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Unveiling the Beauty and Mystique of the Bar-Tailed Trogon: The Elusive Rainforest Bird

Birds are among the most fascinating creatures on the planet, with each species possessing a unique set of characteristics that make them quite remarkable. The Bar-tailed Trogon, scientifically known as Apaloderma vittatum, is one such species that bird enthusiasts would especially love.

Native to the African rainforests, this bird species is not only a beauty to behold but also an embodiment of striking intelligence and characteristics that distinguish it from other bird species. In this article, we will delve into the identification, plumages, and molts of the Bar-tailed Trogon, to help you gain a deeper understanding of this fantastic bird.

Identification

Field Identification

The Bar-tailed Trogon is a small, elusive bird that is best identified in its natural habitat. With a length of approximately 28 cm, it is relatively small compared to other bird species.

It has a distinct appearance, with a dark head and nape and a thick white-collar around its neck. The bird’s back is metallic green, while the underparts are a rich orange color.

The wings are slightly darker than the body and have white spotting on the coverts. The lower part of the bill is black, while the rest of the upper part is pale yellow.

Similar Species

The Bar-tailed Trogon has some similarities with other bird species, which can lead to confusion during identification. One of the species it may be confused with is the Narina Trogon (Apaloderma narina), which also inhabits African rainforests.

The Narina Trogon is relatively larger than the Bar-tailed Trogon, has a red breast, and has a blue patch on its upperwing. However, during flight, the Bar-tailed Trogon’s wing patch is visible in contrast to Narina Trogon, where the blue patch is less visible.

Meanwhile, female African Emerald Cuckoos (Chrysococcyx cupreus) are also similar in appearance to Bar-tailed Trogon females, with a similar size and body shape. However, the African Emerald Cuckoo has a very different color pattern, where the crown and nape are vivid green, the mantle closed to vent is blue-green, and the rump is coppery where they are distinct from Bar-tailed Trogon features.

Plumages

The Bar-tailed Trogon has distinct male and female plumages referred to as sexual dimorphism. The male Bar-tailed Trogon has a black head, a green upper body, and a stunning orange underpart with a white collar.

The edges of the wings are blue-green, while the outer tail feathers are black with white stripes along them, separated by thick orange bands. Meanwhile, the female Bar-tailed Trogon has a similar shape to the male, but has a chestnut-colored head with a black mantle and wings.

The underside of her tail is brown with black and white stripes and thin white tips.

Molts

The Bar-tailed Trogon has distinctive molting seasons, which are essential for maintaining its shape and the correct functioning of its feathers. Usually, it has two molting seasons in a year, with the main molt occurring during the non-breeding period of March to June, while the other minor molt happens in September to October.

During molting, the Bar-tailed Trogon loses feathers to grow new ones, meaning that it cannot fly during this period.

Conclusion

In summary, the Bar-tailed Trogon is a breed of small-sized, beautiful birds found in African rainforests. They are sexually dimorphic, but both sexes possess the bird’s distinctive characteristics that distinguish them from other species.

Identification of this bird species can be done through field identification with a focus on the bird size, color pattern, and morphology. They go through molting seasons to renew their perfect blend of feathers and remain agile to their environment.

The Bar-tailed Trogon is both rare and magnificent, making it a must-see for avid birdwatchers.

Systematics History

The Bar-tailed Trogon, scientifically known as Apaloderma vittatum, is a species of bird in the family Trogonidae. The family Trogonidae is a diverse group of birds comprising over 40 species that are widely distributed across the tropics.

The Bar-tailed Trogon belongs to the genus Apaloderma, which comprises three other species, namely; Broad-billed Tody (Apaloderma vittatum squamatum), Orange-bellied Trogon (Apaloderma aequatoriale), and Guianan Trogon (Apaloderma bicinctum). The first scientific description of the Bar-tailed Trogon was by the famous German ornithologist, Johann Friedrich Gmelin, in 1788.

Geographic Variation

The Bar-tailed Trogon is distributed throughout the dense lowland forests of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia and as far south as northern Angola and Zambia. The geographic variation found in Bar-tailed Trogons is limited, though color variations among populations are present.

Bar-tailed trogons are known to inhabit primary rainforests, and in some regions of their range, they also occur in plantations, secondary-growth forests, and riverine forests.

Subspecies

The Bar-tailed Trogon is a species with some subspecies. There are at least four known subspecies of the Bar-tailed Trogon:

A.

v. ayesha: inhabits forests in Senegal and The Gambia.

A. v.

vittatum: found in forests in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon.

A.

v. kamerunense: is restricted to forests on Mount Cameroon.

A. v.

gutturale: is found in the Congo Basin and Angola. The subspecies differ primarily in their colors, with variations in the brightness of the orange underparts, the white collar, and the dark feathers on the head and nape.

