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Red-bellied grackle

Hypopyrrhus pyrohypogaster

Photo by Juan Ochoa (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:
red-bellied grackle (en); iraúna-de-ventre-vermelho (pt); quiscale à ventre rouge (fr); cacique candela (es); rotbauchstärling (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Icteridae

This species is endemic to Colombia, being found in isolated patches along the Andes.

These birds are 27-32 cm long and weigh 80-90 g.

The red-bellied grackle is mostly found in mountain rainforests, but can also use cleared areas such as pastures and along roads. They are present at altitudes of 800-2.400 m.

They forage on the forest canopy, eating fruits, flowers, arthropods and some small vertebrates. They are known to take the fruits and flowers of melastome Tibouchina lepidota, various arthropods, frogs ans Anolis lizards.

Red-bellied grackles breed in January-August. They form family groups of 3-7 individuals, including the breeding pair and several helpers who are usually immatures from previous years. The nest is an ovoid open cup, made of sticks and roots and lined with dry leaves. The nest is placed in a fork in a tree, 2-15 m above the ground. The female lays 2-4 pale blue eggs with purplish-brown spots and stripes, which are incubated by both the mother and female helpers for 15-17 days while the males provide them with food. The chicks are mainly fed by immature helpers and females, and fledge 16-18 days after hatching.

IUCN status – VU (Vulnerable)
This species has a small and highly fragmented breeding range. The global population is currently estimated at 2.500-10.000 individuals and is believed to be declining at a slow rate. The main threat affecting the red-bellied grackle is habitat destruction and fragmentation  through extensive forests clearance for timber extraction and agricultural development. Within their native range, the area covered by primary rainforests has reduced by over 90%. Further threats include human disturbance, brood parasitism by the giant cowbird Molothrus oryzivorus, persecution as a maize crop-pest, and illegal trapping for the cage-bird trade.

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