Nature Reserve & Biological Station

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Banded Ground-Cuckoo Update

For all those who don’t have or like Facebook and can’t follow the news on our Banded Ground-Cuckoos, I’ll shortly summarize a bit of our past three weeks.

As expected the Cuckoos had followed the army ants into the forest. Army ants have a biphasic lifecycle. For about three weeks they stay in one spot with their nest, the queen produces eggs and the pupaes develope. During these three weeks the ants swarm only every other day. Then the eggs turn into larvaes and new workers hatch from the pupaes. Now the colony needs a lot of food and starts changing its nest site, called bivouac, every night. During the day the workers form big swarms to feed the hungry larvaes. So exactly this happened for about two weeks. We tried to locate the ants swarm every day and when we encountered them, generally we also found the Cuckoos nearby.

As the Cuckoos seemed to be very actively foraging around the swarms, we got the chance to observe the Cuckoos pretty well. One morning then we saw the Cuckoos crossing the trail and counted three! Two adults and the juvenile. In the next days I could also feed at least one adult bird, apart from the juvenile. Murray Cooper visited us and he took a great photo of an adult Cuckoo picking one of our katydids.

As the ants were constantly changing their bivouac site, on some days we had to search quite a while until finally finding the ants. After about 9 days of nomadism the ants started to cross over into a very difficult terrain of the reserve; a ravine with very dense vegetation. Although we tried to access the terrain and crawled through the woods, full of chiggers and armadillo fleas, we were not able to locate the ants anymore. We didn’t get a glimpse of an army ant nor the Cuckoos. But we hoped that the ants would continue uphill into better terrain. And then after four days, Wilo finally located the army ants again and two Cuckoos foraging close by. Luckily the colony settled in that spot, on the slope 50 meters behind our house.

For the last 9 days the juvenile Cuckoo showed up every morning in that area behind our house. It is so tame that sometimes it comes running towards me when I enter the forest. We call our little friend Wilito, because Wilo was the one who found it, and it’s like our baby now. Wilito even comes and picks the grasshoppers and katydids directly from my fingers. He even seems to like the clicking sounds of the cameras around him!!

We are still having birders visiting almost every day. And for the next 10 days, the chances to see Wilito are probably really good, until the ants start their nomadic phase again. And who knows where they’ll “take” our Cuckoos?!

And here a video of Wilito picking grasshoppers from my fingers!!

This blog post was written by Nicole

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