Bar-tailed Trogons from Angola (A. v.

gutturale) have a paler orange underside compared to those from West Africa, while Bar-tailed Trogons from Cameron Mountains (A. v.

kamerunense) have the brightest orange underside of all the subspecies.

Related Species

The Bar-tailed Trogon is closely related to three other species of Apaloderma. The Broad-billed Tody, the Orange-bellied Trogon, and the Guianan Trogon.

These species are morphologically similar, although they differ in the coloration of their plumage. The Broad-billed Tody and the Orange-bellied Trogon are primarily found in the forests of Central and West Africa, whereas the Guianan Trogon inhabits forests of the Guianan region in South America.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The historical distribution of the Bar-tailed Trogon indicates that the species occupies a more extensive range than it does currently. The loss and fragmentation of the Bar-tailed Trogon’s rainforest habitats due to deforestation and habitat degradation have increasingly restricted its range over the years.

A combination of human population growth, logging activities, agricultural expansion, and mining has led to the destruction of vast stretches of the rainforests in sub-Saharan Africa, causing population declines of many species including the Bar-tailed Trogon. In addition to habitat destruction, the Bar-tailed Trogon also faces threats from hunting and trapping.

These birds are considered a delicacy in many parts of Africa and are hunted for food, feathers, and also for decorative purposes. Hunting and trapping have led to the severe decline of Bar-tailed Trogon populations in some regions, with some populations becoming locally extinct.

Conservation measures aimed at protecting the Bar-tailed Trogon’s rainforest habitat and minimizing the effects of hunting and trapping are vital for the continued survival of the species. Several conservation organizations and individuals are actively involved in spreading awareness of the need to preserve the habitats of the Bar-tailed Trogon.

This involves efforts to prevent habitat destruction and eliminate hunting and trapping of the Bar-tailed Trogon through education, advocacy, and policy-making.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Bar-tailed Trogon is a species of bird that inhabits the sub-Saharan African rainforests. The species has some subspecies known for their color variations found across their range.

The Bar-tailed Trogon is closely related to three other species in the genus Apaloderma. Their range has seen a decrease over the years due to habitat destruction, hunting, and trapping.

The efforts of conservation organizations and individuals to preserve their habitats and the species itself are necessary for the persistence of the Bar-tailed Trogon’s population.

Habitat

The Bar-tailed Trogon is a rainforest species, and most commonly inhabits the dense understory of the primary lowland forests with a canopy height of 20-40m. It prefers habitat types that provide a moderate amount of sunlight and an abundance of fruits, tree blossoms, and arthropods.

The species is also present in secondary growth forests, riparian vegetation, tree plantations, and swamp forests derived from undisturbed rainforests. Therefore, the Bar-tailed Trogon is found in areas with high humidity and rainfall of 2000-3000 mm annually, with the average temperature ranging between 23C and 27C.

Movements and Migration

The Bar-tailed Trogon is known for its sedentary lifestyle and is generally non-migratory. Most of its movements revolve around searching for the food it needs.

Bar-tailed Trogons are territorial and, therefore, prefer to maintain small and well-defined territories where they can establish feeding territories. During the breeding season, males use specific vocalizations to mark their territory and attract a mate.

Males engage in courtship displays, which can include wing spreading and tail flicking while females are lured by displays involving vocalizations and tail movements by the males. Mating pairs will remain in the breeding territory through the breeding season, which usually encompasses the rainy season period between April to August, depending on the location.

While generally nonmigratory, observations have been recorded of bar-tailed trogons traveling out of their home territories looking for new food sources or nests. During such movements, they are known to visit fruit and flowering trees outside of their territories.

These movements are limited to short distances and last for relatively short periods. Establishing exact migration patterns for the Bar-tailed Trogon has proved challenging because of the species’ elusive nature.

While some birds may stay in one area for an extended period, others may be forced to move in search of new habitats due to factors like habitat destruction, hunting, and other environmental disturbances that disrupt their territories’ stability. Overall, it is difficult to identify any significant long-distance movements, given the low activity and sedentary lifestyle of this species.

In conclusion, the Bar-tailed Trogon is a species of bird that is primarily sedentary and occupies one area for an extended period. The movements observed of it are limited to short distances, and they rely on their territories to establish feeding and breeding grounds.

The Bar-tailed Trogon is found in habitats that provide a moderate amount of sunlight, high humidity, and are rich in fruits, tree blossoms, and arthropods. It is a species that requires continuous conservation efforts focused on rainforest habitat preservation, hunting, and other societal factors affecting their territories.

Diet and Foraging

Feeding

The Bar-tailed Trogon feeds mainly on fruits, but also supplements its diet with insects and other small prey. It is an opportunistic feeder, often taking advantage of the seasonal abundance of fruits and the hatching of insects, which form a major source of protein.

