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Discover the Enchanting World of Colombian Forest Birds: Rufous-plumed Baudo Guan and Colorful Penelope Ortoni

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Rufous-plumed Baudo Guan and colorful Penelope ortoni: two Colombian forest birds worth knowing

Whether you are a seasoned birdwatcher or simply curious about the feathered creatures in the world, chances are you will find the Baudo Guan and the Penelope ortoni fascinating and unique. These two bird species are native to the Choc rainforest region of western Colombia, one of the most biodiverse and threatened habitats on the planet.

In this article, we will explore some of the key aspects of their identification, plumages, behavior, and conservation status.


Field identification of the Baudo Guan (Penelope ortoni) can be challenging due to its shy and elusive nature, as well as its resemblance to other guan species. However, there are some distinctive features that can help you spot a Baudo Guan in the wild:

– Size: Baudo Guans are medium-sized birds, with a length of about 60-70 cm (24-28 in) and a weight of 1.5-2.5 kg (3.3-5.5 lb) depending on gender and age.

– Plumage: Adult Baudo Guans have rufous-brown feathers on the head, neck, and upper breast, with a white stripe running from the throat to the upper back. The rest of the body is dark gray or black, with white spots on the wings and a long, graduated tail.

The bill is pale and slender, while the legs and feet are dark gray. Juvenile Baudo Guans have a more uniform brown plumage.

Habitat: Baudo Guans are strictly forest birds, preferring primary or secondary lowland rainforest near rivers or waterfalls. They are seldom seen outside their forest range.

– Vocalization: Baudo Guans make a series of distinctive, loud, and resonant hoots that can carry for hundreds of meters. Males and females have slightly different vocalizations, which they use to communicate or attract mates.

Baudo Guans are usually noisy at dawn and dusk. Similarly, the Penelope ortoni can be identified by several key features:

– Size: Penelope ortoni is a relatively small member of the guan family, with a length of about 50-60 cm (20-24 in) and a weight of 1-1.5 kg (2.2-3.3 lb) depending on gender and age.

– Plumage: Adult Penelope ortoni have a striking combination of metallic green, blue, and purple feathers on the head, neck, and breast, which contrast with the red skin around the eyes. The rest of the body is chestnut-brown, with barred wings and a brown tail.

The bill is pale and arched, while the legs and feet are orange. Juvenile Penelope ortoni have a duller and more spotted plumage, which gradually becomes brighter with age.

Habitat: Penelope ortoni is also a forest specialist, but it can be found in a wider altitudinal range than Baudo Guans, from lowland to montane forests up to 2000 m (6500 ft) above sea level. It prefers wet and dense forest with abundant fruit trees.

– Vocalization: Penelope ortoni is a vocal bird, with a repertoire of whistles, hoots, and rattles that it uses to defend its territory or communicate with its mate. The calls are variable and complex, and can resemble those of toucans or trogons.

Penelope ortoni is most vocal in the morning and late afternoon.

Similar Species

One of the main challenges in identifying Baudo Guans and Penelope ortoni is that they have close relatives that share some of their characteristics. For example, Baudo Guans can be confused with other Penelope guans such as the Spix’s Guan (Penelope jacquacu) or the Dusky-legged Guan (Penelope obscura), which also have rufous-brown heads and black bodies.

However, Spix’s Guan is larger and has a broader white stripe on the throat, while Dusky-legged Guan has reddish legs and a shorter tail. Other similar-looking guan species that occur in Colombia include the Cauca Guan, the Crested Guan, and the Blue-throated Piping Guan.

Similarly, Penelope ortoni may be mistaken for other fruit-eating birds such as the Blue-throated Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus caeruleogularis), the Chestnut-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos swainsonii), or the Turquoise Cotinga (Cotinga ridgwayi), all of which have colorful plumages and occur in the same forest habitats. However, these birds differ in size, bill shape, and behavior.

For instance, toucans have large and colorful bills that they use for feeding and display, while the Turquoise Cotinga has a more slender bill and lives mainly in the canopy.


Like most birds, Baudo Guans and Penelope ortoni go through different stages of plumage development as they grow and mature. Understanding these stages is crucial for identifying them correctly and for interpreting their ecology and behavior.

Baudo Guans have three main molts: the juvenile molt, the basic molt, and the alternate molt. The juvenile molt takes place from hatching to about 6 months of age, during which the young birds shed their downy feathers and acquire a juvenile plumage that resembles the adult’s but is duller and more uniform.

The basic molt occurs from the first winter (7-9 months) to the first breeding season (1-2 years), during which both males and females replace most of their feathers with a fresh set that resembles the adult’s in color and pattern. The alternate molt takes place after the first breeding season and is sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females have different patterns of feather replacement.

