Saturday, October 24, 2015

Bulletin 239 - Ecuador #3 - large non-passerines

This bulletin will look as some large birds that, for the most part, are seldom seen by birders. They are in 4 families, herons, tinamous, cracids and screamers.

The heron is common throughout South America (SA). The Striated Heron (Buteroides striatus) is the counterpart in SA to our Green Heron. He is brownish and not rufous backed like his northern cousin.

Striated Heron
The 36" Horned Screamer (Anhima cornuta) was a life bird for me. The screamers are a family of just 3 species, all in South America. Despite their chicken-like appearance, they are most closely related to ducks and geese. They have partially webbed feet and nest near water. An unusual feature unique to screamers is the fact that they have air cells under the skin that can be inflated. Wikipedia says these air cells makes the birds unattractive as a food source. However, another source states that this species is hunted for food and is very good eating. Anyway, on the Pacific slope, they are limited to a remnant population in a preserve south of Guayaquil where we saw a pair of them. I was able to get close enough to see and photo the bird and the white horn. The guide book states that the horn can be 'surprisingly hard to see in the field'.

Horned Screamer
The tinamous are another New World family of 47 species of ground dwelling chicken-like birds. Again, these birds are very secretive and hard to see well. I got my first photos of a tinamou in Costa Rica this year. Some places feed, and have blinds to observe, these birds and Copalinga Lodge provided one. It was truly an experience to see 2 different species 20 feet away in the space of 15 minutes.

The 18" Gray Tinamou (Tinamus tao) is found in Amazonia and listed as very rare on the eastern slope. It is unusual in coloration as most tinamous are brown.

Gray Tinamou
The 9" Little Tinamou (Crypturellus soui) is listed as common and has a huge range from Mexico to Brazil. However, despite being common, the guide book states that they are 'exceptionally difficult to see' and are most often heard. For the most part they are all brown, but the birds in northern Peru and southern Ecuador have gray heads as does this bird. I saw this species in Costa Rica, but was unable to get a photo.

Little Tinamou
Lastly, the cracids (not crackheads) are large pheasant like game birds in the New World. There are 55 species and one occurs in south Texas with the rest in the tropics.They have 3 different names chachalacas, guans and currasows. There are about an equal number of each in the family.

The 23" Rufous-headed Chachalaca (Ortalis erythroptera) occurs on the west slope in Ecuador. A pair of birds hung around the lodge at Buenaventura.

Rufous-headed Chachalaca
The 20" Speckled Chachalaca (Ortalis guttata) occurs on the east slope in Ecuador. A family group came to the banana feeders at Copalinga Lodge. This one was showing off his tail.

Speckled Chachalaca
The 34" Crested Guan (Penelope purpurascens) is found on the west slope in Ecuador. This one was at Buenaventura where the guide says it is rare, despite being in a protected preserve.

Crested Guan

The Sickle-winged Guan (Chamaepetes goudotii) occurs on both slopes with a marked size difference that strikes me as peculiar. The west slope birds are 21" and the eastern slope birds are 25" in length. They occur at 2700 to 8000' elevation. They have a bare blue skin on the face. This bird was at the Copalinga Lodge on the east slope.

Sickle-winged Guan

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2015 David McDonald

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bulletin 238 - Ecuador #2 - Warblers and Vireos

The parulidae family of birds is the New World warblers. These are favorites of many birders around the world who come to see the spectacle of spring migration on the Gulf Coast and other inland locations as millions of these small birds make their way north to breed.

The IOU currently lists 120 species of warbler, but 2 species are likely extinct. The number of species has grown in the last 20 years through splits. The Yellow-rumped Warbler and Adelaide's Warbler were both split into 3 species and the Yellow-throated Warbler into 2 species. Several species have been removed and reclassified as well. Currently the Sibley's Guide lists 50 species that occur in North America and there are a few vagrants that pop up along the Mexican border from time to time.

I have photographed 64 of them. On the Ecuador trip, I got 7 new species and 6 were lifers.

The Olive-crowned Yellowthroat (Geothlypis semiflava) is olive above, yellow below and the male has the typical black mask.

Olive-crowned Yellowthroat - male

The Myiothlypis genus has 17 species of warblers. All but one are confined to South America. I photographed 4 of them. The Buff-rumped Warbler (Myiothlypis fulvicaada) also lives as far north as Honduras and this is the one that I had seen before but never photographed.

