During Lee’s and Rachel’s visit to REGUA, we had the chance of visiting the high Matumbo area (Estreito) where a Red-billed Curassow (male) has chosen to make his residence. We were informed that this bird had suddenly appeared in the grounds of this weekend home belonging to Senhor João from Rio de Janeiro.
The Red-billed Curassow was baptized with the name of “Aparecido”, which means the one that appeared (in the Portuguese language) by Camila, a 10 year old girl, who enthusiastically provided the name for this bird. Camila’s father is the caretaker of this place and he mentioned to us that Aparecido has been seen in this area for the last two months. Aparecido is regularly seen both within Senhor João’s chicken coup and in the surrounding forest adjacent to REGUA’s land.
Aparecido is showing the behaviour of a wild bird, weary of human presence. With the help of Jacob Hall and Katerina Samara, conservation biology students volunteering at REGUA, we aim at collecting data on the existing Red-billed Curassow population within the reserve and adjacent areas.
More photos of this fascinating bird can be found here.
REGUA and Crax Brazil worked together for four years on the IBAMA approved reintroduction of a locally extinct bird species, the Red-billed Curassow at REGUA. This magnificent species was last seen in Rio state in 1962 and now only a few isolated populations live in both northern Espirito Santo and southern Bahia states. These are large ground dwelling birds endemic only to south-east Brazil, and though they are capable of short flights and roost in trees for protection, they would never be able to roam these forests near Rio de Janeiro, the most southern tip of their former distribution area, due to the devastation of the forests in between and the wide Paraiba de Sul river.
In spite of all the odds against a successful reintroduction which takes years in the best of situations, birds rescued by Roberto Azeredo from the front line of falling forests over 30 years ago have been successfully raised in captivity and he has already contributed birds to the CENIBRA project in Minas Gerais for their own successful reintroduction programme over the last 15 years. Christine Steiner developed her doctorate paper on the reintroduction of these cracids at REGUA with radio telemetry monitoring of introduced birds raised at Crax Brasil, a project funded by the Wetland Trust, UK. The reintroduced birds had to be of a certain size yet young enough to adapt to the new forest conditions and to fit UK tailor developed transmission back packs made by Biotrack, UK. Though REGUA still hasn’t evidence of any young chicks in spite filming adult’s copulating and evidence of nest building, but Christine successfully caught the attention of the community by informing them of the importance of these birds and was able to turn them into a flagship species for this project (photo below).
REGUA has had to reduce the momentum of this project, but having completed her study, Dr Christine was appointed a professorship in South Bahia and is now spearheading a project with BirdLife International and zoos for their continued reintroduction. Various zoos have examples of these birds in their collections but suppress their reproduction as there are few sites to reintroduce them. Christine is seeking partners, IBAMA approved sites, and coordinating a big effort to return these birds to the forest. They are an essential component of healthy forest ecology due to their seed dispersal performance. We hope Christine is successful and these birds will not take long to become a common bird as it was in the days of the early Atlantic Rainforest explorers.
On 19 September 2008, another 10 Red-billed Curassows Crax blumenbachii were released at REGUA. Stephen Rumsey of BART, which funds the project, was present to open the release pen. The birds needed some encouragement, but after a while the group of two males and eight females finally took their first steps into the wild. There have now been a total of 48 Red-billed Curassows released at REGUA, all of which have had radio tags and numbered rings fitted. Some of these birds have been predated and some have lost their tags, but the 23 known survivors are providing vital information which will assist with the planning and implementation of further release programmes. Birds are occasionally sighted around the reserve and biologist Christine Steiner from São Carlos University, São Paulo, who is studying the birds, is hopeful that one pair might possibly breed in the current season (August 2008 to March 2009).