A dirty job, Part 2 (Bird photography at Chepo, Eastern Panama)

Do you remember one of our latest adventures at the mudflat near Chepo? Well, as promised now we will show you other species we found in the nearby areas, which are mostly open areas with scattered trees and streams. As you might recall this area is located in the eastern part of the Panamá Province and fields here are mostly used for cultivation and cattle ranch.


 Great Black-Hawk - adult

 Great Black-Hawk - inmature

The Great Black-hawk (Buteogallus urubitinga) is a bird of prey in the the family Accipitridae, resident and  breeding in the tropical America, from Mexico through Central America to Peru, Trinidad and northern Argentina. It resembles the Common Black-hawk, but is larger with a different  tail pattern, and a very different call. In Panama is uncommon on both slopes and found in upper levels of forest, usually near water but so less than Common BH. As a matter of fact these two individuals were close to the mudflat and flooded land.

The adult Great BH reaches 64 cm and has very broad wings, and is mainly black. The short tail is white with a broad black tip. The bill is black and the legs and cere are yellow. The sexes are similar, but immature birds are dark brown above with spotting and streaks. Their underparts are buff with dark spots, and the tail has a number of black and dusky bars. The call is a distinctive piping ooo-wheeeeee as can be heard on our video here.





The Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans), also called the snake hawk (erroneously, since it is not a hawk), is a medium-sized bird of prey in the falcon family (Falconidae), the only member of the genus Herpetotheres. It is a specialist snake-eater. Its common and scientific specific names both refer to its distinctive voice, a loud resonant joyful or sad sound, similar to human maniacal laughter or sad cry; and his generic scientific name refers to their prefered food (herpeton = reptile).

The laughing falcon reaches 56 cm long. Adults have a pale buff head, changeable between a more brownish and an almost white hue according to feather wear and individual variation. The unmistakable broad black face mask stretches across the neck as a narrow collar. On the crown, the feather shafts are dark, producing a somewhat streaked effect. The upper wings and back are blackish brown. The uppertail coverts are whitish buff again, and the rectrices are barred black and whitish, ending in white. The iris is dark brown, the bill is black with a pale yellow cere; the feet are also pale yellow.

It is found from both coastal slopes of Mexico through Central and South America south to Amazonian Peru and Bolivia, practically all of Brazil, and northern Argentina and Paraguay, at altitudes up to 1,500 m (4,900 feet), rarely to 2,400 m (7,900 feet) in Colombia, though it is often absent from mountainous regions. It occupies varied habitats, usually including at least scattered trees; it prefers humid regions to arid ones and tends to avoid closed forest. It is generally not migratory, though in some areas it may make seasonal movements. In Panama its found in canopy of forest and in woodland and open areas with scattered trees; often perches conspicously on exposed branches as shown in pictures above.



 Shiny Cowbird - adult female or inmature

 Shiny Cowbird - adult male

 Shiny Cowbird - adult male

Shiny Cowbird - molting male

The Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis) is a passerine bird in the exclusive to the Americas family Icteridae. It breeds in most of South America apart from the most dense jungles, mountains and deserts (although spreading into these habitats as they are modified by humans), the coldest southernmost regions (e.g. Tierra del Fuego), and on Trinidad and Tobago. It has relatively recently colonised Chile and many Caribbean islands, and has reached the United States, where it is probably breeding in southern Florida. Northern and southernmost populations are partially migratory.

It is a bird associated with open woodland and cultivation. Like most other cowbirds, it is a brood parasite, laying its eggs in the nests of many other bird species. The host’s eggs are sometimes removed, and if food is short their chicks may starve, but larger host species are less affected

The male shiny cowbird is all black with an iridescent purple-blue gloss. The smaller female is dark brown in plumage, paler on the underparts. Juveniles are like the female but more streaked below.

This abundant and gregarious bird feeds mainly on insects and some seeds, including rice, and forages on the ground or perches on cattle. In Panama it's uncommon and local in lowlands of eastern Panama, found in pastures and other grassy, open areas. We were fortunate to find a flock of at least 20 individuals, they were very active, singing, bathing at puddles of mud, and getting tidied up at the branches of a cut down tree after the bath, they were on an open field being prepared, probably to be planted with rice.




The Smooth-billed Ani (Crotophaga ani) is a large near passerine bird in the cuckoo family. It is a resident breeding species from southern Florida, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, parts of Central America, south to western Ecuador, Brazil, and northern Argentina. This ani is found in open and semi-open areas under cultivation, fields, pastures and scrub. In Panama is common on both slopes to 1,500 m (4,900 ft), absent from Bocas del Toro and Caribbean slope of Ngöbe-Buglé and Veraguas.




The Whooping Motmot (Momotus subrufescens) is a colourful near-passerine bird found in forests and woodlands of eastern Mexico, Central America, northern and central South America, and Trinidad and Tobago. As presently defined, it includes several taxa that possibly should be recognized as valid species. These birds often sit still, and in their dense forest habitat can be difficult to see, despite their size. As a matter of fact, this individual was photographed in a dense gallery forest close to a stream, where we stopped when we saw a  Grey-necked Wood Rail, unfortunately the rail didn't posed for a picture but the motmot was very curious with our presence and collaborated getting somewhat out of the forest.   They eat small prey such as insects and lizards, and will also regularly take fruit. In Panama is fairly common on almost entire Pacific slope to 1,800 m (6,000 ft), and found in forest edge, gallery forest, and thickets and hedgerows in open areas. This race (or different species) found in eastern Panama is mainly rufous brown while the one found in western Panama is greenish on throat and lower belly and dull rufous on breast and upper belly.