White-necked rockfowl

White-necked rockfowl
Picathartes gymnocephalus
Photo by M.J. Andersen (Flickriver)

Common name:
white-necked rockfowl (en); picatartes-da-Guiné (pt); picatharte de Guinée (fr); picatartes cuelliblanco (es); gelbkopf-felshüpfer (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Picathartidae

This species is found in the tropical forests of western Africa, in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

These birds are 38-41 cm long and weigh 200-250 g.

The white-necked rockfowl is found in lowland primary and secondary forest, forest clearings, and gallery forest, mainly in rocky or hilly terrain. It is also known to occur at highly degraded sites and close to urban centres and are often associated with flowing streams and rivers, where wet mud may be gathered for nest construction. They are present from sea level up to an altitude of 800 m.

They mostly hunt for invertebrates on the ground, frequently following army ant columns to capture flushed prey. They are known to take beetles, termites, ants, cockroaches and grasshoppers, as well as earthworms, spiders, snails, centipedes, millipedes and vertebrates such as frogs and lizards.

White-necked rockfowl can breed all year round, but mostly during the wet season. These birds are believed to be monogamous and breed in colonies of up to 40 pairs, on rock-faces, cliffs, cave roofs and sometimes in large, fallen hollow trees. The female lays 1-2 creamy white eggs with dark blotches, which are incubated by both parents for 17-28 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 23-29 days after hatching. Each pair may raise 1-2 broods per year, depending on whether the breeding area as 1 or 2 wet seasons.

IUCN status – VU (Vulnerable)
This species has a relatively large breeding range and a global population estimated at 2.500-10.000 individuals. The population is suspected to be declining rapidly, in line with forest clearance and degradation across its range. The white-necked rockfowl is mostly threatened by habitat loss and degradation, caused by commercial logging for timber, bush-burning and conversion of degraded forests to plantations, and mining for gold, manganese and bauxite. Nest-predation and competition from conspecifics, as well as some opportunistic trapping may be additional threats.

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