Kaempfer's Woodpecker and the Araguaia endemics

Kaempfer's Woodpecker and the Araguaia endemics

Kaempfer's Woodpecker In 1973, Short described a new subspecies of Celeus spectabilis, C. s. obrieni, from a single unidentified specimen (pointed out to him by Charles O'Brien) in the AMNH: an adult female, collected 16 August 1926 by E. Kaempfer at Iruçui, state of Piauí, Brazil, elevation 124 m, on the Rio Parnaiba. Short refers only generally to the habitat in which obrieni was collected, saying that it was from "dry forested country", and speculating that it was probably widespread in the Piauí-Maranhão region. Short concluded that the "new form clearly represents a race of Celeus spectabilis, rather than some other species of Celeus, by virtue of its fully rufous head, its black, shield-like breast patch, it mainly clear rufous secondaries, and its black, unbanded tail. Its bill, although small, matches spectabilis in the slight curvature of the culmen, and in the breadth across the nostrils. In its reduced markings obrieni bears the same relation to other races of C. spectabilis that C. torquatus torquatus does to other races of C. torquatus, and that C. flavescens ochraceus does to other races of C. flavescens."

Subsequent authors have followed Short's lead in treating obrieni as a subspecies of spectabilis: Sibley & Monroe (1990), Sick (1993), Winkler et al (1995), Parker et al (1996), Clements (2000) and Winkler & Christie (2002).

F. C. Novaes conducted surveys in Piauí in the region of Uruçui-una close to the type locality of obrieni in 1980, but was unsuccessful in relocating the taxon (Novaes 1992). The holotype (and lone specimen) of obrieni remained the sole basis for the inclusion of C. spectabilis on the Brazilian list, until 1995, when A. Whittaker, as part of a Goeldi Museum expedition, located and tape-recorded several individuals fitting the plumage characters of C. s. exsul at various localities in the upper Rio Juruá drainage in Acre (Whittaker & Oren 1999). All of the Acre birds were found either in stands of bamboo, or in humid second-growth (Cecropia dominated) bordering rivers; the typical habitats in which the species is found in Peru and Ecuador (e.g. Winkler et al 1995, Parker et al 1996, Ridgely & Greenfield 2001, Winkler & Christie 2002). Whittaker & Oren (1999), commenting on the distinctiveness of obrieni, combined with the huge range disjunction from other populations of C. spectabilis, and its very different habitat, suggested that obrieni should be accorded full species status. Winkler and Christie (2002), noted that "obrieni differs significantly in plumage, and data on habitat indicate major distinction from other races; possibly a separate species, but no further information available." These authors later go on to say "it has to be assumed either that the taxon is extinct or that it represents a highly aberrant form of another species."

Until recently the only known specimen of Celeus obrieni was a female collected by Emil Kaempfer on 16th Aug 1926 at 'Urussuhy' on the Rio Parnáiba, northeast Brazil. On 21st Oct 2006 Advaldo Dias do Prado and co-workers mist-netted and photographed a male of this species at Goiatins, in the state of Tocantins, some 300 km from Uruçuí. The 'Urussuhy' of Kaempfer's label is now a town, Uruçuí, in the state of Piauí. The note describing the taxon as Celeus spectabilis obrieni (Short, 1973) states that it is known only from the type locality, described as 'dry forested country.' The present English name of Celeus obrieni is Caatinga Woodpecker. This name was proposed in Whittaker & Oren (1999), who suggested it because the area in northern Brazil where the holotype was collected 'is extremely arid. There the typical dominant habitat is dry cerrado intermixed with caatinga, a typically arid scrub with stunted, often thorny trees with many cacti and other succulents (Novaes 1992). The authors went on to say 'the type locality is found in the caatinga endemic centre of Northeastern Brazil'. However, Novaes was not working in the area of the present town of Uruçuí but at what is now the Estação Ecológica de Uruçuí-Una, 180 km south-southeast of Uruçuí. The E.E. Uruçuí-Una is close to the area of transition between cerrado and caatinga but the middle and upper Rio Parnaíba, where Kaempfer collected Celeus obrieni is entirely in the cerrado biome. There is no caatinga at Kaempfer's Uruçuí. The bird captured this year near Goiatins was found in cerrado. The predominant habitat in this part of Tocantins is cerrado with no caatinga. The name Caatinga Woodpecker is inaccurate and misleading. The species was given the Portuguese name pica-pau-do-parnaíba, because Uruçuí is on the Rio Parnaíba, and Parnaíba Woodpecker has been suggested as the English name. However, since the rediscovery of Celeus obrieni, this name is also inaccurate because the new locality lies in the Tocantins, not the Parnaíba river basin. We suggest Kaempfer's Woodpecker in honour of the person who collected the only example known for 80 years.

