Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Bulletin 244 - Best of 10 years #10 - New World tropics

The sheer diversity of birds in the New World tropics is staggering. 6 of the top 7 countries with the most species are in South America. Columbia is number 1 at 1934 species or almost 1 in 5 of all the birds in the world can be found in that country!  Brazil has 1850 and Peru is number 3 at 1844. Ecuador comes in at #5 with 1686, followed by Bolivia at 1431 and Venezuela at 1414. Indonesia is the only country outside South America to make the top 5 at number 4 with 1724 species. China and India are number 8 and 9. We all think of the wonderful wildlife in Africa and for mammals that is true, but the Democratic Republic of Congo is the only one in the top 10 with only 1186 species.

There are 2 'A' words to explain this..Andes and Amazon, leading to so many different ecosystems and habitats. There are several families of birds that are only in the New World tropics such as toucans, tinamous, trumpeters, screamers, antbirds and relatives, cotingas and many others.

I have had the pleasure of birding in Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador and Guatemala in the last 2 years. So here are some of my favorites from these countries. Many have already appeared in Bulletins, but a few from haven't yet. So here are a dozen of my favorites. All will be confined to the New World families unless noted.

Toucans are perhaps the best known family of birds from the tropics due to the breakfast cereal Fruit Loops that has a toucan as the mascot. My best photo is a Collared Aracari.

Collared Aracari

Parrots are worldwide, but the largest parrots are, of course, the macaws. They are confined to the New World. The only macaw I have photographed so far is the Great Green Macaw.

Great Green Macaw

Jacamars look like large hummingbirds with their long pointed beaks. Here is the Rufous-tailed Jacamar.

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

The motmots are plump birds and most are distinguished by a long racquet tail. Here is the Rufous Motmot.

Rufous Motmot
The cracidae family includes chachalacas, guans and currasows. The 36" Great Currasow is probably the largest. The male has a curly feathered crest and large yellow knob on his bill.

Great Currasow - male

The cotingas are a family of songbirds that contain several unusual looking birds. One of these is the Andean Cock-of-the Rock. The male is orange with dark wings and tail. He has a large crest and even his bill is orange and difficult to see in this photo.

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock
Tinamous are chicken like birds of the forest floor. Generally they are shy and difficult to see, but in Ecuador at Copalinga, they had a feeding place and blind so this Little Tinamou was in the open, 20 feet away.

Little Tinamou

Puffbirds are a family of large headed birds who sit quietly waiting to spot a lizard or large bug. This is the White-whiskered Puffbird.

White-whiskered Puffbird
Manakins are small colorful songbirds noted for there elaborate courtship dances in which several related males perform to attract a mate. This is the male White-collared Manakin.

White-collared Manakin - male
Antpittas are small tailless looking birds that walk upright on the ground. Generally they are exceedingly difficult to see. This Jocotoco Antpitta came to a feeding station in Ecuador.

Jocotoco Antpitta
Trogons and Quetzals are a small worldwide family of colorful birds. Most of them are in the New World tropics and the most famous and beautiful is the Resplendant Quetzal. The male has long tail feather plumes.

Resplendant Quetzal - male

New World Warblers are in the temperate climates as well as tropics of the New World. This Pink-headed Warbler photographed recently in Guatemala is the prettiest one I have yet found. The photo is made even more artistic as the sky behind the leaves was pink at sunrise.

Pink-headed Warbler

Lastly is a Black-and-white Owl photographed in Ecuador. This is my most amazing photo ever as the grasshopper in its mouth is facing the camera and in focus. It is my first owl photo with some prey in its mouth.

Black-and-white Owl
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2015 David McDonald

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