Archive for February, 2013


February 28, 2013

ban-quit1 The tiny and boldly-colored, kinglet-like Bananaquit was seen nearly everywhere except the deep forest. This busy little fellow can feed like a hummer, gleans like a warbler and generally partakes of whatever’s on the menu at the moment. Fearless and active, the bird often came around at picture-taking time. Here he shares a necatr feeder with a hummingbird.

BAN-QUIT-X The bananaquit is found across rthe West Indies and Latin America. The bird is one of those taxonomic anomalies, sometimes lumped with warblers or else tanagers or put into a family of its own. So this bird with a big presence is about 4.5 inches in length. Lotta bird in small wrapper. This bird will be seen on almost all of PIB’s trips to Central and South America.

BARRD ANTSHRIK The BIRDS OF THE WORLD (JOhns Hopkins Univ. Press) describes antbirds thusly, “small to medium-sized, rather drab inhabitants of the lower parts of forest vegetation in the Neotropics.” Sorta true, but this bird, a Barred Antshrike is anything but drab. And he was in full sun briefly as he hunted through the tall grasses in a marsh just outside the old U.S. ammo dump, now part of Soberania Park near Gamboa, Panama. There are over 270 species in the antbird family and this seven-inch crested critter is one of the most boldly marked. The family lives across Central and South America only.




BLUE-HEAD PARR This is a Blue-headed Parrot, most often seen flying in screaming tandem across the skies. This was my one chance at a perched parrot within camera range. Several species of both parrots and antbirds are regularly seen on all of PIB’s Latin America birding trips. It may time to go and take your own pictures.


February 26, 2013

L=B HRN2L-B HRN1 Little Blue Heron working a plowed field in Panama Province along Pan-Am Highway, the same field where the caracara studied the large snake.LBLU HRN-X

laf flcn2This is the only time we were ever close enough to a Laughing Falcon to get a shot. One of the many raptors we saw in Panama where most are seen outside the rainforest in grasslands, savannah or around lakes and rivers. We even saw one Osprey sitting on a small piling in the mudflats of Panama City. Of course, we saw Roadside Hawk in the forest as well as along the highway where its name tells you to look for it.
Altogether our Panama trip brought us 20 species of raptor, 7 of them falcons.

laugh flcn

LONG TAIL CRKDLong-tailed Tyrant, seen along highway in eastern Panama. We later saw the Fort-tailed Flycatcher as well and I have the pictures to prove it. We saw twenty species of tyrant flycacthers on the Panama trip, including two kiskadees and two tityra species, pictures in future blogs.



February 25, 2013

The competition for survival in nature is non-stop. In temperate climates it is often slow-moving and unseen. In the tropics where heat and water and more plentiful and the biomass is several times greater than in most of the U.S., the competition is often very evident. Strangler figs reaching the canopy by killing the host tree. Long lines of army ants or leaf-cutter ants moving along the forest floor, carrying their bounty. Army ants are killers, leaf-cutters harvest leaves that they feed to their fungus farm which in turn feeds the ants. An insect version of an Iowa corn and soybean farm. On our way east along the Pan-American Highway, somewhere west of Lake Bayano in Panama, we came across a lareg grassy field being disced by a man on tractor. The grass and weeds were well-established so the animals living in that field had their cover blown. Here is one sequence of a Yellow-headed Caracara trying to get up the courage to attack a large blue-gray snake uncovered by the human on tractor:P1470828








Later one of the many Turkey Vultures present flew in and shooed the much smaller caracara away. we did not see the final result for the snake, which may or may not have been injured by the tractor and disc. There were numerous caracara working the worked field and a Peregrine even came by to check the action, but it didn’t linger. Most of the birds int he field were Black and Turkey Vultures, clearly pleased by the results of the discing. Little Blue and Tricolored Herons and Great Egrets walked near the tractor to get first shot at what was turned up.
To see Yellow-headed Caracara and witness the natural processes that are so intense in the Neotropics, you can join one of our birding trips to Panama or other Latin American destinations.


February 24, 2013

The tanagers of Latin America are abundant, come in numerous colors and species and are varied in habits and habitat. One small branch of the family tree bears the honeycreepers. Behold:fedr disputeThese are male Red-legged Honeycreepers, but what you notice is the rich blues of their shiny plumage. They are about the size of a White-crowned Sparrow.
feeder crowd
The drab bird i nthe back is a female of the species, much easier for herr to hide when sitting on a nest. He’s always obvious to possible predators as well as the females who must value show in their mates.feedr trio1

grn honeycrpr This is the male Green Honeycreeper.




You can see these two species and a couple dozen more tanagers on one or our trips to Panama. In addition there are many other tanagers awaiting your visit to Costa Rica, Columbia and Ecaudor. Check out our itinerasries at the Partnership for International Birding website.


February 18, 2013

Some birds are curious, others impressive in some way, some simply beautiful. Panama has many in each category. Here’s an impressive and a beautiful:



JACAMAR2 ASessive one-year old Harpy, the largest of the eagle species on Earth. This bird will not be mature until at least three years of age, like Brown Pelicans or larger gulls. Then below that is the colorful, and beaatiful, Rufous-tailed Jacamar.
Then there is this modest-sized woodpecker who gets a lot of good looks into a small package. And we got good looks at his good looke even though this is a bird that;s hard to see in Panama. Range maps show the Spot-breastd has very limited distribution:




Here’s our curious, the Fort-tailed Flycatcher: FORK-TAILD
And here’s the equally curious Spot-crowned Barbet: barb face

All these birds are seen on our PIB birding trips to Panama. The Harpy is found on the extension into the rugged but amazing Darien National Park beyond the end of the Pan-American Highway.


February 13, 2013

Crimson-crested Woodpecker, one of a pair of 15-inchers in the Parque Metropolitano here in Panama City.
CMN TODY1 Small but unforgettable Common Tody-Flycatcher in same park. Far better than any political tody I ever met.
MAG FRIG UP There were numerous Magificent Frigatebirds over the harbor while dozens of Brown Pelicans fished and nearly as many ships lined up to pass through the canal.

saffron finchbAs in Hawaii the Saffron Finches have been brought here from South America, and thrive.

Tropical Mockingbird.
Tomorrow we head east to Darien Province, beyond the reach of even the Internet. I will next blog when we’ve been re-internetted.


February 7, 2013

“Wisdom,” the famous Laysan ALbatross who is over 60 years old, has fledged another chick today on Midway. By now she must have multiple generations of progeny out there over the Pacific. Read all about it.
Science used to believe that older female birds lost their fertility with age. And we must presume her mate(s) over the last decade or two have been much younger males.
The Laysan ALbatross has suffered from human peresecution, hunting and as colateral damnage from fishing. They are especially prone to being caught by longline fishing at sea. Many Laysan males commute from Midway and nearby islands to the North American Pacific Coast to feed and then return to disgorge rich fish oil to mate and nestling. It’s a round-trip of four thousand miles or more over two weeks or longer.
You probably won’t see “Wisdom” herself, but Laysan Albattross are often seen among the common Black-footed Albatross on pelagic trips off the Northern California Coast. Check out our California birding itinerary.