Banded Ground-cuckoo Neomorphus radiolosus


Justification of Red List Category
This species occurs at very low population densities and is often absent even from seemingly appropriate habitat; overall it is considered to have a very small and fragmented population that is isolated in small subpopulations. In most of its range, habitat loss and degradation are proceeding rapidly, indicating that there are significant and ongoing declines in range and population. Locally it is opportunistically hunted for food. This combination of factors has led to its uplisting to Endangered.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 1,000-2,499 individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 667-1,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 600-1,700 mature individuals.

Trend justification
A moderately rapid population decline is suspected owing to rates of habitat loss, presumed hunting pressure, and low reproduction rates over the period of three generations (O. Jahn in litt. 2007; Karubian et al. 2007; P. Mena Valenzuela in litt. 2007). Habitat destruction and hunting pressure is rapidly increasing due to infrastructural development and advancing colonisation frontiers.

Distribution and population

Neomorphus radiolosus is found on the Pacific slope of the West Andes in south-west Colombia (Risaralda, Valle, Cauca, Nariño) and north-west Ecuador (Esmeraldas, Imbabura, Pichincha). It was recorded only rarely until 1988, since when it has been found in five areas in Colombia and at least six in Ecuador (Leck et al. 1980, Best et al. 1996, Hornbuckle et al. 1997, López-Lanús et al. 1999, Jahn et al. 2002, Krabbe & Nilsson 2003, López-Ordóñez et al. 2013, Martínez-Gómez et al. 2013, B. Palacios verbally 2005, A. Solano verbally 2007, P. Mena Valenzuela in litt. 2007, Jahn in press a). Hunters in the Junín area, Nariño, reported in the 1990s that they saw it every few months, but it is evidently a low-density species (López-Lanús et al. 1999) and very rare and local (Ridgely and Greenfield 2007, Athanas and Greenfield 2016).


It inhabits wet foothill forests at 30-1,525 m ( B. Palacios verbally 2005, P. Mena Valenzuela in litt. 2007, Jahn in press a). It seems to be dependent on continuous primary forest, but also uses adjacent secondary areas (López-Lanús et al. 1999). Reports and information from local people suggest that it sometimes associates with collared peccaries Tayassu tajacu, and with mixed-species bird flocks attending army ant swarms (Hornbuckle et al. 1997, López-Lanús et al. 1999). It forages for arthropods from the ground by scouring foliage, stems and tree-trunks, or catching prey disturbed by army ants (Hornbuckle et al. 1997, López-Lanús et al. 1999). Two recently documented nesting attempts provided the first information on its nesting biology: one took place in March-April and the other in May, and both nests were located c.5 m above ground in understorey trees in primary forest (Karubian et al. 2007). The clutch size appears to be small and may be only a single egg (Karubian et al. 2007). A wide range of invertebrates (particularly grasshoppers) and vertebrates (mainly small frogs) were fed to the nestling (Karubian et al. 2007). Extensive visual and auditory transect-mapping samples (1997-2006) in Esmeraldas, covering an altitudinal range of 5-1,800 m confirmed that the species occurs at extremely low densities of 0.125-0.25 individuals/km2 (Jahn in press a), or less, in most of its remaining Ecuadorian range; concordant with a radio-tagged adult that was found to have a home range of 5 km2 (Karubian and Carrasco 2008).


