Sunday, June 8, 2014

Bulletin 199 - Panama #7 - Tyrant Flycatchers

The tyrannidae family, aka Tyrant Flycatchers or New World Flycatchers is the largest family of birds with about 420 species. Many of them are fairly drab, but some are spectacular like the Vermilion Flycatcher or Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. We saw more than a dozen species in Panama. Many of them look alike and have to be IDed by voice. The smallest of these flycatchers are the tiniest birds in the world next to hummers. The sexes are similar except where noted in the descriptions.

I will start with the kiskadees and similar colored birds. The Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) is a stunning 8.5" bird, with brown and rufous wings, bright yellow underparts and striped head. This bird does occur in the USA in south Texas. On reviewing our photos, I guess we didn't take any as we had some from Texas, so here is the bird.

Great Kiskadee
The Lesser Kiskadee (Pitangus lictor) is similar, but only 6.5" in length and it has much smaller bill. It also has less rufous on the wings.

Lesser Kiskadee
Another similar bird is the Boat-billed Flycatcher (Megarhynchus pitangus). It is also 8.5" in length, but has an even heavier bill than the Greater Kiskadee and lacks the rufous on the wings.

Boat-billed Flycatcher

The 4th similar bird is the Social Flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis). It is the size of the Lesser Kiskadee, but the crown and sides of face are dark brownish gray rather than black and the back is more olive.

Social Flycatcher
The last of this coloration is the Rusty-margined Flycatcher (Myiozetetes cayanensis). It is smaller still at 6", but has the black head, brown back and some rufous on the wings.

Rusty-margined Flycatcher
The Streaked Flycatcher (Myiodynastes maculatus) is another large (8") flycatcher. It is IDed by the streaked back and underparts and a rufous tail.

Streaked Flycatcher

The much smaller (5.5") but similar Piratic Flycatcher (Legatus leucophaius) lacks the streaking on the back and rufous tail. It has a much smaller bill as well.

Piratic Flycatcher
The Common Tody-Flycatcher (Todirostrum cinereum) is a tiny (4") bird with a black face, dark gray head and back and bright yellow underparts.

Common Tody-Flycatcher
The myiarchus genus is well represented in North America. The Panama Flycatcher (Myiarchus panamensis) has the typical coloration with a brown back, yellow belly and gray head and breast.

Panama Flycatcher

The Paltry Tyrannulet (Zimmerius vilissimus) is a tiny (4") flycatcher best IDed by voice. But it does have yellow wing edges and gray underparts that differ from other tiny flycatchers.

Paltry Tyrannulet
Elaenias are a group of small flycatchers that can be IDed by the median crown stripe on their head. The Forest Elaenia (Myiopagis gaimardii) can be IDed by narrow bill and yellow wing bars and wing edges.
Forest Elaenia

The Long-tailed Tyrant (Colonia colonus) is small (4.5") flycatcher with 2 elongated tail feathers (longer in males). It is black with a white stripe across the face and another down the back.

Long-tailed Tyrant

The Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) is gray with yellow underparts. It lacks the white tail edges of the Western Kingbird which is the only other bird of this coloration in Panama. Also, the notched tail is diagnostic. This bird occurs along the southern border of USA.

Tropical Kingbird

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2014 David McDonald

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