Bird of the Week, March 15, 2013,
Red-bellied Grackle


Red-bellied Grackle by Murray Cooper


The Red-bellied Grackle is an uncommon and distinctive blackbird found only in the Colombian Andes. It is large, long-tailed, and heavy-billed, with a bright red belly and glossy black plumage; adults also have a light yellow eye.


It is usually found in noisy groups of up to 50 birds in the forest canopy along edges, often in mixed flocks along with other large bird species such as oropendolas.


The continuing decline of this species is due to extensive clearance of its forest habitat through logging, agriculture, and human development. Although the Red-bellied Grackle tolerates modified landscapes to some degree, they seem to require mature forest for at least part of their life cycle. Brood parasitism by Giant Cowbirds could explain the local disappearance of the species in some areas; it is also sometimes persecuted as a crop pest, and trapped for the cage-bird trade.


ABC and Colombian partner Fundación ProAves are protecting habitat for the Red-bellied Grackle and other rare species such as the Chestnut-capped Piha, an AZE-listed species, at their Arrierito Antiqueño reserve, a 5,300-acre property with a lodge and trails for visitors and an ongoing reforestation program.





Photo: Murray Cooper; Range Map, ABC