Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gray-winged Trumpeter

In 1976, I took this Gray-winged Trumpeter photograph deep in the Ecuadorian jungle, south of the Napo River. I was doing bird surveys for a proposed national park. We were in an unnamed village of Waorani, an only recently contacted tribe. These people kept pet trumpeters as snake alarms. When Gray-winged Trumpeters discover snakes, the birds make a loud, distinctive, crane-like call given only in the presence of snakes. Other trumpeters join in the ruckus. Trumpeters will eat small snakes, but just alert the village to the presence of larger ones.

Trumpeters have proven almost impossible to breed in zoos. Even the Waorani raise their pets from wild-collected eggs. The young birds imprint on their human foster-parents and will call loudly when strangers approach, thus acting like a watch-dog. Most ornithologists agree that these ancient, grouse-like birds are not grouse or quail, but closely related to cranes and Limpkins (Handbook of Birds of the World, Vol. 3).

No comments:

Post a Comment