Azuero's Painted Parakeet (Pyrrhura eisenmanni)
Our July expedition took us to Flores, in the south of Veraguas Province, Azuero Peninsula in search of the endemic sub-species (or species, depending on who you ask to) of Painted Parakeet, known as Azuero Parakeet.
To photograph this bird I traveled along with my wife and Kees from Tanager Tourism (http://tanagertourism.com) and Heliconia Inn (http://hotelheliconiapanama.com) to a farm in the locality of Flores at the feet of Cerro Hoya, a National Park located in the southwestern tip of the Azuero Peninsula, on the Pacific coast of Panama in the mountains of Azuero, shared between the Tonosí district of Los Santos province, and Mariato district of Veraguas province.
The first day we arrived in the afternoon and waited for the parakeets until late. The parakeets were not heard nor seen. Day was cloudy, and cold for Panamanian standards, with very soft showers once in a while. During our wait, Kees found a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl which collaborated with pictures. Other birds seen around were: Groove-billed Ani, White-tipped Dove, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Gartered Trogon, Yellow-backed Oriole, and Great Green Macaws very far away in the "Cerro". We didn't move far from our spot because we were expecting the parakeets to arrive and we wanted to be ready to shoot.
This was the first time I've seen a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum) which is uncommon on western Pacific slope of Panama, and is usually active in daylight. As a matter of fact, I was playing a recording of its call to attract him or attract little birds that might approach when they feel threatened by the tiny owl's call. Maybe the playback worked to attract him. Considering the fact that perch and angle were not the best, I was able to get decent shots, and with 800mm got a nice close up of it looking at me over its shoulder.
This species is a small owl that breeds in south-central Arizona in the United States, south through Mexico and Central America, to South America into Bolivia and Argentina. It is found in a wide range of semi-open wooded habitat. This species is crepuscular, but often hunts by day. It hunts a variety of birds, lizards, mammals, and insects. It can be readily located by the small birds that mob it while it is perched. It is small, typically 15 cm (5.9 in), and stocky with disproportionately large talons. The crown has elongated white/buff spots or streaks, the wing coverts have white spots, and the underparts are heavily streaked white. There are prominent white supercilia above the facial disc. There are two eye spots on the nape. Otherwise, its overall color is highly variable, ranging from grey-brown with a black-and-white barred tail to rich rufous with a uniform rufous tail. The call is easily imitated, and is used by birdwatchers to attract small birds intent on mobbing the pygmy owls. In Panama it's found in lowlands, in scrub and thickets in open areas.
On the second day we started earlier, by 7:30 am we were at the waiting spot having a nice breakfast prepared by Loes (I love her homebaked bread, it's simply awesome). We remained without novelties, watching or hearing the same birds than the day before plus an Orange-collared Manakin. Until 9:00 am when a flock of Azuero Parakeets were heard approaching us with their noisy calls at wing. I was ready to shoot if they decided to stop by the fruiting trees in front of us but... they didn't stop, they decided to continue to the forest.
I was pretty sure that they stopped not so far, so Kees and I entered a trail while we hear them making very intermittent sounds. Kees spotted them and I was able to make horrible shots, then I decided to find another angle from outside the forest. I was able to make better shots but I'm still not so happy with these results. I will have to wait until next year when they are seen in the area again because this is a long and expensive trip. After 10 hours of road round-trip and about $300 in expenses these are the shots I got:
The Painted Parakeet (Pyrrhura picta) [endemic subspecies eisenmanni pictured] is restricted to forests in northern South America (north of the Amazon River) and Panama. Overall, this species remains widespread and relatively common but the situation for the taxa in north-western South America (caeruleiceps and subandina) and Panama (eisenmanni) is more problematic, as all have restricted distributions within regions with extensive habitat destruction, and are also threatened by capture for the parrot trade.
The taxon eisenmanni known as Azuero Parakeet, a national endemic for Panama, is believed to have a population around 2000 individuals. It remains locally uncommon, and a part of its very limited range is within the protected area of Cerro Hoya National Park. It's considered to have species status by some authorities like BirdLife International but not by AOU. Its population is considered very small and confined, and undergoing a continuing decline owing to habitat loss and degradation. The taxon has therefore been classified as Endangered.
Other photographic records during this trip:
Green Iguana (Iguana iguana) in breeding season
Red-breasted Blackbird (Sturnella militaris)
Scaly-breasted Hummingbird (Phaeochroa cuvierii)
Yellow-backed Oriole (Icterus chrysater)