AppearanceThe blue-throated piping guan is described as "oddly 'prehistoric' " but "handsome". It averages 69 cm long, including its neck and tail, both long, the neck and head disproportionately thin and small, the tail disproportionately big. Most of the plumage is black with a greenish gloss—blue-green in ''cumanensis'', olive in ''grayi''. It has a large white patch on each wing, white flecks on the wing coverts and chest, a white patch over the eye, and a white or buffy-white nape . Both subspecies have a short white or buffy-white crest; in ''cumanensis'' it is shaggy and nearly solid-colored; in ''grayi'' it is hairier, and the feather shafts are black, appearing as streaks. The bill is baby-blue at the base and cobalt-blue at the tip. Both subspecies have blue bare flesh on the throat with a wattle in ''cumanensis'' and a hanging caruncle in ''grayi.'' The legs are red.
During the breeding season it is noisy. At dawn it gives a "piping" call of 6 or so slow high-pitched, clear whistles, "slightly ascending in pitch, ''püüeee, püüeee, püüeee,…''", reminiscent of the scale-backed antbird. Its flight display, at dawn or in the daytime, includes "2 quick wing-claps , then 2 whirring rattles with wings," the second seeming to reverse the first as in shuffling cards . At other seasons it is usually silent.
BehaviorThis species occurs in pairs during the breeding season and bigger groups, as many as 12, at other times. It walks nimbly or hops with help from its wings in the canopy or sub-canopy of the forest, especially in trees with flowers or fruit that it eats. To cross clearings it sets off with fast wingbeats and then glides, giving another flurry of wingbeats if needed to maintain its height. Where not hunted it is fairly common and easy to see.
Little is known about its reproduction. In Colombia it has been observed in breeding condition in February and laying eggs in May. One nest was built of twigs in thick vegetation in the canopy and contained three yellowish-white eggs.
HabitatThere are two subspecies—''P. c. cumanensis'' and ''P. c. grayi''. ''P. c. cumanensis'' is found from the Guyanas, the Orinoco river in Venezuela, and southeastern Colombia south to northwestern Brazil and southeastern Peru. There and possibly in northern Bolivia it intergrades with the bigger ''P. c. grayi'' , which continues through northern and central Bolivia, Mato Grosso , and northern and eastern Paraguay. This species occurs locally in forests: in Colombia and Venezuela, humid lowland forests whether seasonally flooded or not, and riparian forests. It especially favors the edges where the forest meets open land or a river.
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