Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo
Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo Panama

Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo

Neomorphus geoffroyi

Photo by Carlos Bethancourt

The Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo is a large terrestrial species of cuckoo in the Cuculidae family. It is found in humid primary forests from southern Nicaragua, through Costa Rica and Panama, into northwestern Colombia. Another population occurs in the western and southern Amazon Basin of south-eastern Colombia, eastern Ecuador, eastern Peru, northern Bolivia and Brazil, while a final population occurs in the Atlantic Forest of eastern Brazil. Much confusion exists over the exact limits of its distribution in the south-central Amazon, where the very similar Scaled Ground-Cuckoo occurs (the breast-markings typically used to separate the Scaled and the Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoos are known to vary clinally). Consequently, the Scaled Ground-Cuckoo has often been considered a subspecies of the Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo.

As other species in the genus Neomorphus, the Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo is generally highly inconspicious and infrequently seen. While overall unlikely to be threatened due to its large range, one subspecies, maximiliani (from Bahia, Brazil), may be extinct, and another, dulcis (from Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo, Brazil), is very rare and likely to be threatened. The subspecies vary primarily in the details of the chest- and crown-pattern, and the colour of the tail and wings.

This “Holy Grail” of Neotropical birding is often seen in the trails around the Canopy Lodge and in Pipeline Road.

Neotropical Birding Magazine featured the Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo in the spring 2011 edition, article and photos by Kevin J. Zimmer.  In this article, Kevin describes the life history of these little known birds, as well as a personal encounter with two Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoos at the Canopy Adventure in El Valle.