Gray necked wood rail
One of the larger Neotropical rails and the only Aramides with head and neck entirely grey.
Like all rails, it is shy and secretive but will venture out into the open if reasonably close to dense cover at the edge of mangroves or a swamp.
Very vocal especially at or before dawn. The Indians believed that part of this loud vocalisation was due to the bird farting or as Fernšo Cardim more politely noted in the 16th century, "It has a strange song, for whoever hears it assumes it to be a very large bird although it is small, for it sings with its mouth while at the same time it makes another sonorous, intense, loud, but not very smelly tone with its rear end, which can be frightening."
One of those unfortunate birds that tastes like chicken and is slow, so
its had to become very illusive to survive. Walks in and out of cover at
the edge of lagoons inland, saw one at Maskall.
A wood-rail and the
terrestrial, largely vegetarian agouti sometimes eat
only a few centimeters apart, neither paying much
attention to the other. Both eat the rice, dry or cooked,
that we throw from the kitchen window. They are
equally fond of bananas and the fruits that drop from
tall African oil palms (Elaeisg uineensisin) the garden.
To peck out fragments of the oily yellow pericarp of
these plum-sized fruits, the wood-rail throws its whole
body into its blows, see-sawing up and down from
its legs, like a woodpecker drilling into a tree. It cannot,
like sharp-toothed rodents, pierce the hard, thick,
woody seed coat to extract the white embryo. Fragments
or whole fruits of spiny pejibaye palms (Bactris
gaseipes), dropped from tall trees by a diversity of
birds eating them, also attract the wood-rails. Unless
well cooked, these widely esteemed fruits sting the
human mouth, but this does not deter the birds.
I watched a wood-rail jump high to break a cluster
of bright blue berries from a shrub of the coffee family.
Dropping the cluster to the ground, it plucked
off and swallowed the berries, one by one. Especially
in wet weather, wood-rails walk over the lawn, flicking
fallen leaves aside with their bills, or picking
them up and tossing them, to uncover what lurks
beneath. They dig into horse droppings for undigested
grains of maize, or perhaps intestinal parasites.
In El Peten, Guatemala, Kilham (1979) watched a
wood-rail vigorously peck and shake a 30-cm water
snake for 45 min before swallowing it, still writhing
feebly, on the seventh attempt. He also saw these
birds take snails (Pomacefai agellata) from a reservoir
and by several minutes of pounding on the shell open
a small hole to extract the contents. These wood-rails
had become as tame as domestic chickens and could
be watched closely. In Panama, Wetmore (1965) found
wood-rails eating small crabs in mangrove swamps.
Roaches and other small invertebrates filled out their
Photo by Barnacle Bill of Barnacle Bill's Beach Bungalows
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