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Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia, 22(2), 234-237 SHORTCOMMUNICATION June 2014 Ecological notes on Seriema species in the Paraguayan Chaco, with observations on Chunga biology Daniel M. Brooks Houston Museum of Natural Science, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, 5555 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, Texas 77030-1799, USA – email@example.com Received on 18 August 2013. Accepted on 01 October 2013. ABSTRACT: I studied the ecology of Black-legged (Chunga burmeisteri) and Red-legged (Cariama cristata) Seriemas in the central Paraguayan Chaco from September 1989 to August 1990, including observations of a baited family group of Chunga. Both species are allotopic in habitat use, with Chunga typically associated with drier forested areas and Cariama inhabiting savanna and wetland periphery. Interspeciﬁc territories were overlapping. Wind velocity and temperature correlated signiﬁcantly with activity of Cariama and baited Chunga, respectively. The average density of Chunga was 0.38/km . Reptiles are an important prey item and I describe an interesting feeding behavior. The breeding season in Chunga takes place during the Paraguayan summer (November – March). Bonding and courtship occurred around November and December, and the following 13 weeks were used for nest building, incubation, hatching, and chick development. KEYWORDS: Black-legged Seriema; breeding cycle; Chaco; habitat allotopy; Paraguay; Red-legged Seriema; tool use ° ° Black-legged (Chunga burmeisteri) and Red-legged Toledo; 22 33'S; 60 30'W), located in the center of the (Cariama cristata) Seriemas represent the family Cariamidae Paraguayan Chaco (Department Boquerón) 35 km west (Remsen et al. 2014), which is somewhat poorly known. of the Mennonite town of Filadelﬁa. This area has been Alvarenga (1982) indicated they are the closest living extensively cleared for cattle production, like much of relatives of giant predatory Cenozoic birds (i.e., Brontornis the central Paraguayan Chaco (Benirschke et al. 1989). and Mesembriornis) similar to Diatryma. Despite their The region is primarily grassland pasture punctuated with large size, loud vocalizations, and overall conspicuousness, man-made ponds (tajamares) and some small forest tracts. relatively little has been published on this family, which The primary forest type is Quebracho Woodland (Short is surprising considering how common they are in many 1975) with thorny leguminous bushes (e.g., Prosopis areas of South America (Redford and Peters 1986). This is ruscifolia) and Opuntia cactus (Lopez et al. 1987) as the especially true for Chunga, for which comparatively little dominant plants, with scattered trees (e.g., Aspidosperma is known relative to Cariama (c.f., Gonzaga 1996). Most quebracho, Bulnesia sarmientii, and Schinopsis sp.) up of the information published on this family in the last two to 13 m in height. Isolated tracts of dense thorn forest decades has related to captive birds (e.g., de Almeida 1994; are sometimes left remaining when land is cleared for Collins 1998; Hallager 2004; Padget 2010). agrarian purposes. Spiny terrestrial plants such as bayonet The objective of this note is to describe basic ecology bromeliads (Bromelia serra) and star cactus (Cleistocactus of Chunga and Cariama, and determine whether habitat baumannii) comprise dominant understory plants partitioning occurs between these taxa. Such mechanisms (Stabler 1985). Mean annual temperature is 26 C and of allocation reduce the possibility of competition annual rainfall is 865 mm (Brooks 1998). among species ﬁlling similar niches (Brooks et al. 2001). I also made observations on transects in the Additionally anecdotal biological observations are northern Chaco, a north-south habitat transition from reported from studying a baited family group of Chunga. the middle to upper Chaco was noted, with the latter characterized by increased forest stratiﬁcation and higher canopy, less dense and thorny foliage, and an overall METHODS greater abundance of broadleaf species. I identiﬁed general habitat occupancy by overlapping a macrohabitat Study region map (Olson et al. 2001) with seriema range maps from The main study site was Estancia Fortín Toledo (hereafter NatureServe (2014). Ecological notes on Seriema species in the Paraguayan Chaco, with observations on Chunga biology Daniel M. Brooks Field methods The geographic range of Chunga is not entirely sympatric with Cariama (Fig. 1), having a more Field data were collected between September 1989– westward distribution in Argentina. Overlapping the August 1990, during direct encounters while driving geographic ranges of both species (NatureServe 2014) unpaved road transects. Weekly surveys extended 35 km with associated habitats of biomes (Olson et al. 2001) from eastern Toledo to Filadelﬁa (70 km round-trip), and corroborates that Chunga are restricted to drier forested monthly surveys extended 9.3 km through western Toledo. areas, whereas Cariama are adapted to more open often Other areas were randomly surveyed during various times mesic environments. of the year. Additionally, approximately 2 km were walked daily to collect data on habitat association. Additional ecological factors Chunga density was determined using strip transects following Balph et al. (1977). The road from Toledo to In transitional patches between xeric forest and open Filadelﬂa and back (70 km round-trip) was driven weekly habitats, seriemas were spatially sympatric. For example, during daylight hours. All seriemas seen 10 m from an individual Chunga was observed ca. 30 m from a family the center of the road were counted, and the resulting of Cariama (an adult pair and two juveniles), suggesting surveyed area comprised a 1.4 km plot. that exclusive territories overlap interspeciﬁcally and direct Daily observations of a familial group of Chunga competition may not occur between the two species. lured to a baited site were made from a blind located 8 Four abiotic factors (temperature, wind, rainfall, m from the bait. Study hours in the blind ranged from and cloud cover) were each correlated with activity of 0530–2000 h and averaged 225 min/day. Identiﬁcation Cariama and baited and non-baited Chunga to assess of individuals was possible using a combination of if these environmental parameters inﬂuenced seriema diﬀerences in size, feather arrangement, and plumage tint. activity. The only signiﬁcant correlation with Cariama Temperature (C ) was recorded using a standard activity was wind (r = 0.324, P <0.05, n = 48), and no thermometer; rainfall (mm) was recorded using a signiﬁcant correlations were found with non-baited standard rain gauge; cloud cover (clear = 1, partly cloudy Chunga. The only signiﬁcant correlation with baited = 3, cloudy = 5, overcast = 7, or rainy = 9); and relative Chunga was temperature (r = 0.372, P < 0.05, n = 48), wind velocity (stagnant = 1, occasional light breeze = 3, reﬂecting increased activity during warmer periods. Both consistent light wind = 5, or windy = 7) were recorded species would stand in tree shade on excessively hot several times during daylight hours. Monthly means days. Chunga were relatively inactive at temperatures less were obtained for temperature, cloud cover, and relative than 27° C, and none were encountered during surveys wind velocity; a monthly total was obtained for mm of with temperatures < 27° C. Although rainfall was not rainfall. The eﬀects of these individual abiotic parameters signiﬁcant, baited Chunga left the feeding site during on seriema activity (encounters) were measured using heavy, but not light, rain showers. Pearson product-moment correlations. Chunga biology RESULTS Chunga density ranged 0 - 2.14/km monthly with an annual mean of 0.38/km . Mean densities for the Austral 2 2 2 Habitat allotopy spring = 0.35/km , summer = 0.29/km , fall = 0.80/km , and winter = 0.11/km . Both species of seriema were observed < 0.5 km from Each Chunga spent an average of 3 min (N = 108 forest tracts at Toledo. Although Chunga were frequently separate visits) at the baited site, with a mode of < 1 min observed within these isolated tracts, Cariama were not. (n = 37, 34% of all observations) in the general viewable Moreover Chunga were always observed in more xeric area. Non-bait food items consumed included a grass areas, whereas Cariama were often associated with open, (appeared to be buﬀel grass Cenchrus ciliaris), leguminous seasonally inundated conditions such as mesic savanna or shoots from algarrobo trees (Prosopis alba), large wetland periphery. grasshoppers (Acrididae), green Ameiva lizards (Ameiva During a survey in the northern part of the Chaco, ameiva), small snakes (Liophis sp.), and small unidentiﬁed which contains more forest and is less developed than passerines. The presence of the baited group at the site the central Chaco, Chunga were seen on two separate diminished during periods of high rainfall likely reﬂects occasions (group sizes = 1 and 2), with tracks at a third reduced dependence upon the bait site due to increased locale, and vocalizations just north of the Bolivian border. activity of reptiles, which appeared to make up the bulk Cariama were not encountered during this survey of of their natural diet. forested habitat, reinforcing that these two species are An interesting feeding behavior was observed that allotopic with regards to habitat selection. could be interpreted as a form of tool use. Chunga used Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia, 22(2), 2014 Ecological notes on Seriema species in the Paraguayan Chaco, with observations on Chunga