Pechiamarillos, the yellow underpants birds of Panama

The Pechiamarillo

Pechiamarillo or pecho-amarillo is a vernacular term to refer to several common large Tyrant Flycatchers that occur in Panama and have yellow underpants. Of course there are a lot of birds that could fit that description of being yellow-chested but usually it refers to a particular abundant species, the Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) also known localy as "pitirre".

The Tropical Kingbird live near us, in cities and parks but also inhabit savannas and forest edges. It's geographical range extends from the southwestern United States to central Argentina, and on Trinidad and Tobago. Different regional names include: pepite in  Peru, sirirí in Argentina and Bolivia, and  suiriri in Brasil and Paraguay. An adult tropical kingbird is 22 cm (8.7 in) long. The head is pale gray, with a darker eye mask, an orange crown stripe, and a heavy gray bill. The back is grayish-green, and the wing and forked tail are brown. The throat is pale gray, becoming olive on the breast, with the rest of the underparts being yellow.

 Tropical Kingbirds are frequently seen on wires




Perched, observing his surroundings


It's simply one of the most conspicuous and widespread birds in Panama, found in open areas, forest edge and clearings, and urban areas. It's frequently seen perched on roadside wires as seen above. They like to observe their surroundings from a prominent open perch, usually high in a tree, undertaking long sally flights to acrobatically catch flying insects in mid-air (hawking), sometimes hovering to pick food off vegetation (gleaning). They also eat some fruit.

These birds aggressively defend their territory against intruders, even from much larger birds such as toucans, caracaras, falcons or hawks.

But as mentioned above there are several species that sometimes are confused with the "official" pechiamarillo. Disregarding the fact that there are a lot more birds in different families that have a yellow breast or chest I will focus on the tyrants that resemble the Tropical Kingbird and are often confused at least by neophytes as I was sometime ago.


Rusty-margined, Gray-capped and  Social Flycatchers (Myiozetetes genus)

These three species closely resemble each other and can be confused, especially where ranges meet; Rusty-margined and Social meet in central Panama and Chiriquí , while Gray-capped occurs almost countrywide.


The Rusty Margined Flycatcher (Myiozetetes cayanensis) is disntinguished by:
  • Crown and sides of head that strongly contrast with brown back.
  • Lack of wing bars.
  • Orange to yellow crown patch (usually concealed).
  • White superciliaries do not completely encircle crown.
 Rusty-margined Flycatcher - yellow crown is observed



 Usually found near water. Above at Calamito lake and Summit Ponds

It's found in shrubs and other low vegetation, usually near water but in Darién it extends to open areas away from water.


The Social Flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis) is distinguished by:
  • Dark brownish gray (instead of black) crown and sides of head, showing little contrast with olive back.
  • Shorter bill.
  • Indistinct wing-bars due to pale edging on wing coverts.
  • Crown patch is vermilion but is usually concealed too.
  • White superciliaries do not completely encircle crown.


 Social Flycatcher


It's found in open areas with trees, forest edge, second growth, shrubby areas and gardens.


The Gray-capped Flycatcher (Myiozetetes granadensis) resembles Social Flycatcher but is distinguished by:
  • Gray crown and nape with blackish mask.
  • White superciliaries usually extend only to just behind eye.
  • White mostly restricted to throat and front.
Gray-Capped Flycatcher,
In this case superciliaries extend way beyond eyes but 
the gray crown and nape are diagnostic.

The Kiskadees (Pitangus genus)

This is a genus composed only by two species. Lesser Kiskadee occurs from central Panama eastward, and Great Kiskadee occurs throughout the country. While size, as their names imply, is the main difference there are other characteristics to consider, including different calls.

The Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) is found throughout the country in trees in open and semi-open areas and in parks and gardens, often near water. Has a variety of raucous calls including the "kis-ka-dee" that I assume gives birth to its common English name. It's distinguished from other pechiamarillo tyrants by:
  • Stout bill.
  • Brown back.
  • Rufous in wings and tail.
  • White superciliaries that completely encircle crown around back of head.



Great Kiskadee at Gamboa Resort


Lesser Kiskadee (Pitangus lictor) occurs in lowlands, in shrubs and trees on the margins of lakes, ponds, marshes and slow moving rivers and streams. Sharing habitats with Rusty-margined Flycatcher. It can be identified and differenced by:
  • Smaller than Great Kiskadee
  • Smaller and more slender bill
  • Distinguished from Rusty-margined by longer bill
  • white superciliaries  that completely encircle crown around back of head.

 Lesser Kiskadee at Panama Rainforest Discovery Center




Boat-billed Flycatcher

The Boat-billed Flycatcher (Megarynchus pitangua) is the only member of its genus. It resembles a Great Kiskadee to which it's similar in size but differs in:
  • Broader and heavier bill.
  • Olive back.
  • White superciliaries narrowly separated at back of head.

Boat-billed Flycatcher in the canopy at Finca Ceriana

At Summit Ponds

It's common throughout the country even on higher altitudes, found in middle and upper levels of forest edge, woodland, and nearby clearings, but I have seen them near water too.


Panama Flycatcher,  Great Crested Flycatcher, and Dusky-capped Flycatcher (Myiarchus genus)


Panama Flycatcher at dry forest in San Carlos (El Siu Mae trail)

Panama Flycatcher at Coiba Island

Disregarding its name, the Panamanian Flycatcher or Panama Flycatcher (Myiarchus panamensis) is found in Colombia, Costa Rica and Venezuela too. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests, subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical mangrove forests, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, and heavily degraded former forest. It differs from Tropical Kingbird in:
  • Paler yellow underpants.
  • Slight crest.
  • Tropical Kingbird has gray crown that contrasts more with olive back.


Great Crested Flycatcher at Cerro Ancón

The Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) is similar to Panama Flycatcher but is more crested, has rufous on wings and tail, and lower underpants are brighter and more contrasting with gray chest.


Dusky-capped Flycatcher at Finca Ceriana

Dusky-capped Flycatcher at Altos del María

The Dusky-capped Flycatcher (Myiarchus tuberculifer) is distinguished by smaller size and its blackish cap. It prefers forest, and it's found in middle and upper levels, and in canopy.


Golden-bellied Flycatcher 

The Golden-bellied Flycatcher (Myiodynastes hemichrysus) is an endemic in Costa Rica and western highlands of Panama.

This species is found in western foothills and highlands, typically between 700 to 1850 m altitude, in middle and upper levels of forest edge and adjacent clearings. The white malar stripe (below the eye) with dusky submalar below distinguishes it from other large flycatchers with yellow underpants.

Golden-bellied Flycatcher in the "bajareque" at Bajo Mono

White-ringed Flycatcher

The White-ringed Flycatcher (Conopias albovittatus) is the northwesternmost representative of the genus Conopias and only species of this genus found in Panama. It is found from eastern Honduras south to northwest Ecuador. Primarily yellow below and olive-green above, with darker wings, the crown is very dark with a largely concealed yellow patch, contrasting with white supercilia that meet on the forehead and nape, thereby forming a diadem, blackish ear coverts, and a white throat. It is an inhabitant of the canopy and borders of tall humid forest.




White-ringed Flycatcher in Emberá comarca near Darién