…the Bird that has lived for 44 million years!
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS AND RANGE
Also known as the bare headed Rockfowl, the Picathartes is a brightly-coloured featherless- head bird, with a black patch around the back of its head. Formerly declared extinct in the 1960s, the picathartes was rediscovered in 2003 in Ghana and in some Upper Guinean forest of West Africa. This normally silent bird, has a dark bluish tail and underparts, whereas the neck and upper parts of the birds are white. They are most often said to resemble the Leather aviators cap, as they possess a jet black pair of eyes with a very conspicuous orange patch around the eyes. Due to its affinity for rocky environment (hence the name Rockfowl), the picathartes prefers clearings within primary and secondary forests.
They have long black beaks and feed alone on invertebrates from the forest floor especially worms and army ant colonies. During the Breeding season, Picathartes is known to feed on larger invertebrates like snails and in some case, feed on frogs.
BREEDING AND NESTING
Breeding takes places in rocky areas such as on cliffs and cave foots, however some nest of the picathartes have been found in large fallen hollow trees.
IUCN STATUS, THREATS AND CONSERVATION
The bare-headed Picathartes is classified on the IUCN Red List 2007 as Vulnerable and is listed on Appendix I of CITES.
Human disturbances, timber cutting, mining for gold, manganese and bauxite in Ghana have put pressure on the species, as has conversion of these forests to farmland over the years, have affected the reproductive rate of this striking bird. The low productive rate of the Picathartes is susceptible to the compounding ecological pressures of nest-predation, competition from other birds etc.
Although protected by law in Ghana, these legislations are in fact ineffectual has prompted the creation of “Picathartes focus groups” to champion research and conservation actions to further save the rather dwindling population of the Rockfowl. Following the rediscovery of the bare-headed rockfowl in Ghana by the British Ornithologist’s Club in 2003, the Ghana Wildlife Society began a project running population surveys in order to better understand the population size and range of this species. This study was funded with $19,300 awarded by the Critical Ecosystem Fund (CEPF) under its small grant program. Currently the Ghana Wildlife Division, the Nature Conservation Research Centre, and the Chief of Asumara are working to protect the species in Ghana’s nature reserves.