Saturday, April 30, 2022

Blue-Gray Tanager

The blue-gray tanager has a distribution through most of northern South America, Central America and up into southern Mexico. It has a light bluish head and underparts, darker blue upperparts and a shoulder-patch with a varied color depending on which of the 14 subspecies are represented. Even the bill, legs and feet seem to be a version of bluish-black. 
Blue-gray tanager at Amagusa Preserve in Mashpi.

Different subspecies have different colors, particularly on the shoulder-patch. The subspecies in Tobago (T. e. berlepschi) has a brighter and darker blue on the rump and shoulder; the subspecies in northern Venezuela, Trinidad, eastern Colombia and northern Brazil (T. e. neosophilus) has a violet shoulder patch; the subspecies in the southern Amazon basin (T. e. mediana) has a white wing patch; and the subspecies in the northern Amazon (T. e. cana) has blue shoulders. The subspecies I saw (T. e. quaesita) in southwestern Colombia, western Ecuador and northwestern Peru has a turquoisish-blue shoulder patch. 
Blue-gray tanager at Milpe Bird Sanctuary outside Mindo. 

It is widespread and common throughout its large range. For comparison, there are 516,939 observations and 11,864 photos of it on eBird. The black-chinned mountain tanager has has 3,992 and 415 and the glistening-green tanager has 5,627 and 374, respectively. 
Blue-gray tanager at Las Terrazzas de Dana in Mindo.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Crested Guan

Another bird that strikes my fancy, and I'm not quite sure why, is the crested guan. I'd never heard of a guan before and find out that there are many species of guan. I saw crested guans twice on our recent trip to Ecuador, once just outside the Milpe Bird Sanctuary (two of them) and once just outside of Mindo. 
This was my first view of a crested guan: two together high up on a tree. 

This reveals the chestnut rump, but also what appears to be chestnut going all the way up the back. 

There are three subspecies which I don't see delineated. They range from the coastal areas of upper South America (obviously quite a bit inland because Mindo is not near the coast), through Central America and up into Mexico, with a pretty heavy concentration in the Yucatan Peninsula away from the coast. 
This is the second crested guan sighting, just outside of Mindo. It was up in a tree eating some kind of fruit. I spotted it from the car, asked our guide to stop, and I got out of the car to get closer to it. 

It is described as having the general appearance of a turkey, with a small head, long strong red legs, and a long broad tail and is a game bird which also makes its comparison to a turkey apt. It is mostly dark brown with white spotting on the neck and breast, a rufous rump and belly, a bare red dewlap or wattle, blue-gray bare skin around the eye and a bushy crest which gives it its name. 
This close-up features the blue-gray bare skin around the eye, the red dewlap and the crest. 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Pale Mandibled Aracari

The pale-mandibled aracari is a toucan found in western Ecuador and Peru which is considered to be a separate species by some bird authorities and a subspecies of the collared aracari by other authorities (probably the majority). Other names for it I think are descriptive, including red-backed, red-rumped and scarlet-rumped aracari. That is all Wikipedia and eBird really have to say about it. If you go to eBird for collared aracari you don't get much more, but Wikipedia opens up a little bit. Wikipedia notes that the pale-billed is considered by some to be a subspecies, then goes into three subspecies that are subspecies and says nothing more about the pale-billed. However, some of the other names for the collared are appropriate, such as spot-chested, banded and ringed-aracari. 

Descriptive-wise, Wikipedia notes it has a "reddish-collar on the rear-neck" which gives rise to its name, black head and chest, olive-green upperparts, a red rump and upper tail. The underparts are bright yellow with a round black spot in the center of the breast, a red-tinted black band across the belly, chestnut thighs, bare black facial skin becoming ruddy behind the yellow eye, a dull yellow upper mandible with a black saw-tooth pattern  on the cutting edge and a black tip, a black lower mandible and green legs. 

