“Habitat islands” are springing in Ecuador from logged forests, which is good news for birders seeking the Dark-backed Wood-quail and other forest birds.
By Rex Graham
The emergence of these leafy islands may create “the opportunity for ecotourism associated with birdwatching,” according to a U.S. researcher.
Since the 1950s, more than 90 percent of the forests of western Ecuador below 900 m (2,950 ft) have been clear-cut. Large-scale logging also has eliminated most of Colombia’s lower forests. The ravaged land is often converted into cattle pastures with short-term economic viability. Logging, hunting, human settlements and cattle-grazing are particular threats to wood-quail species, according to the Handbook of the Birds of the World.
Dark-backed Wood-quail Out of Shadows
The free seed-dispersal services of toucans, tanagers, barbets and other restricted-range seed- and fruit-eating birds are vital to reclaiming lost forests of Ecuador and Colombia.
Less glamourous Dark-backed Wood-quail families live secret lives deep in the forest shadows. They are vocal, group-living birds and birders and ornithologists can sometimes only hear the handsome birds.
However, when family groups of wood-quail forage along the edges of abandoned cattle pastures they can come into view.
Forest Birds’ Reclamation Services
Male and female Dark-backed Wood-quail look alike. They have beautiful reddish throat and breast feathers. Their other feathers feature dense, irregular chestnut patterns. Wood-quail individuals scratch the forest floor for seeds, fallen fruit and insects with teal-green feet and legs.
The sightings of wood-quails on overgrown pastures is one of the main findings of a study by Mark R. Welford, a Georgia Southern University (U.S.) geologist who worked with famed South American ornithologists Niels Krabbe, Paul Greenfield and others. Welford summarized his results in Bird Conservation International.
As nature slowly reclaims land wrecked by logging, the loud musical duets of pairs of Dark-backed Wood-quails, and choruses of family groups, can signify an economic opportunity to Ecuadorians.
‘Habitat islands’ Investment Opportunity
These reclaimed pastures are also visited by Giant Antpittas, Beautiful Jays, Violet-tailed Sylphs, Gorgeted Sunangels, Tanager Finches, Dusky Bush-tanagers, Toucan Barbets and Plate-billed Mountain-toucans, according to Welford.
“Abandoned pastures may represent a vital resource throughout the Andes for restricted-range species where deforestation is widespread,” he said. “Moreover, such pastures offer excellent views of birds, and might be considered by a perceptive ecotourist lodge owner as a good investment.”