The rediscovery of the Kaempfer's Woodpecker (Celeus obrieni) was the most exciting news from Brazil in 2006. This enigmatic species had not been observed since its initial discovery in 1926. A male adult was mist-netted in late October 2006 but nothing else could be done, especially because the voice was not recorded, and the shadow of this bird not be a valid species (Comments of J. V. Remsem Jr. from Museum of Natural History Science, Louisiana State University: "...but for the record, I remain skeptical that this is a valid species-level taxon vs. hybrid, for reasons elucidated by Bret Whitney in Proposal #59..." For long time it was said it could be a hybrid) was still possible. We participated in the first expedition after the mist-netting and guess what? Our guide Braulio A. Carlos was the first person to find the bird in the wild and recorded the voice and found a territory quiet reliable to see this beautiful woodpecker. Now, we know where to find the bird, we have the voice, we know the habitat and are waiting for you to come to see it.

We are running a tour, which will be focus in this species and also other restricted Brazilian endemics which are found only along the mighty Araguaia river.

OUR TOURS : We run 07 days/06 nights birding tours, limited to just 06 participants! Under request.

Kaempfer's Woodpecker and the Araguaia endemics, 07 Days / 06 Nights Itinerary

Day 01Arrival in Palmas, capital of Tocantins (there are daily flights from Brasilia) and direct transfer to Goiatins, some stops could be done during the drive, but this day will be basically a travel day. (D)

Hoatzin Days 02 and 03 We will have two full days to look for this enigmatic woodpecker. There are other good birds to be seen here, to name a few: White-naped Jay, Black-capped Antwren, the quiet different subspecies ochraceus of Blond-crested Woodpecker, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, White-fringed Antwren, Collared Crescentchest, Hyacinth Macaw, Point-tailed Palm-creeper are all possible.(B,L,D)

Days 05 and 06 We will have two full days to look for all Araguaia endemics: Bananal Antbird, Araguaia Spinetail, Crimson-fronted Cardinal and even a yet undescribed new Certhiaxis spinetail are waiting for you there, if this is not enough to convince you also possible are the endemics Glossy Antshrike, Tail-banded Hornero, Planalto Slaty Antshrike, Scarlet-throated Tanager and White-crested Guan, Orinoco Goose, Azure Gallinule, River-sided Tyrant subspecies xinguensis, hundreds of Hoatzin, Amazonian Inezia, Black Skimmer and many more. Pink river dolphins (Inia geoffrenis) and Giant Otters are also possible along Araguaia river.(B,L,D)

Day 07 We will have the morning of this day to choose a trail and do some birding before we drive back to Palmas for our flight back to Brasilia. End of the trip. (B,L)

Bananal Antbird,seen in our scouting tours

INCLUDED: The tour fee includes all lodging, meals chosen from the regular menu from dinner on Day 01 to lunch on Day 07, all ground transportation, entrance fees, the services of a full time Pantanal Bird Club naturalist guide. Rates are based upon group tariffs.

NOT INCLUDED: Items not included are airfare to and from Brazil and the flights within the country. The tour price does not include any airport taxes (there is an approximately $9 tax at each Brazilian airport and the roughly $36 departure tax), visa fees, optional tips to bus drivers and cooks, laundry and other personal expenses, items not on the menu of included meals, beverages including mineral water, room service, gratuities for beverages, optional gratuities for hotel housekeepers and the customary end-of-the-tour gratuity for the naturalist guide.


Any question or extra information, please contact us at: birdclub@gmail.com

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