biology Daniel M. Brooks ‘anvils’ (i.e., cracking bases) to crack open hard boiled Many of the results for Chunga biology are novel, eggs and galletas (hardened pastry). By seizing a food item including density (seasonal mean, annual mean, and in the bill and raising it high above the head (head and range) and feeding habits (e.g., reptiles in the diet), and neck perpendicular to ground), the bird swung down and certain aspects of reproduction (cf. Gonzaga 1996). The released the food, smashing it over the anvil. This behavior behavior involving utilizing an anvil to break food items was observed > 225 times and involved diﬀerent types of is similar to that described in other species of birds, anvils (i.e., salt lick rock, brick, lumber, or hard squash). such as Egyptian Vultures (Neophron percnopterus; Van The smaller pieces were consumed once a food item was Lawick-Goodall and Van Lawick 1966). This could broken. If an item was only cracked in two, the smaller be considered a form of tool use because the anvil is piece would be smashed again or the larger piece would an inanimate object serving as a functional extension be held steady with the foot while the inner portions were of the animal (McFarland 1987), and the behavior consumed. Usually the food item was cracked within the was observed on numerous occasions (n ≥ 225) upon ﬁrst few throws. Accuracy of hitting the anvil diminished diﬀerent anvils. with number of throws. On one occasion a food item More detailed autecological studies of habitat was thrown 12 times on four diﬀerent anvils (hard association, food habits, behavioral and reproductive squash, brick, lumber, and salt rock) before the item was ecology would be fertile areas for future research. In consumed. After a few unsuccessful throws a food item particular, the ability to quantify habitat with movements was usually exchanged for another. using telemetry equipment would be fruitful, as well as The breeding season in Chunga is during the Austral the ability to quantify preferred prey. summer (December–February) when temperature and wind are fairly constant and high rainfall results in abundant food availability. Sightings of non-baited ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Chunga decreased slightly during this period (see above) due to established territories and nesting behavior I am grateful for the companionship of several individuals commencing. Although typically a single chick is raised, in Paraguay, including Eddie and Sonja; Jakob, Maria, two juveniles were observed with their parents on one and Dominik Unger; Chaco Solar caballeros Eduardo occasion. Speciﬁc breeding dates and events were observed and Carlo, and some of the local Mennonites. Several Paraguayan government and non-government from the baited pair, as follows: 13 November: Pair arrives together at the feeding organizations supported research in more ways than site for the ﬁrst time one: Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia, Servicio 1 December: Pair observed unison calling Forestal Nacional, Inventario Biológico Nacional, Centro 3 December: Courtship observed de Datos para la Conservación, and Fundación Moises Bertoni. Financial Support was provided by Dr. Kurt 7 December–7 March: Pair absent 8 March: One of the adults returns to the feeding Benirschke and the Foundation for Endangered Animals. site with a juvenile. I appreciate the comments of Rob Clay, Kini Roesler, Thus nest building, incubation, hatching, and Floyd Hayes, and Jack Hailman on previous drafts of growth is approximately 13 weeks. this manuscript. Finally, thanks to Luciano Naka for encouragement to ‘blow the dust oﬀ’ this manuscript, and update it for inclusion in the Juan Mazar Barnett DISCUSSION Memorial volume. The data herein were collected during a very early time in my career (I was 22)… hot water, The results suggest Chunga is associated with more xeric electricity, air-conditioning, phones, television, and areas, whereas Cariama is found in more open, often mesic stereos were non-existent when I lived in the Chaco, but habitats. This was observed at the main study site, as well the fauna was diverse and abundant and provided ample as in other parts of the Chaco, and was also conﬁrmed diversion during non-sleeping hours. by overlaying range to habitat maps. While these results essentially corroborate the ﬁndings of others (cf. Gonzaga 1996), the ﬁndings of lack of interspeciﬁc territoriality, REFERENCES and the inﬂuence of various abiotic components are Alvarenga, H. M. F. 1982. 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Ornithology Research – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 1, 2014
Keywords: Black-legged Seriema; breeding cycle; Chaco; habitat allotopy; Paraguay; Red-legged Seriema; tool use
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