Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bulletin 194 - Panama #5 - blackbirds and howlers

The icterids are a new world family of birds, popularly called the blackbirds. They include many familiar species including blackbirds, grackles, orioles, cowbirds and meadowlarks. However, crows are not in that family.

The Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis) is a 9" cowbird that has a range from southeast USA to South America. The male is glossy black with a dark eye. The female is dull brownish.

Shiny Cowbird - male
Caciques are larger birds who build long hanging nests like orioles. The Yellow-rumped Cacique (Cacicus cela) is 11" long. The sexes are similar. It is unmistakable with its pale bill, blue eye, yellow rump and vent and black body.

Yellow-rumped Cacique

Oropendolas are larger cousins of the caciques and build even longer hanging nests, some may be 3 feet long. The Chestnut-headed Oropendola (Psarocolius wagleri) is 14" long with brown head, and rump, black body, yellow tail and large pale bill and a blue eye.

Chestnut-headed Oropendola
The Crested Oropendola (Psarocolius decumanus) is much larger at 17" long. The head and body are all black except for the brown vent and rump. The tail is yellow. The bill is whitish. He has a wispy crest.
Crested Oropendola

Here is a bird building the nest.

Crested Oropendola
The Yellow-backed Oriole (Icterus chrysater) is 7.5" long with a yellow body, black face and throat, wings and tail. The sexes are similar

Yellow-backed Oriole
Compare this to the Yellow-tailed Oriole (Icterus mesomelas) which is an inch longer. This bird has a black back and yellow tail.

Yellow-tailed Oriole
Most people in the USA and Canada are familiar with the Red-winged Blackbird. The male is black with a red shoulder patch that often is hidden. Well here is the stunning Red-breasted Blackbird (Sturnella militaris) of South America. It is a small bird at 6.5" long. The male is shown here and is not an ID problem. The female is streaked brownish. It is the same genus as our meadowlarks.

Red-breasted Blackbird

The Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata) is the largest monkey in Panama. They weigh up to 22 pounds. We heard them several times and on one lucky day, a troop of about 30 animals crossed our path. Here is one just chilling out on a branch.

Mantled Howler Monkey
We saw several babies carried by the parents. Here are an adult and baby.

Mantled Howler Monkey

A moment later, the baby rolled over on his back and scratched his back on the tree. It was fun to watch.

Mantled Howler Monkey
We even saw a newborn. This little guy was less than 24 hours old according to our guide. His mother was upside down and he was clinging to her chest. He was struggling to get to her nipple to nurse.

Mantled Howler Monkey
Lastly, as a physician, if I can detect an injury or illness in wildlife, I find it fascinationg. This large male was one of the first of the monkeys we saw. He had a large 'hole' on his neck. I thought it was a bullet hole, as the indians do eat these monkeys but probably not in this area of Panama where we were. Anyway, the guide said it was caused from a worm. I did the research and it is botfly larvae burrowed into the skin. Looking at the rest of the photos, I saw several more lumps on other monkeys, but none had a gaping hole like this guy on the right side of his neck. If you look closely on the left side of his neck, it looks like a large lump that is probably another infestation.

Mantled Howler Monkey
with Botfly larva hole

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2014 David McDonald

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bulletin 193 - Panama #4 - miscellaneous birds

Lisa and I saw several birds in different families, but not enough to make a separate bulletin. So in this one, I will show some of the these individuals.

To me, one of the most exciting birds to find was the Common Potoo (Nyctibius griseus). The potoos are a tiny family of just 7 species confined to the new world, with most of them in the Amazon area. They are closely related to nighthawks, being nocturnal insectivores. They have huge eyes and mouths and catch insects from flying from a perch like a flycatcher. During the day they roost on the end of a broken limb and appear as a classic 'stick bird'. Most birders try to see these birds at night with a spotlight, as their eyes glow in the light. I have seen this bird previously, but not in the daytime. We found this bird our first morning.

Common Potoo

Puffbirds are another family of birds confined to the neotropics. They perch quietly for long periods and tehn fly out to catch insects or small vertebrates. They are usually black and white or brown and white. The White-necked Puffbird (Notharchus hyperrhynchus) is 9.5" long. It has a range from El Salvador to Argentina. The sexes are similar.

White-necked Puffbird
The guide watched him fly down and snare a small lizard and start to eat it. He called us to come and photo it, but we got there a moment too late. You can see something in his beak, but not enough to recognize.
White-necked Puffbird

The Bay Wren (Cantorchilus nigricapillus) and all the tropical wrens are elusive and extremely hard to see, let alone photograph. This one finally we were able to get. It is dark brown with a black head and some white on the face.

Bay Wren

Cotingas are another neotropical family, many of which are beautiful. We saw a male Blue Cotinga (Cotinga nattererii) too far away to photograph, but this female landed 10 feet over our heads. She is just brown on the back, and a scalloped appearance on the undersides. She has a wide-eyed look.

Blue Cotinga - female
We also saw several mammals. They are always exciting to find. The White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica) is also known as a coatimundi. It is about 3.5 feet long, 1/2  the length is tail. They are members of the raccoon family and unlike some others in the neotropics, do not have a prehensile tail. We had one run across the road in front of the car. We jumped out and watched a group of 3-4 fighting in the adjacent trees. Apparently they can be found in the USA in southern Arizona and also, they have been introduced into Florida, either as escapees from zoos, or being released as pets.

White-nosed Coati

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2014 David McDonald

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Bulletin 192 - Panama #3 - Waders and shorebirds

Lisa and 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. 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.

