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White Bellbird Procnias albus Scientific name definitions

David Snow and Christopher J. Sharpe
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated January 14, 2015

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Editor's Note: This is a shorter format account, originally published in HBW Alive. Please consider contributing your expertise to update and expand this account.

Of the four species of Procnias, it this species whose voice can perhaps be considered most bell-like. This bellbird, which is basically restricted to tall forests of the Guiana Shield, with an outlying population (and separate subspecies) found in a limited area of southeast Amazonian Brazil, is probably most closely related to the Central American representative of the genus, the Three-wattled Bellbird (Procnias tricarunculatus). The White Bellbird seems to perform some type of migrations, or at least long-distance wanderings, as scattered records in central Amazonia and on Trinidad attest. As its name suggests, the White Bellbird is indeed all white, but for the black wattle adorned with white ‘rosettes’, which hangs loosely over the bill when the bird is not displaying. Females of this species are mainly green and yellow, like other non-adult male bellbirds.

Identification

Male 28·5 cm, female 27·5 cm; male 210–215 g (albus), 219 g and 222 g (wallacei). Bill short, and very wide at gape. Male is unmistakable , one of the very few all-white landbirds  ; has single extensible wattle  , black  with short white star-like feathers, growing from base of upper mandible; outer primaries modified, tips of inner vanes projecting beyond outer vanes and slightly hooked; iris blackish; bill black, pale cutting edges; legs dark grey. Female is olive-green above, duskier on primaries and their coverts, olive-streaked yellow below  ; very similar to female of P. tricarunculatus, but shorter-billed, on average slightly smaller and shorter-tailed. Immature is similar to female; adult male plumage acquired gradually, wattle present but small at age of c. 1 year. Race <em>wallacei</em> differs from nominate in longer thinner bill, slightly grey-tinged throat.

Systematics History

Editor's Note: This article requires further editing work to merge existing content into the appropriate Subspecies sections. Please bear with us while this update takes place.

Genetic data (1) indicate sister relationship to P. tricarunculatus, with which it shares several morphological characters. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies


SUBSPECIES

Procnias albus albus Scientific name definitions

Distribution
E and extreme S Venezuela (E Bolívar, Cerro de la Neblina), the Guianas and adjacent N Brazil (N Roraima and N Pará).

SUBSPECIES

Procnias albus wallacei Scientific name definitions

Distribution
Serra dos Carajás, in SE Pará (Brazil); recorded also, perhaps this race, in NE Pará (Bagre) (2).

Distribution

Editor's Note: Additional distribution information for this taxon can be found in the 'Subspecies' article above. In the future we will develop a range-wide distribution article.

Habitat

Humid forest; to c. 1250 m, probably breeding at higher levels. Generally occurs at lower elevations than P. averano (with some interdigitation) where ranges overlap in E Venezuela and Guyana.

Movement

Little understood. Main range (presumed breeding area) centred in hilly areas of Guianan region, where some seasonal altitudinal movement (e.g. upslope movement recorded in Dec–Jun/Jul in SE Venezuela), with more extensive wandering into lowlands. Occasional records well away from main area, e.g. vagrant in Trinidad.

Diet and Foraging

Only fruit recorded; taken mainly in flight sallies, less often while perched; swallowed whole.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Male advertising call a very loud , sharp, bell-like “ding-ding”; also, very musical, more drawn-out, “doing doing”.

Breeding

Not recorded. Female seen to break off and drop fine twigs (of tree favoured as nest material by other cotingas) in Feb in S Guyana; movement upslope in first half of year and downward in second half probably indicative of breeding in about Feb–Jun; data on moult indicate less clearly defined breeding season than that of P. tricarunculatus or P. nudicollis. Male displays from treetop , with wattle greatly extended; calls with head and body held still, or, more loudly, utters one note as leans to right, then delivers second note with rapid leftward swing such that wattle (always hangs on right side of bill when call made with swing, although photographs suggest this may not be applicable for wallacei) flies out behind widely opened bill.

Not globally threatened. Status uncertain; uncommon, thinly distributed and difficult to observe, although conspicuous and very locally common when singing. Populations in remote highlands of E & S Venezuela and the Guianas should remain little disturbed for foreseeable future. Protected by Canaima National Park (30,000 km2) in Venezuela. Movements should be elucidated, since this species may require extensive areas of inter-connected forest.

Distribution of the White Bellbird
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  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the White Bellbird

Recommended Citation

Snow, D. and C. J. Sharpe (2020). White Bellbird (Procnias albus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.whibel2.01