Banded Ground-cuckoo
(Neomorphus radiolosus)
Despite its large size, this bird is inconspicuous and not easy to observe. Thought to be one of the rarest avian species of Ecuador, very little information exists about the Banded Ground-cuckoo. Its preferred habitat is primary tropical forest, although it may venture into adjacent secondary forest. The species has been observed following army ant swarms and foraging in the nearby undergrowth for fleeing insects. Deforestation of the native forests of Ecuador and Colombia has been ongoing for many years now, but has intensified over the last few decades. Habitat is being rapidly cleared to make way for grazing fields and palm oil, cocoa and banana plantations. The population of ground-cuckoos is thought to be declining and the species is classified as Endangered.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Designate more habitat as protected and enforce laws around existing areas.
Found in the Colombian Andes and northwest Ecuador.
The bare blue skin around the Banded Ground-cuckoo’s eye can expand and contract. It is thought this behaviour may be used during display.
Media from ARKive
Arkive image - Banded ground-cuckoo, close-up
Arkive image - Banded ground-cuckoo in hand
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Cuculiformes
Family: Cuculidae
The Cuculidae are more commonly known as the cuckoos, but also include the anis, couas, coucals, koels, malkohas and roadrunners. The Banded Ground-cuckoo is positioned within the subfamily Neomorphinae, known as the New World ground-cuckoos. This diverse group of five genera includes species of cuckoo, ground-cuckoo and roadrunner. The genus Neomorphus contains five species of large, terrestrial cuckoos. Despite similarities in appearance, cuckoos of this genus are not closely related to Carpococcyx, which is a genus of Asian ground cuckoo.
The tree below shows the evolutionary relationships between this species and all other birds. The colours of the tree indicate EDGE scores with the red shades indicating the higher priority species; the bright red leaves correspond to the top 100 EDGE bird species. Further information on every species can be found by zooming in to its leaf on the tree.
Relative to other members of the Cuculidae, this species is large. Its plumage is predominantly a glossy black-blue colour, except for the wings and back which are chestnut. The underparts have a beige, white and brown banding pattern. It has long, black tail feathers, which have a green hue. The head sports a prominent, dark crest and a large bill, which is dark on top but paler underneath and at the tip. The bare skin surrounding the eye is blue and is able to expand and contract. It has long, grey and powerful legs. Young lack the pattern banding and have duller plumage.
The Banded Ground-cuckoo is inconspicuous, despite its large body size. Birds have been observed gathering in mixed-species groups at army ant swarms to pick off fleeing insects. What little is known about the species’ breeding biology is based on observations of only a few individuals and may not be typical behaviour. Two such records place nesting in the months of March, April and May. Nests were found in trees, about 5m off the forest floor. Evidence suggests that only a single egg is laid per clutch. Both the male and female care for the chick, feeding it small vertebrates, like frogs and an array of insects. Individuals are thought to have home ranges of about 50ha.
Primary tropical forest mainly situated in the foothills of the Colombian Andes, within an elevation range of 30 to 1,525m. It may venture from primary habitat into adjacent secondary forest.
This ground-cuckoo is found on the Pacific-facing side of the Cordillera Occidental, which is the lowest section in altitude of the Colombian Andes. It is also found in northwest Ecuador.
Population Estimate
600–1,700 adults
Population Trend
Deforestation and logging have been ongoing for many years now, but have intensified over the last few decades. Lowland forests in particular have been cleared to make way for palm oil, cocoa and banana plantations, and for livestock grazing. The extension of roads through forest tracts has facilitated mining, hunting, agriculture and logging in previously difficult-to-access areas. Following a new set of laws, land-rights are now owned by local communities, who are targeted by big businesses so they can buy land cheaply.
Conservation Underway
The ground-cuckoo is found within a number of national parks, biological and ecological reserves and protected forests in both Colombia and Ecuador. There are no conservation projects focusing on the Banded Ground-cuckoo, although recent research by Karubian et al. (2007, 2008) has shed more light on the species’ ecology.
Conservation Proposed
The quality of the primary forest in protected areas must be ensured for the species to survive. Other suitable areas of habitat need to be surveyed and conserved. A species action plan needs to be drafted and implemented. More information is needed on the species’ ecology and habitat requirements. Population trends should be monitored. Ensure protected areas are connected to allow movement of ground-cuckoos between areas. Enforce legislation around protected areas to reduce rates of illicit hunting and logging, and ensure buffer areas are sustainably managed.  Work with local residents to develop appreciation of this species and develop grass roots level management plans, especially in remaining fragments of primary forest.
Alvarez, M. D. (2002) Illicit crops and bird conservation priorities in Colombia. Conservation Biology 16: 1086-1096

BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Neomorphus radiolosus. Downloaded from www.birdlife.org on 12/07/2013

Best, B. J., Checker, M., Thewlis, R. M., Best, A. L. and Duckworth, W. (1996). New bird breeding data from southwestern Ecuador. Ornitologia Neotropical 7(1): 69-73.

Collar, N. J., Gonzaga, L. P., Krabbe, N., Madroño Nieto, A., Naranjo, L. G., Parker, T. A. and Wege, D. C. (1992) Threatened birds of the Americas: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Hornbuckle, J., Mudd, A. and Berg, K. (1997). Survey of the birds of Bilsa Biological Reserve, Ecuador.

Hornbuckle, J. (1997) Two sightings of Banded Ground-cuckoo Neomorphus radiolosus in Ecuador. Cotinga 8:90.

Karubian, J., Carrasco, L. (2008) Home range and habitat preferences of the banded ground-cuckoo (Neomorphus radiolosus). The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 120(1): 205-209

Karubian, J., Carrasco, L.,Cabrera, D., Cook, A. and Olivo, J. (2007). Nesting biology of the Banded Ground-cuckoo (Neomorphus radiolosus). Wilson Journal of Ornithology 119(2): 221-227

López-Lanús, B., Berg, K. S., Strewe, R. and Salaman, P. G. W. (1999). The ecology and vocalisations of Banded Ground-cuckoo Neomorphus radiolosus. Cotinga 11: 42-45.

Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. (2013). The Animal Diversity Web (online). Accessed at http://animaldiversity.org.

Payne, R. B. and Klitz, K. (2005) The Cuckoos. Oxford University Press, UK

Salaman, P. G. W. (1994). Surveys and conservation of biodiversity in the Chocó, south-west Colombia. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Wege, D. C. and Long, A. J. (1995). Key Areas for threatened birds in the Neotropics. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
Text compiled by Michelle Harrison. Factchecked by Jordan Karubian.

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