Buff-rumped Warbler
The Citrine Warbler (Myiothlypis luteoviridis) is olive above, yellowish below and has a bright yellow arc over the eye. This one was a surprise as I didn't know I had the photo until I got home. Anyone who has birded in the tropics will have seen these mixed flocks that suddenly show up and there may be a dozen active birds of 8 or more species. When that happens, I just try to get several photos of the birds while the guide is also trying to ID them. We didn't have this on the checklist at the end of the day, so he didn't see it.

Citrine Warbler
The Black-crested Warbler  (Myiothlypis nigrocristata) is olive above, streaked yellow below and has a black crown. He also has a black line through the eye.

Black-crested Warbler
The Gray-and-gold Warbler (Myiothlypis fraseri) is easily recognized by his name. He has a gray head and back and bright yellow underparts. This bird along with the Buff-rumped Warbler above were right outside the lodge at Buenaventura.

Gray-and-gold Warbler

The Spectacled Redstart (Myioborus melanocephalus) was in the mist in the cloud forest at Tapichalaca. He has a black head with rufous crown, gray back, and yellow underparts and spectacles.

Spectacled Redstart
The final species was the Three-banded Warbler (Basileuterus trifasciatus). It is olive above, yellow below and has a striped head and face

Three-banded Warbler
To see all of the warblers I have photographed, go to the Warbler family section with this link.

The vireo family has 63 species all but 10 of which are in the New World. Most of them are rather drab. I photographed 2 new ones on the Ecuador trip.

The first is the Rufous-browed Peppershrike (Cyclarhis gujanensis). I first saw this bird in my initial visit to the tropics in Belize in 1993 and the name always stuck in my head. I was pleased to finally get a photo of it. It is colorful with olive back, yellow throat and rufous above the eye. He has a very thick bill as well.

Rufous-browed Peppershrike

The Olivaceous Greenlet (Hylophilus olivaceus) is olive above, yellow below and a bright orange eye.

Olivaceous Greenlet
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2015 David McDonald

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Bulletin 237 - Best of 10 years - Tanagers

The tanager family (thraupidae) is a large New World family of 368 species. Many of them are brightly colored and most are in the tropics. The famous Darwin's 'finches' of the Galapagos are also tanagers. Unfortunately, except for a couple of vagrants, there are no longer any tanager family birds in North America, as the Scarlet, Summer and Western Tanagers have been reclassified and placed in the cardinal family.

These photos have been taken over the past 2 years in Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Caribbean. The Crimson-collared Tanager is perhaps my favorite of the tanager photos.

Crimson-collared Tanager - male
The Blue-Gray Tanager is found widely in the tropics and most birders have seen it. It is also readily attracted to banana feeders.

Blue-gray Tanager
Another blue one is the Masked Flowerpiercer. He is distinctive with his red eye and black mask.

Masked Flowerpiercer - male
The Red-legged Honeycreeper is an even brighter blue. This is another very common bird in the tropics.

Red-legged Honeycreeper - male
Among yellow birds, the Saffron Finch is a bird of South America, but it has also been introduced in Hawaii where this photo was taken.

Saffron Finch - male
The Golden Tanager is another South American bird. 

Golden Tanager
The Silver-throated Tanager is yellow with a silver throat and black streaking on the back.

Silver-throated Tanager

The male Green Honeycreeper is almost iridescent. The black face and yellow bill confirm the ID. The birds in Ecuador like this one are more a blue-green then green.

Green Honeycreeper - male
The Green-and-gold Tanager is mostly green bodied with black streaking.

Green-and-gold Tanager

The Bay-headed Tanager is a sentimental favorite of mine. On my first trip to Costa Rica in 1994, it was one of the birds on the cover of the Costa Rica bird book, so I was familiar with the colors. On the first morning of the trip, we drove to a national park and the first bird I saw when I stepped out of the van was one of these!

Bay-headed Tanager
Lastly is the Hispaniolan Spindalis. This is one of 4 Caribbean species that was split from what was known as the Stripe-headed Tanager until the split about 15 years ago. I got a nice photo with him eating a berry.

Hispaniolan Spindalis - male
I hope that everyone gets a chance to visit the tropics and see some of these beautiful birds.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2015 David McDonald

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