Bar-tailed Trogons are perching birds and will often wait patiently on a perch, and then launch an attack towards prey that they catch sight of.

Diet

Fruits make up the bulk of the Bar-tailed Trogon’s diet, and the bird is known to feed off a wide variety of fruit species that vary in size, texture, and nutritional content. Insects also form an essential part of the Bar-tailed Trogon’s diet, with the bird actively foraging and hunting for insects within its territories.

This foraging behavior is mainly observed during the breeding season when the birds are seeking protein to feed their young.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Bar-tailed Trogon’s small size is its most significant physiological limiting factor when it comes to metabolic processes. The bird typically operates well below the recommended body temperature of birds, which ranges from 40 to 42 degrees Celsius.

However, the Bar-tailed Trogon has adapted to these limitations through its dietary processes. The bird feeds on high-quality foods, mainly fruits, which provide high calorie content and low protein content.

Also, the bird is typically active during the cooler early morning hours when temperatures are low, giving it ample time to forage for food and maintain an adaptive thermal balance.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Vocalization

The Bar-tailed Trogon has an elaborate and complex vocalization system, with several distinct vocalizations that it uses for communication across its habitats. Males tend to sing more frequently than females, primarily during the breeding season.

The Bar-tailed Trogon’s vocalizations are usually short, although they can be long and complex. The bird’s call is a distinct, deep, and sonorous “whoop” or “whoo,” which is produced repetitively in long sequences and is audible from some distance away.

These calls are typically low-frequency sounds that carry very well in forest environments, allowing the bird to communicate across large distances. In addition to the whoop or woo call, the Bar-tailed Trogon also produces a variety of other vocalizations.

These vocalizations include a “chwirr,” which is a soft, gentle call used mainly by breeding pairs to maintain communication. The bird also has a “tope, tope, tope” call, which is a louder, more insistent call used mainly in territorial defense.

These series of calls are crucial to the bird’s communication system and are used mainly for mate attraction, territorial communication, and other forms of communication between individuals. In conclusion, the Bar-tailed Trogon’s diet and foraging habits revolve around fruit and insects that make up the bird’s primary and secondary sources of nutrients.

The bird has adapted to limited metabolic processes by feeding on high-quality foods and engaging in foraging activities during times of low temperatures. Additionally, the bird’s vocalization system is complex, with a distinct “whoop” or “whoo” call that is more frequent in males during the breeding season, and other calls that are essential for communication between individuals.

The Bar-tailed Trogon’s vocal behavior and foraging preferences show how the species has adapted to its habitat and evolved behaviors uniquely suited to its survival.

Behavior

Locomotion

The Bar-tailed Trogon is an arboreal species, meaning that it spends much of its time perching or moving around on trees. The bird uses its powerful legs and feet, adapted to facilitate movement on branches, to climb the trees and move along the trunk or other surfaces.

The Bar-tailed Trogon’s wings are relatively small in size, and they are not strong fliers, so the bird relies heavily on its legs and feet to get around.

Self-Maintenance

The Bar-tailed Trogon is a very meticulous bird, spending a lot of time preening and cleaning its feathers to maintain optimal flyability. The bird’s beak is uniquely adapted for picking out small insects that lodge between the feathers, and the bird may also take dust or sand baths to rid of the excess oil on the feathers.

Agonistic Behavior

Bar-tailed Trogons are territorial birds, and this has implications on the bird’s agonistic behavior. The bird employs a variety of aggressive behaviors to fend off any intruders that enter its territory, which includes its vocalizations, posture, tail position, and aggressive movements.

The bird will pursue any intruder from its territory, or, in some instances, it will attack it.

Sexual Behavior

The Bar-tailed Trogon sexual behavior occurs during the breeding season, where males establish and defend territories to attract a mate. Males use calls and displays in an effort to attract receptive females to their territory.

The female becomes receptive to mating once she enters the territory, leading to the mating process. Once the female is receptive, the pair typically stays within the territory, engaging in courtship and mating behaviors.

Breeding

Bar-tailed Trogons are monogamous breeders, forming pairs during the breeding season. The breeding season usually coincides with the rainy season, when fruit availability is at its highest.

The female lays one or two eggs per clutch, and incubation is shared by both parents, usually in shifts. The eggs hatch after 18-20 days, and the female and the offspring rely on the male to provide food during this period.

The young depend on their parents for their food and protection and soon become independent enough to fend for themselves. The young Bar-tailed Trogons develop their full adult plumage after three months, thereby marking the end of the nesting period.

Demography and Populations

The population of the Bar-tailed Trogon is fragmented, with its numbers declining due to significant habitat loss and degradation. The Bar-tailed Trogon is classified under the “least concern” status by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) but is currently facing an increasing number of threats.

Deforestation, continuous habitat loss, logging, agriculture, and mining

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