Detailed Description

Monomorphic. Male may be somewhat larger than female (Haffer 1977), although there is likely substantial overlap in size between sexes. Bond and Meyer de Schauensee (1940) reported that the underparts of the male are less heavily barred than those of the female, but this has not been noted by other observers.

Adult: Crest and hindneck glossy blue black; forecrown, upper back, and underparts black with feathers edged in buffy white giving a bold scaled appearance. Wing coverts, lower back, and rump a rich maroon-chestnut. Outer primaries black, inner primaries and secondaries purplish-red with black inner webs. Uppertail coverts metallic green. Undertail coverts black. Tail black with glossy purple to greenish sheen.

Immature: Feather barring on underparts and back ochraceous; only whitish on part of breast. Bluish sheen on head and collar absent. Ocular patch grayish (post-ocular) and sky-blue (pre-ocular; López-Lanús et al. 1999).

Hatchlings: Body covered with white down; head featherless (Karubian et al. 2007). See Breeding for more information on plumage development in young.

Adult plumage description from Haffer (1977), Hilty and Brown (1986), Payne (2005), and Erritizöe et al. (2012).


Banded Ground-Cuckoo presumably follows the Complex Basic molt strategy. There is very little information on molts in this species, however, other than two observations made by Karubian and Carrasco (2008). One individual was lightly molting on the body in December; another individual was heavily molting on the body and remiges, and had an active brood patch in early May.

Bare Parts

Iris: dark brown

Facial skin: orbital skin blue in adult; orbital skin grayish (post-orbital) to sky blue (pre-orbital) in immature

Bill: maxilla black to dusky above; mandible grayish, with blue-gray tip; nostrils are broadly operculate and opening is slit-like, unlike other cuckoo species

Tarsi and toes: greenish blue to bluish gray

Bare parts description from Hartert (1898), Bond and Meyer de Schauensee (1940), López-Lanús et al. (1999), and Payne (2005).


Total length: 46 cm (Hilty and Brown 2001)

Linear measurements, male (from Haffer 1977, Payne 2005):

wing length: mean 165.5 mm (162-168 mm ; n = 4)

tail length: mean 235 mm (range 230-242 mm ; n = 4)

bill from nostril: 33.3 mm

bill length: 45.5 mm (range 45-46 mm ; n =2)

tarsus length: 72.5 mm (range 71-74 mm ; n =2)

Linear measurements, female (from Bond and Meyer de Schauensee 1940, Payne 2005):

wing length: 162.5 mm (n = 1); mean 167 mm (range 162-172 ; n = 5)

tail length: 250 mm (n = 1); mean 245.4 mm (range 236-254 ; n = 5)

bill length: 48 mm (n = 1); mean 44.8 mm (range 42-46 ; n = 5)

tarsus length: 68 mm (n = 1); mean 69.8 mm (range 68-74 ; n = 5)

Linear measurements, sex unknown (from Hartert 1898, Karubian and Carrasco 2008):

wing chord: mean 153 mm (range 150-156 mm ; n = 3)

wing length: 170 mm

tail length: mean 248 mm (range 240-254 mm ; n = 3)

culmen from the distal edge of the nares: mean 34.5 mm (range 33.8-35.1 mm ; n = 3)

exposed culmen: mean 58.0 mm (range 58.1-58.0 mm ; n = 3)

bill depth: mean 18.15 mm (range 16.6-19.6 mm ; n = 3)

bill width: 13.8 mm

tarsus length: mean 73.6 mm (range 70 mm-77.1 mm ; n = 3)

Wing formula: P5 ≥ 4 ≥ 3 > 2 > 1 > 6 > 7 > 8 > 9 > 10; P1 and P5 nearly equal in length (Payne 2005).

Mass: mean 399 g (range 365-433 g, n = 2, sex undetermined; Karubian et al. 2007)

Recommended Citation

Hughes, J. M. (2017). Banded Ground-Cuckoo (Neomorphus radiolosus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.bagcuc1.01