Adult Baudo Guans have a distinct seasonal pattern in their plumage, with the rufous-brown feathers becoming brighter and more conspicuous during the breeding season (August to March) and duller and more concealed during the non-breeding season (April to July). Penelope ortoni also have three main molts, but with some differences.

The juvenile molt occurs from hatching to about 6 months of age, during which the young birds shed their downy feathers and acquire a juvenile plumage that is more speckled and less bright than the adult’s. The first prebasic molt occurs at about 18-20 months of age, during which both sexes replace their duller feathers with a brighter set that resembles the adult’s.

The second prebasic molt occurs at about 24-36 months of age, during which males replace some of their feathers with metallic and distinctive ones, while females retain their basic plumage. Adult Penelope ortoni have a relatively stable pattern and coloration in their plumage, except for the occasional aberrant individuals that show unusual patches of white, gray, or black.

Conservation status

Unfortunately, both the Baudo Guan and the Penelope ortoni are currently classified as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), due to the severe threats that their habitat and populations face. The Choc rainforest region has been greatly affected by deforestation, mining, oil extraction, hunting, and road building, which have fragmented and degraded the forest and reduced the availability of food and nesting sites for the birds.

Additionally, both species are highly susceptible to hunting by humans and predation by introduced mammals such as dogs and cats. Conservation efforts for Baudo Guans and Penelope ortoni include protecting their remaining forest habitat, enforcing hunting regulations, raising awareness among local communities, and promoting eco-tourism as an alternative source of income.

Research on the birds’ ecology, vocalizations, and behavior is also essential for understanding their needs and preferences, and for guiding conservation management decisions.


In conclusion, the Baudo Guan and the Penelope ortoni are two fascinating and threatened birds that represent the beauty and complexity of tropical forests. By learning more about their identification, plumages, and conservation status, we can appreciate their value and uniqueness, and take actions to ensure their survival and well-being.

If you ever visit the Choc region in Colombia, keep your eyes and ears open for these birds, and you might be rewarded with a glimpse of their beauty and resilience.

Systematics History

The study of the systematics history of a species involves understanding the evolutionary relationships between different populations and subspecies of the species, as well as between different species within its genus or family. Systematics history can provide insights into the geographic variation, subspecies, and related species of the species.

Over the years, technological advancements and new genetic techniques have refined our understanding of the systematics history of many species, including birds.

Geographic Variation

Geographic variation refers to the differences in appearance, behavior, and genetics that occur between populations of the same species living in different geographic regions. These differences can be shaped by various factors such as climate, habitat, competition, and gene flow.

For birds, geographic variation can be observed in their plumage, bill size and shape, vocalization patterns, migratory routes, and breeding strategies. One bird species that exhibits significant geographic variation is the Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea).

This small finch species is widespread across the northern hemisphere, from Alaska to Scandinavia and Russia. However, different populations of the Common Redpoll can look quite different from one another.

For instance, the North American subspecies (A. f.

flammea) has a more reddish forehead and rump, and a larger bill, than the European subspecies (A. f.

cabaret), which has a more buffy forehead and rump and a smaller bill. In addition, the song of the North American subspecies is more complex and trilled than that of the European subspecies, which has a simpler and shorter song.


Subspecies refer to groups of organisms belonging to the same species that are geographically isolated from one another and have distinct morphological, behavioral, or genetic differences.

Subspecies can form when a species colonizes a new area, adapts to different environmental conditions, or undergoes genetic drift or natural selection.

Subspecies can be identified by subtle or pronounced differences in their appearance, vocalizations, distribution, and genetics. One example of a bird species with several recognized subspecies is the American Robin (Turdus migratorius).

This large thrush is found across North America, from Alaska to Mexico, and shows significant variation in plumage and behavior depending on the subspecies. For instance, the Pacific Northwest subspecies (T.

m. caurinus) has a darker and more rufous plumage than the Eastern subspecies (T.

m. migratorius), which is more grayish and has lighter underparts.

In addition, the Western subspecies tends to have a more melodious and intricate song than the Eastern subspecies. Other subspecies of the American Robin include T.

m. leucophaeus in the southwestern US and Mexico, T.

m. nigrideus in the Pacific coast of Mexico, and T.

m. confinis in the Baja California peninsula.

Related Species

Related species refer to groups of organisms that share a common ancestor and have diverged over time to form distinct but related lineages. Related species can be distinguished by morphological, behavioral, or genetic characters, and can provide insights into the evolutionary history and biogeography of the group.

For birds, related species can be found in the same genus, family, or even order, depending on their degree of relatedness. One example of a family of birds with many related species is the Trochilidae, or hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds are found only in the Americas, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, and are known for their colorful plumage, fast flight, and hovering behavior. The family contains about 360 species, divided into around 107 genera, each with their own unique characteristics.

