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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



Non brood-parasitic species.

Banded Ground-Cuckoo likely breeds from March to June in northwestern Ecuador (Karubian and Carrasco 2008), although an apparent juvenile (based on plumage) observed in February suggests that the breeding season may begin earlier (López-Lanús et al. 1999). It nests in extremely humid primary Chocó rainforest (more than 3 m of rainfall per year; Karubian et al. 2007).

Nesting behavior is known primarily from one study of two nests in Bilsa Biological Station in northwestern Ecuador (Karubian et al. 2007). The account of these two nests is as follows:

The forest surrounding the nests was characterized by a closed canopy 25 to 30 m in height, and an open understory with an average visibility of less than 20 m. Common trees in the area of the nests included Otoba gordonifolia (Myristicaceae) and Gustavia dodsonii (Lecythidaceae); no Cecropia were present. Several trees in the vicinity of the nests had a trunk diameter of greater than 50 cm. The nests were positioned 25 m and 100 m from the nearest trail.

The nests were built in understory trees (Miconia sp., Melastomataceae) that were 7.5 and 9 m tall, with trunk diameters of 6.3 and 7.2 cm, respectively. The nests were positioned close to the trunk in large crotches formed from branches about 5 cm in diameter, and were 3.9 and 5.4 m above the ground. One nesting tree had a main trunk at about a 60° incline from the ground and the adults ran up and down the trunk to access the nest.

The nests were large open bulky cups with thick walls (6 cm) measuring 37 x 25 x 13 cm and 38 x 24 x 15 cm. They were made entirely of leaves of six plant species: mostly ferns (Diplazium sp., Aspleniaceae) with two small bromeliads and one palm; there were no sticks or moss incorporated into the nest to provide support to the structure. After the nest was completed, the adults continued to add an average of two new leaves to the lining of the nest each day (usually Diplazium sp.), perhaps to deter blood-sucking nest parasites or to provide additional warmth for the chick as the leaves decompose.

Each of the two nests only contained one egg, which was roundish, uniform cream in color, and about 4.5 x 4.0 x 4.0 cm in size. It is not known if Banded Ground-Cuckoo ever produces a clutch larger than one egg. The incubation period was at least 13 days, and the parents shared the incubation duties equally. On average, they incubated 3 to 4 hours per 8 hours of each observation session; however, frequently one parent replaced the other immediately on the nest so that the egg was not left uncovered for any length of time. The adults did not vocalize before or during the replacement process.

While incubating, the parent used its bill to change the position of the egg on average every 120 minutes. Also, they rounded their backs and opened their wings to cover the nest and egg when it rained. Incubating adults were also observed catching flying insects and picking up small items from the nesting material (perhaps nest parasites) and eating them. When not on incubation duty, the adult often traveled more than 400 m from the nest. Night incubation was probably done by either parent.

Hatching occurred from 1800 hrs to 1200 hrs on the following day. The hatchling was covered in white down, with the exception of its featherless head. By age 5 days, pin feathers were appearing on the chick's head, and dark feathers were developing on the body. The nestling was brooded and fed by parents equally, and both parents also continued to bring fresh leaves to add to the nest until the chick fledged. The chick was fed about 3 times per hour, and was given a variety of vertebrate and invertebrate food items. See Diet.

By age 10 days, the nestling had open eyes and could handle and swallow food by itself. Its body was covered equally with light down and dark feathers, and a prominent crest was developing on its head. By 15 days, it was increasingly active, and could eat small insects in the nest and capture some flying insects (Diptera sp.) with its bill. Although it had made no vocalizations prior to this time, by age 15 days it began to snap its bill when its parents were away from the nest (see Nonvocal Sounds). The chick was almost entirely covered with dark feathers by age 15 days, and the orbital bare skin was beginning to turn blue.

The chick fledged at age 20 days. The fledgling was covered in dark feathers that lacked the characteristic sheen of adult plumage; however, the crest was prominent and the orbital skin was increasingly blue. Its bill was smaller than that of adults, and its tail was only about one-quarter the length of the adult tail. The fledgling continued to be dependent on it parents for food and protection when out of the nest. Both parents tended to the fledgling. No begging vocalizations or begging behavior was observed.

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