Peruvian plantcutter

Phytotoma raimondii

TAXONOMY

Phytotoma raimondii Taczanowski, 1883. OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Rara du Pérou German: Graubrust-Pflanzenmaher; Spanish: Cortaplantas Peruana.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS 7-8 in (18-20 cm) long, about 1.5 oz (40 g). Both sexes are mainly medium gray, with bright yellow eyes and a cardinal-like crest. The male adds red patches on the forehead and lower breast.

DISTRIBUTION

A wide area around the northern town of Talara, some small forests near Chiclayo (south of Talara), and a small forest farther south from Chiclayo; total known population estimated at 500-1,000, with perhaps 80% in the habitat around Talara.

HABITAT

Dry scrubland vegetation with bushes widely dispersed; part of the Tumbesian ecosystem.

BEHAVIOR

Diurnal; the call has been described as a donkeylike braying or like the movement of a rusty hinge; little specific information, due to lack of thorough field studies.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Follows the general description for plantcutters, although Peruvian plantcutters consume leaves from wild plants and have no known liking for cereal leaves. The birds will eat leaves of the widespread algarrobo (Prosopis spp.), chilco (Baccharis spp.), zapote (Maytenia spp.), and vichayo broadleaf bush.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Almost nothing is known, due to lack of field observations. CONSERVATION STATUS

Endangered. In 1992 Peruvian plantcutters could be found in 14 sites along the north Peruvian coast; in 1998 Engblom revisited these sites but found plantcutters at only three. He then found three new sites southward.

Never very widespread, the Peruvian plantcutter is adapted to the native arid scrub forest of northwestern Peru, most of which has nearly disappeared or been degraded by goat grazing, extraction of firewood and timber, and conversion of land to sugarcane fields. The long-term security of the species will depend primarily on protecting its stronghold in the Talara region. To this end the Peruvian organization ProAves Peru, partly funded

by the U.S. National Audubon Society, is working toward the declaration of a reserve, environmental education at the local level, and restoration of plantcutter-friendly habitat.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

The Peruvian plantcutter has become a rallying symbol for conservation. ♦

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