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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