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The Kid Should See This

The ‘bizarre and rare’ Yellow-headed Picathartes

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The Telegraph called the Yellow-headed Picathartes (aka the White-necked Rockfowl, Picathartes gymnocephalus,) “the avian Holy Grail.” To see them, The Nature Conservancy explains, is “birding Nirvana.” The Audubon describes it as “a bizarre and rare species… the size of a chicken but slimmer, with a colorful, smooth-looking head and a beady black eye.”

The Yellow-headed Picathartes can be found in the tropical forests along the coast of West Africaβ€”in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, CΓ΄te d’Ivoire, and Ghanaβ€”but it’s a rare opportunity for birders and ornithologists to see one in person. This BBC clip from their Africa series, The Birds That Have Lived for 44 Million Years, shows how these mates-for-life prepare and care for their young in nests made of mud during the region’s wet season. From Wikipedia:

Recent DNA analysis has shown that Picathartidae and its closest relatives, southern Africa’s rockjumpers and southeast Asia’s rail-babbler, form a clade. The analysis suggests that the rockfowl split from the common ancestor of their clade 44 million years ago.

Picathartes birds - Africa
The birds were thought to be extinct in Ghana, unseen since the 1960s, until local guide Samson Aboagye spotted some in 2003. According to AllAboutBirds.org in 2013: “BirdLife International estimates the world population at between 2,500 and 10,000. In a 2007 Earthwatch report, only 18 pairs were observed in 22 colonies in the Ghana study area.”

Next: How do cliff swallows build their mud pellet nests?

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