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White-necked Rockfowl, Picathartes gymnocephalus.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri
Family: Picathartidae
Serle, 1952
Genus: Picathartes
Lesson, 1828

P. gymnocephalus
P. oreas


Galgulus Wagler, 1827 (non Brisson, 1760: preoccupied)

The picathartes, rockfowl or bald crows are a small genus of two passerine bird species within the family Picathartidae found in the rain-forests of tropical west and central Africa. They have unfeathered heads, and feed on insects and invertebrates picked from damp rocky areas. Both species are totally non-migratory, being dependent on a specialised rocky jungle habitat.[1]



The picathartes are large (33-38 cm long) passerines with crow-like black bills, long neck, tail and legs. They weigh between 200-250 g. The strong feet and grey legs are adapted to terrestrial movement, and the family progresses through the forest with long bounds on the ground. The wings are long but are seldom used for long flights. The plumage is similar between the two species, with white breasts and bellies and darker (grey and grey-black) wings, backs and tails. The neck colour varies between the two species, giving the two species their individual names (Grey-necked and White-necked Picathartes). They also have bald heads with brightly coloured and patterned skin.[1]


The picathartes are generalised feeders, taking a wide range of invertebrate prey. Prey items include a range of insects, particularly beetles, termites and ants, as well as millipedes, centipedes, earthworms and gastropods. Frogs and lizards are also taken, but these are mostly fed to their chicks. Prey is taken both by foraging on the ground and in the trees. They will also forage in shallow flowing water for crabs,fish and tadpoles.They will also rarely eat other birds' nestlings,rodents,berries, and seeds. When foraging on the ground they move forward with hops and bounds, then pausing to search for prey. The longish bill is used to turn over leaves and seize prey, but the feet are never used for either. Both species will follow swarms of ants in order to snatch prey fleeing the ants.[1]

Both species of picathartes breed seasonally in the wet season. Where an area experiences two wet seasons in a year they will breed twice in the year. Despite reports of cooperative breeding it is now thought that they are exclusively monogamous, breeding in pairs. They are also commonly reported to be colonial, and will breed in colonies of up to seven pairs, but solitary breeders and smaller colonies of just two pairs are more common. The nest is made of mud attached to a cave roof or overhanging rock on a cliff. The nest is a cup like structure of dried leaves, twigs and plant fibres set into dried mud. Two eggs are laid, 24 to 48 hours apart. Both parents participate in incubating the eggs, each taking 12 hour shifts before being relieved by their partner. It takes around 20 days for the eggs to hatch. Picathartes hatchlings are altricial at hatching, almost naked (a few feathers are present on the crown and back) and helpless. The chicks take around 25 days to fledge.[1]

Both species are listed as Vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN.

Species of Picathartidae


  1. ^ a b c d Thompson, Hazell (2007), "Family Picathartidae (Picathartes)", in Josep, del Hoyo; Andrew, Elliott; David, Christie, Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 13, Picathartes to Tits and Chickadees, Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, pp. 60–69, ISBN 84-96553-42-6  

External links



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