Some birds are stunningly beautiful — I’ve written about some of them: Peafowl, and the Resplendent Quetzal are two that come to mind. Other birds are strangely ornamented, and though I’m sure they look attractive to the females of their species, they end up just looking silly to me.
Today’s bird, the three-wattled bellbird, is one of these animals. The males’ plumage is rather plain, with their heads and necks covered in white feathers and the rest of the body in brown, but these bellbirds make up for it with the three large wattles that sprout from the birds’ beaks. Females are even drabber than males, with olive-green feather and no wattles at all. Size ranges from 25 to 30 cm long, with males being larger than females.
The wattles of male bellbirds can grow to be quite long, up to 10 cm in length. The birds can’t control their wattles, instead letting them hang down uselessly, and let’s be honest, rather stupidly. The wattles come into play during the breeding season, when the male birds sing and shake them around.
The three-wattled bellbird is one of four species of bellbird, all of which are found in tropical regions of Central and South America. Three-wattled bellbirds are found from Honduras to Panama. They spend the non-breeding season in lowland forests, migrating to highlands to mate.
One of the most distinctive features of the three-wattled bellbird (other than its wattles) is its call. This is where the name ‘bellbird’ comes from, as the calls of male bellbirds consist of ‘bonk’ noises. Very loud bonk noises. Bellbird calls can be heard half a mile away, and are considered one of the loudest bird songs on earth. Apparently bellbirds will call loudly at any other bellbird that tries to invade its perch, often resulting in the invader falling off the branch. I can’t really imagine a more comical scene.
There’s one other reason everybody should love three-wattled bellbirds, other than their dashing looks and thunderous calls — bellbirds love to eat wild avocados, and are one of the primary dispersers of avocado trees’ seeds. Any creature that likes avocados is automatically a friend of mine.
Bellbirds are quite secretive animals; mostly they are heard and not seen. Still, they pretty neat birds, and I’d love to see one someday.