The Chocó region has long been a source of timber, but logging has intensified since the mid-1970s (WWF and IUCN 1994-1997). Deforestation is particularly rapid in Ecuador, Nariño, and along the Cali-Buenaventura and other roads (Salaman 1994, Salaman and Stiles 1996, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000). By 1996, in western Ecuador the remnant cover of evergreen lowland and premontane forests was only 18% and 40% respectively (Sierra 1999). In the late 1990s, primary forests in Nariño and within 60 km of San Lorenzo, Esmeraldas, were selectively logged, and then converted to oil palm plantations at a rapid rate (Bowen-Jones et al. 1999, J. Mew verbally 2000, Jahn in press a). Between 1998 and 2007 the area planted with African palms rose from only 3 km2 to 225 km2 (+900% per year) (Cárdenas 2007) with a further 275-315 km2 due to be converted in the near future (J. Mew verbally 2000). In Esmeraldas, annual deforestation rates in the lowlands (<300 m) were 3.8% and accumulated loss of primary forest >38% during the last decade (Cárdenas 2007). During the same period, the cover of primary premontane forest (300-1300 m) was reduced by 7% (Cárdenas 2007). Infrastructural improvement in the region, particularly the rapid expansion of the road network, is resulting in increased logging, small-scale agriculture, gold mining, and hunting for food (Salaman 1994, WWF and IUCN 1994-1997, Wege and Long 1995, Salaman and Stiles 1996), which is already affecting some key protected areas (O. Jahn in litt. 2007, P. Mena Valenzuela in litt. 2007, Jahn in press a). There is intensive agricultural development, especially coca and banana plantations, at lower altitudes, and cattle-farming (Salaman 1994, WWF and IUCN 1994-1997, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000, Álvarez 2002, Jahn in press a). New legislation and the transfer of land-rights to local communities has been exploited by large businesses, for whom it has become cheap and easy to buy land (Bowen-Jones et al. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is known from several protected areas, including Los Farallones de Cali and Munchique National Parks and El Pangan Nature Reserve (Colombia), Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, Awacachi Biological Corridor, Protective Forest Los Cedros, Mache-Chindul Ecological Reserve, and Jatun Sacha Bilsa Biological Reserve (Ecuador) (Wege and Long 1995, Best et al. 1996, Hornbuckle et al. 1997, López-Lanús et al. 1999, P. Mena Valenzuela in litt. 2007). Also found in Un Poco del Chocó private reserve in Ecuador (Athanas and Greenfield 2016).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey foothill-forests within its range (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000). Study its ecology (López-Lanús et al. 1999). Develop a network of effectively protected reserves in its foothill range (López-Lanús et al. 1999). Designate the Awá Reserve, Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, Awacachi Corridor, Gran Reserva Chachi, and Canandé Reserve, including the Río Santiago, Cayapas, Ónzole, and Hoja Blanca drainages, as a biosphere reserve (Bowen-Jones et al. 1999, Jahn in press a). Sustainably manage the buffer zone to the Awá Ethnic Reserve and Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve (Bowen-Jones et al. 1999, Jahn in press a). Implement population monitoring programs (O. Jahn in litt. 2007). Consolidate protection of the Mache-Chindul and Cotacachi-Cayapas ecological reserves through law enforcement against illegal logging, hunting, and colonization inside the reserves and sustainable management projects in their buffer zones (O. Jahn in litt. 2007).


46 cm. Terrestrial, forest roadrunner-like cuckoo. Heavy dusky above, and yellow below, its bill. Large bare blue, ocular area. Blackish glossed blue, prominent crest and hindneck. Black back and underparts with buffy-white scaled or banded appearance. Chestnut wings and lower back. Blackish glossed green, long tail. Immature similar; has ochraceous scaling and lacks bluish head sheen. Similar spp. Rufous-vented Ground-cuckoo N. geoffroyi with yellow bill, bronzy-brown above including tail, glossed green wings and narrow, broken, black chest-band. Voice Song repeated deep cow-like or dove-like moo, also loud bill-clapping (Jahn et al. 2002, Krabbe & Nilsson 2003). Hints Follows army ant swarms and groups of large mammals.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Isherwood, I., Jahn, O., Sharpe, C J, Stuart, T., Symes, A.

Karubian, J., Solano, A., Salaman, P., Mena-Valenzuela, P., Jahn, O., Mew, J., Palacios, B.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2017) Species factsheet: Neomorphus radiolosus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/10/2017. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2017) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/10/2017.