Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bulletin 190 - Panama #1 - Cuckoos and Kingfishers

I had the pleasure of 7 days birding in central Panama in early February. We hired a guide to show us around and find the birds. Also, he was our chauffeur, which, on seeing the traffic in the country, was a blessing. The guide was Gonzalo Horna, whom we found on the Birding Pal web site. Gonzalo knew his birds and where to find them. You can contact him by his email.

Panama is a tiny country about the size of the state of South Carolina or the province of New Brunswick. Yet it has a bird population of 978 species in the guide book, or almost 10% of all the birds in the world! North America (USA and Canada) has about 725 species.

We photographed lots of birds. The neotropics have several families of birds that don't make it to the USA or Canada, so I will present them by families and describe those that are unfamiliar to most people who haven't had the pleasure of birding the tropics.

We found 4 species of cuckoos. Most cuckoos have long tails. The 3 species of anis are members of the cuckoo family and all 3 are in Panama. By the way, if you do crossword puzzles, a favorite is a 3 letter word for cuckoo (ANI). 2 of these birds can be found in extreme southern USA. The sexes are similar in all anis.

The Smooth-billed Ani (Crotophaga ani) is black with a long tail and large bill without ridges. It is about 13" in length. It can be seen in south Florida, but the population is declining rapidly.

Smooth-billed Ani
His cousin, the Groove-billed Ani (Crotophaga sulcirostris) is smaller at 12" long, and has ridges on his upper mandible. It also can be found in the USA, in south Texas.

Groove-billed Ani
The last is the Greater Ani (Crotophaga major). It is the largest at 18" in length. It is IDed by the long tail, white eye, and ridge on upper mandible.

Greater Ani
Kingfishers are a worldwide family. Six species occur in the Americas and all 6 can be found in Panama. We saw 4 of them, and got photos of 3, all of which also are in the USA, 3 only occur in south Texas.

The most common and well known to North Americans is the Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata). In Panama however, it is listed as an uncommon visitor. This is a female with the brown band.

Belted Kingfisher - female
The Amazon Kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona) is the largest of the green colored kingfishers at 12". It has been seen in south Texas only twice, so is very rare in the ABA area. It is a male with the brown on chest.

Amazon Kingfisher - male
Lastly, is the small (7") Green Kingfisher (Chloroceryle americana). It is a fairly common bird in south Texas, aspecially along the Rio Grande. The male has brown on the chest.

Green Kingfisher - male
The female lacks the brown on the chest.

Green Kingfisher - female
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2014 David McDonald

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