Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bulletin 198 - Panama #6 - Toucans, barbets, saltators and sloths

Time for some more cool tropical birds. And what could be more typical of the neotropics than toucans. There are 47 species of toucans and all are in the Americas. They go by 3 names, toucans, aracaris and the little ones are toucanets.

Every child in the USA and Canada (maybe Europe as well) is familiar with the Fruit Loops bird. This is the Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus). The black body, yellow face and throat and multicolored bill are an easy ID. The bird is 19" long.

Keel-billed Toucan
The third species we found was the Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus). Aracaris have thinner more pointed bills and tend to be a little smaller. This bird is 16" long and has a 2 tone bill.

Collared Aracari

Closely related to the Toucans are the barbets. These birds have stout bills. There are 3 species in Panama and we saw just one, the Spot-crowned Barbet (Capito maculicoronatus). These small birds (6.5") are black above with black streaked flanks. The males shown here have white throats and a yellow breast band.

Spot-crowned Barbet - male

Here is a pair in a Cecropia tree. One has his head down showing the white spots on top of his head.

Spot-crowned Barbet - males

Saltators are heavy billed songbirds that formerly were in the Grosbeak and Cardinal family. But now their relationship is uncertain. We saw 2 of the 3 species in Panama. The Streaked Saltator (Saltator striatapectus) is 7" in length. The back is olive and the breast is streaked olive. The thick bill is black.
The sexes are similar.

Streaked Saltator
The Buff-throated Saltator (Saltator maximus) has an olive back, buff throat and gray breast.

Buff-throated Saltator

Sloths are mammals confined to the New World. There are 6 species. They are related to armadillos and anteaters. We saw only one, the Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni). Needless to say, if you find them, they are easy to photograph. Sloths are the main food for the Harpy Eagle.

Sloths have some peculiarities, compared to most mammals. Firstly, they have an unusual number of neck vertebrae. Almost all mammals have 7 cervical vertebrae from elephants and whales to giraffes. The few exception are manatees and two-toed sloths with only 6, and the three-toed sloths with 9. Additionally, on most mammals, the fur on their limbs grows towards the feet. Because sloths hang upside down in trees most of the time, their fur grows away from the feet to shed the rain. This can be seen in the first photo as well as the 2 toes.

Hoffman's Two-toed Sloth

Here is another photo showing his cute face.

Hoffman's Two-toed Sloth

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2014 David McDonald

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