Meet The Three-Wattled Bellbird: The Bird That Has A Moustache

Some unique appearances can be found in nature. For example, birds are known for their various colorful plumes. The identifying feature of the three-wattled bellbird is not its feathers, but the “wattles” that grow from around its beak. It has a distinct call as well which gives it the name “bellbird”.

This bird is usually found in Central America. There, it can be found between Honduras in the East and Panama in the west. The three-wattled bellbird reproduces in places that have high elevations such as highland areas. It migrates to the lowlands where it lives during winter by moving to different altitudes.

three-wattled bellbird

The diet of the three-wattled bellbird is mainly large fruits. They prefer fruits that belong to the family Lauraceae. During the season for breeding, the male three-wattled bellbirds will show off their three black long wattles by shaking them while sitting on top of the tree. It will also continuously call out in a distinct tone that sounds similar to a bell (hence its name).

The plumage of the three-wattled bellbird differs based on their sex. For females, the plumage is very cryptic. As a result, female three-wattled bellbirds can be hidden in the vegetation while she rests in a nest. For the males, the wattles keep growing for as long as they are alive.

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The unique birds are increasingly losing their winter habitats. These areas suffer from deforestation because of being cleared for cattle, agriculture, and plantations for bananas. Currently, the species falls under the vulnerable category.

The Appearance Of The Three-Wattled Bellbird

The males are usually 30 to 33 cm in length and weigh around 220g. The females are usually about 25 cm in length and weigh about 145g. The three-wattled bellbirds are not very big birds, which is clear.

An adult male’s breast, neck, and head are while. The rest of its plumage will be chestnut-brown. The eyelids and lores are black and stand out from their white head. The most distinguishing features are the blackish three long wattles that dangle from the upper beak’s base. It wraps around the black, wide mouth’s two corners. The wattles are about one-third as long as the body.

three-wattled bellbird

The male three-wattled bellbird has a black bill that is quite wide at its gaping point. The edges of the cutting have a paler gray color. The birds’ eyes are brown tending towards black. They have dark grey feet and legs, but their toe pads are yellow.

Females have very different appearances. They are not only smaller in size but do not have the wattles either. They have olive-green upper parts, which get darker on the coverts and primaries. Their yellow underparts have olive-green streaks apart from the yellow vent. There are also dull, indistinct yellow streaks on its face. Both the nape and the crown are olive-green. A yellowish eyering has been seen surrounding its dark eye.

The children look like females. A young make can get its plumage over 3 years. However, the wattles grow within a year, albeit not as long as adult males.

The Habitat Of The Birds

The breeding areas of the birds start from Sierra de Agalta in Eastern Honduras. The range then extends through Costa Rica and North Western Nicaragua, to Western Panama. It usually makes changes through altitudes as it moves into the adjacent lowlands for the winter.

The ideal region where the three-wattled bellbirds breed is highlands inside humid forests in the mountains. Their preferred altitude range is between 1200 and 2300 m, but they have been seen in higher ranges occasionally. When it’s not breeding season, they are found in lowland forests and foothills as low as sea level.

The Distinct Bell Call Of The Three-Wattled Bellbirds

In nature, three-wattled bellbirds are usually detected by their unique song. The male produces this call similar to a bell. The sound comes in a song made of three complex parts. First, a loud “boing” like a hammer can be heard in combination with not-so-loud whistles and squeaks. There are also various sharp or harsh notes.

The three-wattled bellbirds have one of the loudest calls by birds on Earth. The call makes a sound measured at 100 decibels. Even though the adult males call for almost the whole day, they become extra noisy when it comes to attracting females.

Apart from its main diet of large fruits, it also eats berries. It plucks fruits and berries while perching or making small aerial sallies. It has a significant role in spreading the seeds of trees with fruits. Its foraging area is usually the upper and middle level of humid mature forests.

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While courting, its huge black gaping mouth is stretched open while its wattles quiver. This display is also the bird’s warding mechanism against other males and intruders. Males play no role in building nests or looking after eggs.

The birds only lay one to two eggs in a season. Moreover, habitat is extremely important for their nests, which is also threatening the species. Currently, it faces a great threat as cattle and agricultural expansion is taking away its habitats. It is so bad that even a few reserves are being cleared for agriculture. The three-wattled bellbirds are estimated to be about 6000 to 15000 adults. However, the numbers are suspected to be falling rapidly.

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