Corvus gymnocephalus Temminck, 1825, Coast of Guinea. Monotypic. Classification long controversial. Prior to Delacour’s placement as a
within babblers, often considered in crow family (Corvidae). DNA melting curve experiments show no close relation to babblers, but instead suggest Picathartes belongs in the same family with Southern African rock jumpers (Chaetops sp.), with possible relationship to corvids.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
English: White-necked bald crow, yellow-headed rockfowl, Guinea picathartes; French: Picatharte de Guinйe; German: Weisshals Stelzenkraehe; Spanish: Picatartes Cuelliblanco.
16 in (40 cm), 7 oz (200 g). Elegantly proportioned bird of unmistakable appearance. Head unfeathered, with unique black and orange-yellow skin pattern. Eyes and powerful bill dark. Mantle, wings, and tail black, or nearly so. Neck and underparts creamy white.
Guinea, south to Ghana.
Primary and mature secondary forest with boulders or rock formations.
Keeps to understory, mostly stays in vicinity of nest sites throughout the year. May be found singly, in pairs, or in small groups. Moves about as much by leaping and hopping as by flying. Noted to be inquisitive of humans entering habitat.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Forages on or near ground for wide variety of insects, as well as other arthropods, snails, earthworms, frogs, and lizards. Fol- lows army ant columns in company of other insectivorous birds, snatching fleeing insects.
Monogamous. Usually nests in colonies of several pairs. Thickwalled, cup-shaped nests are composed largely of mud, with incorporated plant material, constructed on rock faces (cave mouths, boulders, cliffs), or sometimes stream banks or large fallen trees. Separate roosting and breeding nests thought to be routine. Nests are reused over periods of at least several years. Only one or two blotched, variously colored eggs laid, with rather long incubation period of 23–28 days. Usually two clutches a year.
Vulnerable. One of Africa’s most well-known threatened birds. As of 2002, main threats are from forest clearance. Prior to 1973 CITES Appendix I listing, Liberian animal dealers appeared to have destroyed entire colonies. Recent fieldwork has located previously unknown populations, such as one in Mont Peko National Park, Ivory Coast, discovered in 1998. A number of protected areas include breeding colonies.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Chicks and adults sometimes taken for food. Once popular zoo bird, as of 2002, none outside Africa since 1998. Future “flagship” and ecotourism potential.
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