We saw several of the same herons and egrets that we have in Texas, but also there were 4 new ones.
The first is the smallish (19") elusive Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius) This bird appears similar to the Black-crowned Night-Heron, but has a huge bill. As it is nocturnal primarily, it is difficult to find unless you know where they roost. Even roosting, they tend to be deep in the foliage. Our guide knew of a roost and we saw perhaps a dozen birds. I have only seen a single bird before in 4 previous birding trips to the tropics. The range of this bird in Mexico to Argentina.

Boat-billed Heron - adult

The juvenile is brownish.

Boat-billed Heron - juvenile

The next new bird was the beautiful Capped Heron (Pilherodius pileatus). It is IDed by the black cap, yellowish neck and blue bill and facial skin. The range of this bird is from the Canal Zone in Panama south to Brazil.

Capped Heron

The Cocoi Heron (Ardea cocoi) is a tall (40") heron similar in size and color to the Great Blue Heron. However, the neck is white rather than gray. It replaces the Great Blue Heron in South America. We had to take a boat trip to find this bird.

Cocoi Heron

The last of the new herons was the Rufescent Tiger-Heron  (Tigrisoma lineatum). This bird is 27" tall and has a rufous neck.

Rufescent Tiger-Heron

The Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) is a dark ibis that occurs in eastern USA and throughout much of the world. It is a rare visitor to Texas, and is listed as uncommon in Panama, but we found a flock in some rice fields. In breeding, it is rufous on the body.
Glossy Ibis - breeding
This bird shows the distinctive facial markings of light lines on a dark face.

Glossy Ibis

n unusual and unknown shorebird (at least to non birders) is a jacana. There are 8 species world wide of this unique bird. They have very elongated toes enabling the bird to walk on lily pads and other floating vegetation. 2 species occur in tropical Americas. The Wattled Jacana (Jacana jacana) ranges from Panama to South America. The birds have yellow wing linings which can be seen in flight. The bird is IDed by black body, red face and yellow tip of bill.

Wattled Jacana - adult

Here is one in flight showing the yellow wing linings.

Wattled Jacana - adult
The juvenile has a striped neck, and is brown and white. Notice the long toes.

Wattled Jacana - juvenile
We also saw a downy chick.

Wattled Jacana - chick
And another photo with his foot up, showing he is all toes.

Wattled Jacana - chick

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2014 David McDonald

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bulletin 191 - Panama #2 - Motmots and Woodpeckers

I am sure you are all wondering where are the 'beautiful' colored tropical birds after the first Panama bulletin. Well here are the motmots. I put one on the blog as the header photo.

Motmots are a small new world family of colorful birds. There are only 14 species and they occur from Mexico to northen South America and Trinidad. Most have peculiar racket tails. They often sit motionless for long periods and may wag their tails from side to side like a pendulum. We saw 4 species on this trip. The sexes are similar in all species.

The Rufous Motmot (Baryphthengus martii) at 18" is the largest of the 4. It has a green back, blue wing edges, and rufous head and underparts. Also, it has a black mask and black breast spot. The racket tail on the long central tail feathers is visible.

Rufous Motmot
The Broad-billed Motmot (Electron platyrhynchum) is similar, but at 13", considerably smaller. The differences include a green chin, and the rufous doesn't extend as far down the belly. He also has a racket tail.

Broad-billed Motmot
The Whooping Motmot (Momotus subrufescens ) occurs from about the Canal Zone in Panama to northern South America. It is mostly green, with a rufous underparts, black face and bright blue crown. Here are a couple of photos.

Whooping Motmot

The Blue-diademed Motmot (Momotus lessonii) is similar, but differs mainly by voice. Its range is Mexico to central Panama.
Blue-diademed Motmot
Woodpeckers are familiar to most people, as they are a large family with 230 species worldwide. They can be found on all continents except Australia. We managed to photograph 5 species on the trip.

The Red-crowned Woodpecker (Melanerpes rubricapillus) is almost identical to our Red-bellied Woodpecker in eastern USA, but the ranges don't overlap and the birds are non-migratory, It is very common, and we saw it every day of the trip. Here is a male on a feeder eating banana.

Red-crowned Woodpecker - male

The Black-cheeked Woodpecker (Melanerpes pucherani) is another 7" woodpecker. He differs from the bird above by the black on the face and barring on the breast. Although this is a common bird, we saw only this single individual. The male has red completely over the head. The female has the red patch only on the nape.

Black-cheeked Woodpecker - male

The Lineated Woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus) is a large (12.5") woodpecker of the same genus and very similar to the familiar Pileated Woodpecker of North America. Notice that the white line through the head and neck is narrower in this bird than the Pileated. The crest appears much bushier as well.
Lineated Woodpecker - male
The Crimson-crested Woodpecker (Campephilus melanoleucos) at 13.5" long, is the largest woodpecker in Panama. The male has an all red head with white spot below the ear. Also notice the barred underside, better seen on the female below.

Crimson-crested Woodpecker - male
The female has a smaller amount of red with a few black feathers on the front of the crest.

Crimson-crested Woodpecker - female

Lastly is the beautiful 8" Cinnamon Woodpecker (Celeus loricatus). The sexes are similar except the male has red on the chin.

Cinnamon Woodpecker - male
Here is his partner. They were travelling together.

Cinnamon Woodpecker - female
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2014 David McDonald

To have these trip reports sent to your email, please email me at the above address and ask to subscribe.