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Version 1.0

This is a historic version of this account.  Current version


Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo Neomorphus rufipennis

Janice M. Hughes
Version: 1.0 — Published January 5, 2018

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The territorial call of the Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo is a loud forceful whOOu (Hilty 2003) with a frequency of 0.8-0.9 kHz that lasts about 0.3 sec (Hardy et al. 1990). The call has a dove-like quality (e.g., Blue Ground-Dove, Claravis pretiosa; Haffer 1977), but is clearer, louder, and more far-ranging (Zimmer and Hilty 1997, Hilty 2003). Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoos may give their call when walking on the forest floor or when perched 0.5-3 m up on a tree branch or log. The maximum calling rate is typically about once every 5-10 seconds for up to several minutes (Hilty 2003).

Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo also gives a low guttural gr’r’r (Hilty 2003).

Playback of taped calls typically elicits a vocal response from Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo. In one study, the cuckoo gave its response, usually a resonating whooop repeated at 3-6 second intervals, from more than 100 m away from the playback source. On occasion, the response call was a slightly tremulous hrrooop. In addition, the cuckoo ran rapidly towards the source of the playback call on a zigzagging course, pausing to hop up onto logs or run up low leaning branches to scan the area. While scanning, the cuckoo partially raised and lowered its crest, and dipped its tail up and down (Zimmer and Hilty 1997).

Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoos appear to be more vocal than Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo (N. geoffroyi) (Zimmer and Hilty 1997).

Additional audio recordings of vocalizations of Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo can be heard at Macaulay Library and at xeno-canto.

Nonvocal Sounds

Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoos (as do other species of Neomorphus) makes a distinctive bill snapping sound with the mandibles, which is analogous to the nonvocal bill-snapping sound of Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus). Bill snapping may be given by solitary ground-cuckoos, or by pairs (Haffer 1977), and often is heard when foraging or during agonistic encounters (Hilty 2003).

It has been suggested that this bill clacking vocalization mimics the sound of teeth clacking in peccaries. As such, it could serve to ward off predators by triggering clacking by peccaries, or by implying that peccaries are present when they are not; peccary herds can frighten off many potential predators. In addition, it may foster a mutualistic relationship between the peccaries and ground-cuckoos by alerting each other to the presence of predators, or by ground-cuckoos acting as sentinels with the peccaries providing protection to the assemblage (Raposo do Amaral et al. 2017). See Diet and Foraging: Foraging Behavior.

Additional audio recordings of non-vocal sounds of Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo can be heard at Macaulay Library and at xeno-canto.

Recommended Citation

Hughes, J. M. (2018). Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo (Neomorphus rufipennis), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.rwgcuc1.01