Three-wattled bellbird

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Three-wattled bellbird
Procnias tricarunculataIbis1865P003A.jpg
Male (left) and female (right)
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Cotingidae
Genus: Procnias
P. tricarunculatus
Binomial name
Procnias tricarunculatus
(Verreaux & Verreaux, 1853)
Procnias tricarunculatus map.svg

Procnias tricarunculata

The three-wattled bellbird (Procnias tricarunculatus) is a Central American migratory bird of the cotinga family. The sexes are very dissimilar in appearance. The male has a white head and throat and the remaining plumage is chestnut brown. From the base of his beak dangle three long, slender, black wattles that he uses in display. The female has olive plumage with yellowish streaked underparts and a yellow vent area.


The three-wattled bellbird breeds in mountainous regions of Costa Rica and migrates to western Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. The male bird has a loud, distinctive, bell-like call, and as these birds are secretive and shy, they are more often heard than seen. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has assessed their conservation status as "vulnerable".


One of four species of bellbird that live in Central and South America, the three-wattled bellbird is between 25 cm (9.8 in) and 30 cm (12 in) long. The body, tail, and wings of the male are uniformly chestnut-brown; its head, neck, and upper breast are white; and it has a black eye-ring, eye-stripe, and bill. Its name comes from the three worm-like wattles of skin that hang from the base of the bill. These wattles can be as long as 10 cm (3.9 in) when extended during songs and interactions. The wattles remain flaccid even when extended. The male shakes the wattles, but otherwise they hang straight down; they are neither erectile nor under muscular control. The side wattles do not stick out to the sides and the central one is not extended directly skywards as shown on some old illustrations and specimens. The purpose of the wattles is unclear.

The female bellbirds are smaller and less striking in appearance, being overall olive with yellowish streaking below, pure yellow vent and no wattles. The females blend into the surroundings of the forest, which helps them hide its nests from predators. The nests are very difficult to spot. As of January 2019, only six nests had been found in Monteverde, according to the council for the Bellbird Biological Corridor.

Juvenile males are often confused with females; they have the same coloring as females until they reach sexual maturity at age 7. As they age, the males slowly molt the green and brown feathers and begin to grow the striking white and copper coat. They do not begin to grow their wattles until they are 1 to 2 years old, and the wattles continue to grow for the entirety of the male bird's life.


Famous for having one of the most unusual and distinct vocalizations of any bird in its range, the three-wattled bellbird exists from western Honduras south to eastern Panama. Bellbirds breed primarily in Costa Rican highlands in the cloud forest (March–September) and return to lower elevations in the mangroves for the interim months.


The bellbird has its own unique mating ritual. The male birds sneak up behind the females perching on a high branches. As the male quietly approaches the female, he opens his mouth a full 180 degrees to make his distinctive "bonk" sound in her ear, knocking the female off of her branch. They repeat this sequence, and after the courtship is over, the female departs to build the nest and raise the chicks alone.


The species is completely frugivorous; it swallows the fruits from trees in the Lauraceae family, of which the avocado is a member. [2] The bellbird performs an important role in seed dispersal. It regurgitates the seeds it cannot digest and deposits them in gap areas beneath song perches, which nearly doubles seedling survival rate. [3]


Taxidermied male specimen (in living individuals, the three elongated wattles typically hang loosely down beside the bill) Procnias tricarunculata.jpg
Taxidermied male specimen (in living individuals, the three elongated wattles typically hang loosely down beside the bill)
Male in Costa Rica Procnias tricarunculata -Costa Rica -male-8-4c.jpg
Male in Costa Rica

Because of the secretive behavior of this bird, it is often only detected by the distinctive bell-like call given by the males. At close range, the vocalization of many in Costa Rica is heard as a complex three-part song, the "bonk" giving the bird its name. This hollow, wooden "bonk" is thought to be among the loudest bird calls on Earth, audible to humans from over 0.5 mi (0.80 km) away. The song is different in Nicaragua and in also Panama, and these songs also include an extremely loud, but less bell-like, note. The song may also be a short "Heee-Ahhh." In some instances, it has been described as sounding like microphone feedback.

Research by Donald Kroodsma on recordings archived at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology showed that the three-wattled bellbird is unique among members of its sub-order, in that it learns its song, rather than having the song determined by instinct, because the song changed over the years that it had been recorded.


The population trend of the three-wattled bellbird is on a downward trend because of destruction of the bird's forest habitat. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has assessed their conservation status as "vulnerable". [1]

The Monteverde Institute in Costa Rica is working to conserve the bellbird's natural habitat through its reforestation program. The organization has planted over 250,000 trees of more than 140 species in the Bellbird Biological Corridor in attempt to bridge the habitats that many species require for migration. [4]

Related Research Articles

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The cotingas are a large family, Cotingidae, of suboscine passerine birds found in Central America and tropical South America. Cotingas are birds of forests or forest edges, that are primary frugivorous. They all have broad bills with hooked tips, rounded wings, and strong legs. They range in size from 12–13 cm (4.7–5.1 in) of the fiery-throated fruiteater up to 48–51 cm (19–20 in) of the Amazonian umbrellabird.

Bearded bellbird Species of bird

The bearded bellbird also known as the campanero or anvil-bird, is a passerine bird which occurs in northern South America. The male is about 28 cm (11 in) long with white plumage apart from a brown head and black wings. At his throat hang several black, unfeathered wattles. The female is a little smaller with olive-green head and upper parts, yellow underparts streaked with green and a yellow vent area. The male has a loud, repeated metallic hammering call, as well as various other vocalisations.