Before I go on, I just have to say that I think this bird is the most beautiful bird I've ever seen. I am mesmerized by it. It reminds me of a native tribesman dressed for war, face and body streaked with paint. It is not just the colors, but the shapes. The black bullseye with radiating red, the serrated upper mandible, chestnut leggings, ornamental red behind the eye, bright yellow eye and the little bit of green sheen on the back. Beautiful may not be the right word. Perhaps handsome is better. 

Now, how this bird varies from the Wikipedia description. I don't see a reddish collar on the rear neck. It has a black head and chest, at least as much as photos for the real "collared" aracari, but the ruddy facial skin behind the eye which is barely visible in some photos I've looked at are huge sections of crimson skin in this bird, which nearly surround the eye and go almost to the back of the head, at least on one I saw, but not so much on another (perhaps a breeding trait). The dull yellow upper mandible with a black tip is much more brightly yellow on this one, with a bright yellow instead of black tip. The black lower mandible is transformed into a mostly yellow lower mandible with black toward the tip. The black spot in the center of the chest has substantial radiating red, much more than in the photos of other collared aracari. 
A good showing of the chestnut thigh, yellow rump, greenish feet and lack of red collar. 

I nice side view with the red rump, chestnut thigh, huge naked red skin behind and around the eye and the highly yellow bill with flashes of red, on both mandibles, at the base of the ill. 

This bird reveals the red back and substantially smaller naked red skin behind the eye

The center black spot and radiating red, surrounded by yellow, is one of the most distinctive features. 
Now I realize I've failed to say where I saw this handsome bird. It was at the Milpe Bird Sanctuary outside of Mindo in Ecuador. This one bird made that visit worthwhile, but we did see other wonderful birds in addition. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

White-Necked Jacobin

My favorite hummingbird of the many hummingbirds I saw in Ecuador was the white-necked jacobin. I saw them only at the Bird Sanctuary in Milpe, both times I visited. 
Admittedly, I was intrigued by the name "jacobin" which transports me back to the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror where the name was applied to terrorists, but came from their original association with Dominicans who were known as Jacobins. I can't find why the name "jacobin" was applied to this bird, but my best guess is that it is because the white belly and underparts of the bird look like the white habits of the Dominicans who wore black cloaks over a portion of them. Look at this photo of St. Dominic in his white habit partially covered by his black cloak. Doesn't he kind of look like this hummingbird?
St. Dominic with his white habit - photo from Wikipedia "Dominicans". 
I also loved this hummingbird because of the color of the males. Males have a beautiful deep-blue hood, above their white underparts, flashy green upperparts, like a very nice jacket, a white collar at the nape (which gives it its name), separating the blue head from the green back, and a mostly white tail. 

This photo shows the white nape that gives this hummingbird its name. 

Females are variable, but most have green upperparts, a blue-green throat and breast with white scales and white belly, and a mostly green tail with a blue end. 

Unlike most of the birds I've been looking at recently, the white-necked jacobin has a much broader range. It is found in most of the upper half of South America, through much of Central America and up into southern Mexico. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Rufous-Throated Tanager

This dive into the birds of the cloud forest in Ecuador has been remarkable for me and a realization of what a special place that is. Yet again, I am dealing with another species of bird that is Choco-endemic, that is, found only in the Andean cloud forest of Ecuador and Colombia. Again, Wikipedia and eBird have only a one paragraph description and of the four best photos on eBird, three were taken at Amagusa Preserve in Mashpi, where I saw these birds. Very little is known or written about these birds. Very few people have seen them. What a privilege to have entered their world for a magical day of bird watching.

The rufous-throated tanager has a mostly black head, black eye, beak, legs and feet and spots on its chest and underparts. The upperparts are also black, but outlined by greenish blue and greenish gold. It has a rufous throat and greenish blue and tan surrounds the black chest-spots. 

The back of the rufous-throated tanager to the left - a golden tanager to the right.