Three-wattled Bellbird Procnias tricarunculatus


Justification of Red List category
This species is classified as Vulnerable because its moderately small population is undergoing rapid population declines, which are thought to be caused by extensive deforestation within the range.

Population justification
The population size has not been directly quantified. However, population densities are known for 24 species in the family of Cotingidae, all ranging from 0.25 to 1 individual per km2 (Santini et al. 2018). Assuming that this species occurs at the same density throughout its known breeding range, the population is preliminarily estimated at roughly 5,400-21,000 individuals, which equates to 3,600-14,000 mature individuals. In Costa Rica and Panama, the species is described as 'fairly common' (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989; Angehr and Dean 2010; Garrigues and Dean 2014).
Three-wattled Bellbird is thought to form four subpopulations (Brant et al. 2020). Under the preliminary assumption that these are of roughly equal size, each subpopulation may number 1,350-3,500 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The species is undergoing a large, significant decline (Partners in Flight 2019). The rate of decline is thought to exceed 50% between 1970 and 2017 (Partners in Flight 2019, see also Panjabi et al. 2019). This equates to a decline of at least 20% over the last three generations (18.3 years) and is thus here placed in the band 20-29% over three generations.

Distribution and population

Procnias tricarunculatus breeds in central Costa Rica (with a small population on the Nicoya peninsula; Stiles and Skutch 1989; F. G. Stiles in litt. 1999), western Panama (as far east as Santa Fe and Cerro Hoya in Veraguas Province, occasionally to the Panama Canal area; Wetmore 1972; Ridgely and Gwynne 1989), north-west Nicaragua (Monroe 1968; Stiles and Skutch 1989), and almost certainly the Sierra de Agalta, Honduras (Anderson et al. 1998). Records from the upper río Plátano in Honduras may refer to transients (Vallely et al. 2010). In 1976, it was common in the hilly interior of Isla Coiba, Panama (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989). In Panama, it is also recorded from Isla Cébaco on the Pacific coast (Wetmore 1972) and from the islands of the Bocas del Toro archipelago and Isla Escudo de Veraguas on the Caribbean coast. During the non-breeding season populations in Costa Rica migrate from the highlands to the Caribbean slope and adjacent lowlands in Honduras and south-east Nicaragua (Monroe 1968; Howell and Webb 1995; Powell and Bjork 2004), and to lowland and foothill forests on both slopes. Seasonal movements also appear to take place in Panama but are poorly understood. Most birds now probably move to the Caribbean slope since most of the Pacific slope in their range has been deforested (G. Angehr in litt. 2020).


It breeds in foothill and highland moist forest at 1,200-2,100 m, and occasionally down to 750 m in Costa Rica, but has been found breeding near sea level in Bocas del Toro, Panama (Stiles and Skutch 1989; G. Angehr in litt. 2020). It is most commonly found in high-canopy trees (Brant et al. 2020). The breeding season is probably March-September (C. J. Sharpe in litt. 1999), but varies between years and locations (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Nests are constructed from dry twigs (Sánchez et al. 2013). In the non-breeding season, birds from Costa Rica undertake complex migrations ranging up to 3,000 m, and then descending to the foothills and lowlands on both the Pacific and Caribbean slopes (Stiles and Skutch 1989; Powell and Bjork 2004). Seasonal migrations also occur in Panama, but their patterns and scope have not been well established (G. Angehr in litt. 2020). The species can utilise small habitat fragments near larger forest blocks, where it often feeds on the fruit of vines (F. G. Stiles in litt. 1999; Powell and Bjork 2004).


There is ongoing habitat loss, especially in lowland wintering areas (G. Angehr in litt. 1998). The Caribbean lowlands are suffering conversion to banana plantations, cattle-ranches and logging, even in the important Indio-Maiz Reserve, Nicaragua (Powell and Bjork 2004). In the north of Costa Rica, 35% of remaining forest was eliminated in 1986-1992 (Powell et al. 1995). A remote sensing study found that forests within the range have been lost at a rate of 8% over three generations (Tracewski et al. 2016; Global Forest Watch 2021). On the Caribbean slope in Panama, even some reserves are threatened by clearance for agriculture (Angehr 2003).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It occurs in several highland reserves, notably Sierra de Agalta National Park in Honduras (Anderson et al. 1998), Monteverde Biological Reserve in Costa Rica, La Amistad International Park in Costa Rica and Panama, as well as Volcan Baru, Cerro Hoya and Coiba National Parks and Forest Reserve in Panama (Angehr 2003). Non-breeding sites include Indio-Maiz Biological Reserve in Nicaragua (C. J. Sharpe in litt. 1999) and presumably adjacent Barra del Colorado Faunal Refuge and Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica, Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica, and San San Pond Sak Wetlands Ramsar Site in Panama (Angehr 2003). The species may be a transient in Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Anderson et al. 2004; Vallely et al. 2010). Its complex seasonal movements are being investigated in Costa Rica and Honduras (Powell and Bjork 2004; R. Hyman in litt. 2014).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey to delineate range and numbers, particularly outside Costa Rica (C. J. Sharpe in litt. 1999). Further study the ecology, especially seasonal movements (C. J. Sharpe in litt. 1999), in particular in Panama (G. Angehr in litt. 2020). Confirm breeding status and range in Honduras. Designate new protected areas, especially in the moist Pacific slope and lowlands of Costa Rica. Ensure the protection of Indio-Maiz Reserve, Nicaragua.


26-31 cm. Striking and amazingly loud cotinga. Males are bright chestnut-rufous with striking white head, neck, upper breast and upper back. Dark around eye. Three long, fleshy, black wattles hang from the base of bill. Females are smaller and lack wattles. Olivaceous upperparts with yellowish margins to feathers. Yellowish underparts striped olive. Immature males like females but have wattles. Voice In breeding season males give resonant, far-carrying boing, often preceded by piercing whistles or twangs.


Text account compilers
Hermes, C.

Angehr, G., Hyman, R.E., Isherwood, I., Mahood, S., Pople, R., Sharpe, C J, Stiles, F.G. & Stuart, T.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Procnias tricarunculatus. Downloaded from on 04/12/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 04/12/2023.