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Neotropical bellbird is the common name given to passerine birds of the genus Procnias, found in the Neotropics. They are members of the cotinga family. In Brazil, they are known as araponga. They are all restricted to tropical or subtropical humid forested regions, often in low mountains or foothills. As indicated by their common name, they all have extremely loud calls that are reminiscent of a metal bell being rung.


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Long-wattled umbrellabird Bird of western Colombia and Ecuador

The long-wattled umbrellabird is an Umbrellabird in the Cotinga family. Its common names include "Pájaro Bolsón", "Pájaro Toro", "Dungali" and "Vaca de Monte". The Long-wattled Umbrellabird is considered rare and it resides in humid to wet premontane and cloud forest. They are often found on the Pacific slopes of south-west Colombia and western Ecuador, but occasionally are found at lower altitudes.

Sapphire-throated hummingbird Species of bird

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Yellow-billed cotinga Species of bird

The yellow-billed cotinga is a species of bird in the family Cotingidae. It is found in the Pacific lowlands of Costa Rica and Panama. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest, subtropical or tropical mangrove forest, and subtropical or tropical moist shrubland. It is threatened by habitat destruction.

Black-tipped cotinga Species of bird

The black-tipped cotinga, also known as the white cotinga, is a species of bird in the family Cotingidae. It is found in the Chocó region, from southeastern Panama to northwestern Ecuador ; its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. The male, being white, is conspicuous, but in general it is an uncommon species.

Snowy cotinga Species of bird

The snowy cotinga is a medium-sized species of passerine bird in the family Cotingidae. It is found in Central America where its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and heavily degraded former forests. The male is white and the female pale grey and both sexes are readily recognisable.

Bare-necked umbrellabird Species of bird

The bare-necked umbrellabird is a species of bird in the family Cotingidae. It is found in the Talamancan montane forests of Costa Rica and Panama. Bare-necked umbrellabirds live only in forests and their diet consists mainly of fruits.

Lovely cotinga Species of bird

The lovely cotinga is a species of bird in the family Cotingidae. It is found in North and Central America from southern Mexico through Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and Nicaragua to Costa Rica with reports from western Panama. Its natural habitats are tropical moist lowland forests and heavily degraded former forest. The male is a bright turquoise blue while the female is greyish-brown with pale underparts. Because of its total population size and wide range, this species is not yet considered vulnerable.

Blue cotinga Species of bird

The blue cotinga is a species of bird in the family Cotingidae. It is found in Colombia, north-west Ecuador, eastern and central Panama and western Venezuela in tropical moist lowland forests and heavily degraded former forest. In relation to range and population size this species is not considered to be vulnerable.

Red-capped manakin Species of bird

The red-capped manakin is a species of bird in the family Pipridae. It is found in Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Panama. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest.

Purple-throated cotinga Species of bird

The purple-throated cotinga is a species of bird in the cotinga family, Cotingidae. It is found in the western Amazon rainforest of South America; its range extends from southern Colombia south through eastern Ecuador and Peru and east through extreme northwestern Bolivia and into western Amazonian Brazil. It lives in the canopy or along the borders of humid forest throughout its range. The purple-throated cotinga is monotypic within the genus Porphyrolaema and has no known subspecies. It is one of the smaller cotinga species and expresses strong sexual dimorphism. Males have black upperparts with a bold white wingstripe and white edges to the tertial feathers and a white belly with some black barring on the rear flanks. The throat is a deep purple, giving the bird both its common and scientific names. Females are dark brown with pale buffy margins on the upperparts, buffy cinnamon with black barring on the underparts, and rufous on the throat. The male has a powerful voice.

White bellbird Species of bird

The white bellbird is a species of bird in the family Cotingidae. The specific epithet is often spelled alba, but albus is correct due to the masculine gender of "Procnias". It is found in forests in the Guianas, with small numbers in Venezuela and the Brazilian state of Pará, as well as Trinidad and Tobago. As in two other members of Procnias, the males have wattles, fleshy structures akin to the red skin flap that hangs from the throat of roosters.

Bare-throated bellbird Species of bird

The bare-throated bellbird is a species of bird in the family Cotingidae. It is found in moist subtropical and tropical forests in Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. The male has white plumage and bristly bluish-black bare skin around its eye, beak and throat. The female is more drab, being olive-brown above with streaked yellow underparts. The male has one of the loudest bird calls known, producing a metallic sound similar to a hammer striking an anvil. This bird feeds on fruit and plays a part in dispersing the seeds of forest trees. It is considered Near Threatened because of loss of its forest habitat and collection for the pet bird trade.

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Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a Costa Rican reserve located along the Cordillera de Tilarán within the Puntarenas and Alajuela provinces. Named after the nearby town of Monteverde and founded in 1972, the Reserve consists of over 10,500 hectares of cloud forest. It draws roughly 70,000 visitors a year. The Reserve consists of 6 ecological zones, 90% of which are virgin forest. A high biodiversity, consisting of over 2,500 plant species, 100 species of mammals, 400 bird species, 120 reptilian and amphibian species, and thousands of insects, has drawn both scientists and tourists alike.


  1. 1 2 BirdLife International (2016). "Procnias tricarunculatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . 2016: e.T22700946A93806341. doi: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22700946A93806341.en . Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  3. Wenny, Dan W (2001). "Advantages of seed dispersal: A re-evaluation of directed dispersal". Evol. Ecol. Res. 3 (1): 51–74.

Further reading