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A Striking, Uncommonly Seen Bird in Côte d'Ivoire - Observation of the Week, 8/15/23

Sourced from iNaturalist

Our Observation of the Week is this White-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes gymnocephalus, Picatharte de Guinée in French), seen in Côte d'Ivoireby @sgodoukpe!

Saint Guillaume Odoukpe, an Assistant Professor of Animal Biology and Ecology at Felix Houphouet-Boigny University, traces his current interest in birds back to 2009,

when I was carrying out a study on birds for my master’s dissertation. At the time, I didn't know anything about birds, except that they are animals that have feathers. With a pair of binoculars and a bird guide containing mostly black-and-white illustrations, I explored my study site and searched for these exceptional fauna. It was the first time that I had seen the beauty and diversity of birds in an environment; you just had to look up and pay a bit of attention to observe them. Each time I identified a species of bird, my scientific interest gradually gave way to a passion for birds and nature.

Cut to June of this year, when Saint Guillaume explored the Lamto Scientific Reserve in central Côte d'Ivoire on a trip sponsored by the International Bird Conservation Partnership (IBCP) and its President and Scientific Director Dr. Nico Arcillia. Saint Guillaume, along with Dr. Abiola Sylvestre Chaffra and Mr. Farid Amadou Bahleman from Benin, Mr. Yendoubouam Kourdjouak and Mr. Lin-Ernni Mikégraba Kaboumba from Togo, surveyed the reserve.

This ornithological tour was requested and organised by Dr Nico to encourage collaboration between West African ornithologists, who receive little support from donors. The objectives of the tour were to promote a better understanding of the status of bird populations and their habitats, and of the threats and challenges facing birds in Côte d'Ivoire. It also aimed to identify priorities for collaboration and capitalize on bird research and conservation efforts in Côte d'Ivoire that can be applied in Togo, Benin, and neighbouring countries.

The following day, after a few observations in the reserve, we went to the birds’ breeding area outside the reserve. Once there, we were able to observe a few nests under construction and nests already containing eggs [above]. After waiting for an hour, we observed two individuals returning to their nests. We were able to get some photos and videos of them. To better understand and protect the species, we plan to carry out a study of its ecology and ethology, and to develop an ecological monitoring system which will be carried out by the local communities.

A species with almost no feathers on its head, White-necked rockfowl range from Guinea to Ghana in West Africa, and like to live by forested streams and rivers, where they can find mud for their nests. Adults mostly feed on insects, but will feed frogs to their offspring. Formerly captured for display in zoos, they're mostly threatened by habitat loss and are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Redlist. There are currently fewer than 40 observations of this species on iNaturalist.

“I heard about iNaturalist from my friend Farid Bahleman last November when we were in Victoria Falls for the fifteenth Pan-African Ornithological Congress,” says Saint Guillaume (above, in front). His current research

focuses on bird ecology and conservation biology, both in their natural environment and in agro-ecosystems. I am also interested in bird migration and the illegal wildlife trade, which are underdeveloped issues in Côte d'Ivoire...

I like nature and photographing birds. iNaturalist gives me the opportunity to share these photos and this passion with other people who like nature. The interaction with the naturalist community allows me to update my knowledge of bird systematics and guides me in my research perspectives.

(Photo of Saint Guillaume by Ouassa Félix. Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.)

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