Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan

The chestnut-mandibled toucan is considered a subspecies of the yellow-throated toucan by some, but considered a separate species by others because their mitochondrial DNA differs by 1.35%. It is found from southeastern Honduras to western Ecuador. It is one of the largest species of toucan. 

The inside of the bill is bright red. 

The head, lower breast and upper parts are mainly black with maroon overlays; the face and upper breast are bright yellow with a thin red line on the throat; the upper tail is white; the lower abdomen is red; the legs are blue; it has a massive bicolor bill divided diagonally with yellow on top and chestnut on the bottom; and the skin on its face around the eye is light green.  

We saw several of them at the Milpe Bird Sanctuary outside Mindo, the same area we saw two other species of toucan. Seeing toucans was a highlight of our trip to Ecuador for me. It is a bird I've always wanted to see in the wild. 

Monday, May 23, 2022

Crowned Woodnymph

A stunningly beautiful hummingbird I saw only at the Milpe Bird Sanctuary near Mindo was the crowned woodnymph. I don't know who came up with some of these hummingbird names, but this one could come right out of Lord of the Rings and a Bilbo Baggins adventure. 
There are seven subspecies through a range from Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela up through Central America to southern Mexico. Hummingbird colors are tricky because they change so much with light. The males I saw had a head and breast that ranged from shiny forest green to an iridescent aqua. The underbody was a deep violet to shiny deep blue. 

The female had an emerald green upperbody and crown, a white throat and chest, darker wings and some blue scattered on the wings, belly and back. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022


From some of the limited-range Choco-endemic species we saw I shift to a very common bird with a wide range that I'd never heard of and only saw one of. The bananaquit is found in the upper two-thirds of South America, more heavily represented in the east, up through Central America into southern Mexico, and into the Caribbean. eBird has 451,968 observations and 10,407 with photos. It has 41 subspecies and there is quite a bit of variation between some of the subspecies. 

We saw only one at the Milpe Bird Sanctuary outside Mindo, Ecuador, but it was very unusual in that it was constantly at a hummingbird feeder and competing with and surrounded by many hummingbirds. The one I saw had a white eyebrow, yellow underparts, a gray back, a whitish throat, a slightly decurved bill, and some white on its wing. It was quite small and cute and I'm surprised it is part of the tanager family.  

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Smoke-Colored Peewee

Given all of the extraordinary colorful birds we encountered in Ecuador, and particularly in the Mindo area, we were bound to have some "ordinary" birds. The smoke-colored peewee was one of those. It is almost uniformly gray, and my photos that were kind of dark just emphasize that grayness. 

Despite the name it is a flycatcher and is found in Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil. I saw just one at the Mashpi Amagusa Preserve in Ecuador. 

Friday, May 20, 2022

Long-Tailed Sylph

The long-tailed sylph is a species of hummingbird found along the outer edges of northern South America (although going quite far inland) from Bolivia to Venezuela. 

Males, which I saw, are quite a bit different than females. There are six subspecies. I saw Aglaiocercus kingii emmae, which is found in northwestern Ecuador to southwestern and north central Andes of Colombia and different subspecies have different characteristics. Compared to the nominate subspecies, found in the eastern Andes of Colombian, this subspecies has a slightly longer bill, is a paler and duller green, and has a bright green throat. 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Brown Inca

The brown inca is a Choco-endemic hummingbird found in the cloud forests on the western side of the Andes in Ecuador and Colombia. 

The upperparts are bronze; a greenish-olive lower back; a bronze forked tail; dull brown underparts; a white patch on each side of the breast; a white spot behind the eye; and an amethyst throat or gorget which is usually difficult to see. eBird has 11,245 observations, but only 600 of them with photos. I saw one at Amargus Preserve in Mashpi, Ecuador. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Bronze-Winged Parrot

I saw one bronze-winged parrot at Mashpi's Amagusa Preserve. Julia, my bird guide, was frantically waiving me over to her and pointing high up in a tree. A "bronze-winged parrot, a bronze-winged parrot, a bronze-winged parrot." I couldn't really see it well, it was a dark outline, but her mentioning it over and over stuck it in my brain, and my photos, lightened up, review a beautiful bird.  
It is found in Ecuador, Colombia, and small portions of Venezuela and Peru. It is mainly a deep purple-blue with bronze wings; a yellow bill and throat; a pinkish-red neck or upper chest; red under-tail feathers; under-wings of light blue; and pink bare skin around the eyes. 

It is quite a distinctive bird and I wish I'd gotten a better look at it. eBird lists 25,614 observations but only 602 with photos, so I guess I'm not the only one having a hard time getting good photos. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Violet-Tailed Sylph

The violet-tailed sylph is another of the glitzy hummingbirds of Ecuador. It is another Choco-endemic bird, found only in the cloud forests of the western Andes in western Ecuador and Colombia. 

The male has a shiny green crown and back that becomes violet-blue on the rump, a buffy spot behind the eye, a violet-blue gorget (upper throat or breast) and green underparts. The inner tail feathers are short and the outer ones are very long and forked with iridescent metallic violet and blue tips.  
None of these are great pictures of males, but several of them do catch the length and color of the long tail. 

The female is very different. She has a glittery blue crown and a white spot behind the eye, a white throat with green spots which is separated from an orange belly by a white band.  

Monday, May 16, 2022

Toucan Barbet

Another favorite bird is the toucan barbet which looks like a patchwork quilt. It is Choco-endemic, found only in the cloud forest of the Andean slopes in western Ecuador and Colombia. It is near-threatened because it has been trapped for the bird trade as well as due to habitat loss. It is more closely related to the toucan than the Old World barbets, but it is not as large as the small toucans, like the toucanets. eBird records 11,274 observations and 913 photos. 

It has a heavy yellow bill with black tips, not anywhere as big as a toucan, but heavier than a tanager. It has a red iris; a white stripe behind the eye; a black crown; a gray-blue throat, upper breast and sides of the nape, almost like a long beard; a golden-brown nape that becomes more yellow toward the rump; a red lower breast and mid-belly, a yellowish-green lower belly and blue-gray tail and wings; and light green feet and legs. The female is nearly identical to the male, but is less bright and the tuft on the black plumage of the nape.