For instance, the Blue-throated Hummingbird (Lampornis clemenciae) is a large and iridescent hummingbird found in pine-oak forests of western Mexico, and has a distinctive blue throat patch that sets it apart from other hummingbirds. Among the related species of Lampornis clemenciae are the White-throated Mountain-gem (Lampornis castaneoventris), the Wine-throated Hummingbird (Atthis ellioti), and the Mexican Violetear (Colibri thalassinus), each with their own plumage, habitat, and behavior.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The historical changes to the distribution of a species can provide valuable information on how the species has adapted and evolved over time to changing habitats, climates, and biotic factors. Historical changes to distribution can be inferred from fossil records, genetic analyses, or historical accounts from humans.

For birds, historical changes to distribution can also provide insights into their migration patterns, dispersal ability, and colonization of new areas. One example of a bird species that has undergone significant historical changes to its distribution is the Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis).

The Great Auk was a flightless seabird that was once found across the North Atlantic, from Greenland to Iceland to Newfoundland. However, due to overhunting, egg collection, and habitat destruction, the Great Auk population declined rapidly in the 19th century, and the last known individuals were killed in 1844 in Iceland.

Since then, the Great Auk has become extinct, and its historical range can only be studied through fossils and historical records. In recent years, genetic studies have also shed light on the population structure and genetic diversity of the Great Auk, and have revealed that there were likely several distinct subpopulations of the bird across its range.


In conclusion, the systematics history of bird species can provide a wealth of information on their evolution, diversity, and ecology. Geographic variation, subspecies, and related species can help us appreciate the complexity and adaptability of bird populations, and can guide conservation and management efforts.

Historical changes to distribution can remind us of the importance of long-term monitoring and protection of bird populations, and can inform us of the consequences of human activities on natural ecosystems. By studying bird systematics history, we can deepen our understanding and appreciation of the wonder and beauty of birds in our world.


A bird’s habitat refers to the specific type of environment or ecosystem in which the bird lives, feeds, and breeds. Birds have adapted to various habitats throughout the world, ranging from deserts to rainforests and from tundra to grasslands.

Understanding a bird’s habitat can provide insights into its behavior, survival, and conservation needs, as well as the ecological interactions it has with other plant and animal species. One example of a bird species with a unique and highly specialized habitat is the African Pygmy Kingfisher (Ispidina picta).

This small and colorful bird is found in sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia and South Africa, and lives primarily in dense and well-shaded woodlands near water. African Pygmy Kingfishers hunt insects, lizards, and small amphibians by perching quietly on branches and darting out to catch prey with their sharp bills.

The bird’s habitat provides cover and nesting sites, as well as a source of food and water. In addition, the African Pygmy Kingfisher’s habitat is also critical for other forest species such as primates, antelopes, and birds of prey.

Another bird species that depends on a specific habitat is the Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax). This medium-sized heron is found across much of the world, from North America to Asia and Europe, and prefers to live in wetland environments such as marshes, swamps, and ponds.

Black-crowned Night Herons are mostly active at night and feed on fish, frogs, and other aquatic prey. Their habitat provides them with cover, nesting sites, and access to food, as well as protection from predators such as raccoons, eagles, and snakes.

The loss and degradation of wetland habitats due to human activities such as draining, filling, and pollution have significantly impacted the populations of Black-crowned Night Herons and other wetland-dependent species.

Movements and Migration

Birds are known for their remarkable movements and migrations, which involve traveling long distances and overcoming various challenges such as weather, predation, and starvation. Movements and migration are important behaviors for birds, as they allow them to find food, escape harsh conditions, and breed successfully.

Understanding a bird’s movements and migration can provide insights into its ecology, genetics, and conservation status, as well as the factors that affect its survival. One bird species that is well-known for its impressive migration is the Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea).

This small seabird breeds in the Arctic tundra and migrates to the Antarctic every year, covering a distance of over 70,000 km (43,500 mi) round-trip. Arctic Terns follow a zigzagging path between the poles, taking advantage of favorable winds and ocean currents, and stopping along the way to feed on fish and krill.

The migration of Arctic Terns is critical for their survival, as it allows them to access multiple breeding sites and avoid seasonal constraints such as harsh weather and limited resources. However, the migration of Arctic Terns is also threatened by human activities such as climate change, pollution, and ocean acidification, which affect the availability of food and habitat along their path.

Another bird species that has unusual movements and migration is the Red Knot (Calidris canutus). This medium-sized shorebird breeds in the Arctic tundra and migrates to the southern hemisphere every year, covering a distance of up to 20,000 km (12,500 mi) round-trip.

Along the way, Red Knots stop in key sites such as Delaware Bay in the US and Tierra del

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