The behavior of Jocotoco Antpitta is, not surprisingly, poorly studied. It is generally encountered as solitary individuals or pairs (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001, Ridgely and Tudor 2009). Limited observations suggest that its behavior is similar to other large Grallaria antpittas, with most of its time spent on or close to the ground. It forages by probing its heavy bill into the leaf litter, overturning dead leaves and vegetation with its bill and feet (personal observations). Jocotoco Antpittas are known to, at least opportunistically, follow swarms of montane Labidus sp. army ants (Greeney and Gelis 2005, Greeney 2012a). Greeney (2012a) also reports that Jocotoco Antpittas appear attracted to the loud crashing sounds of an observer moving through dense vegetation. This attraction to the sounds of large animals, propensity to follow army ants, and the readiness with which the species’ can be trained to take food from human hands (Woods et al. 2011), are behaviors which led Greeney (2012a) to suggest that Jocotoco Antpittas may regularly associate with large mammals foraging through the understory (e.g., tapirs, bears).
Spontaneously produced song is infrequently heard from Jocotoco Antpittas, but is usually given during the mid-morning or during any time of the day when light levels are low (Heinz 2002). While singing, adults throw their head back, fluffing the feathers of their white throat, and pumping their short tails in synchrony with each hoot (Krabbe et al. 1999, Heinz 2002, HFG personal observations). Jocotoco Antpittas sometimes respond so aggressively to playback that they can be heard crashing through the undergrowth before emerging into view to run agitatedly back and forth, sometimes leaning forward and bobbing their head (Krabbe et al. 1999, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001).
Jocotoco Antpittas appear to be sedentary and to maintain territories for many years (HFG personal observations). Most known territories of Jocotoco Antpittas overlap with one or more territories of Chestnut-naped Antpittas (Grallaria nuchalis) yet it appears that neither species responds aggressively to playback of songs of the other (Heinz 2002). As mentioned previously (see Behavior), however, Jocotoco Antpittas respond very aggressively to conspecific playback, suggesting that intraspecific territorial defense is aggressive. Sometimes emerging from the undergrowth into full view, an agitated adult responding to playback will flick its wings and fluff out its breast and throat feathers, making it appear larger, sometimes pausing and stretching its neck upwards and appearing taller. Agitated adults often perform displacement activities during this display as well, preening their underwing or breast and wiping their sizable bill on nearby branches or the ground (Heinz 2002, HFG personal observations). Only one aggressive interaction between two adult Jocotoco Antpittas has been described, presumably of two individuals disputing territorial boundaries. This interaction (Mendoza in Heinz 2002) was described as similar to a domestic cock-fight, with their heavy bills used to peck at each other. The interaction ended with the victor chasing the loser into the undergrowth while continuing to deliver fierce blows to its back and head.
Using response to playback at the type locality in southeastern Ecuador, Heinz (2002) estimated mean territory size of Jocotoco Antpittas to be 13.58 hectares (n = 9, range 1.68-15.34 hectares).
Not described, probably monogamous.
Social and interspecific behavior
Nothing has been described concerning this aspect of Jocotoco Antpitta’s natural history. Like other species of Grallaria, Jocotoco Antpitta usually is solitary. It does not appear to follow mixed species flocks, except perhaps when associating with army ant swarms. At worm-feeders (Woods et al. 2011) it may respond aggressively to other antpittas, but not overly so (HFG personal observations). It is apparently not aggressive towards the similarly-sized Chestnut-naped Antpitta (Grallaria nuchalis) which frequently has overlapping territories (see Territoriality).