Pipeline Road and surroundings - the best place for Panama Birds & Wildlife Photos of 2015 (pt. 4)

This part covers some little birds that can also be found in Pipeline Road, these are among the smallest, most colourful and most interesting birds of the forest. We are talking about hummingbirds and manakins. Disregarding they are two very different families, both families of birds occur only in the Americas, and are each one unique on their own. 


Hummingbirds are among the world's smallest birds, most species measuring in the 7.5–13 cm (3–5 in) range, they have long, thin bills and acrobatic flight, both adaptions for feeding on flower nectar, which they supplement with insects and other small invertebrates. They can hover in place and even fly backwards, the only birds able to do so. The brilliant iridescent colors of many species are produced by feather structure rather than pigment, and so are only apparent in the right light; otherwise the colors look blackish. This represents a great challenge when trying to photograph, especially if you are dependant on natural light, like we prefer to do.

They are restricted from south central Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, including the Caribbean. The majority of species occur in tropical and subtropical Central and South America, but several species also breed in temperate climates and some occur even in alpine Andean highlands at altitudes up to 5,200 metres (17,000 ft.)

Some species exhibit sexual dimorphism, in both plumage and size, as shown below.

Long-billed Hermit (Phaethornis longirostris)


White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga mellivora) - male

White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga mellivora) - female

 White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga mellivora) - male

White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga mellivora) is a large hummingbird that ranges from Mexico, south to Peru, Bolivia and south Brazil. It is also found on Tobago and in Trinidad. It is a widespread inhabitant of forest, usually being seen at a high perch or just above the canopy. It is less common at lower levels, except near hummingbird feeders. These birds usually visit flowers of tall trees and epiphytes for nectar, and also hawk for insects.

The approximately 12 cm long male white-necked jacobin is unmistakable with its white belly and tail, a white band on the nape and a dark blue hood. Females are highly variable, have green upperparts, white belly, white-scaled green or blue throat, and white-scaled dark blue crissum, or be intermediate between the aforementioned plumages, though retain the white-scaled dark blue crissum. Females are potentially confusing, but the pattern on the crissum is distinctive and not shared by superficially similar species. In Panama it's common in forest edge, adjacent clearings and canopy of forest, almost countrywide.


White-vented Plumeleteer (Chalybura buffonii) - male

White-vented Plumeleteer (Chalybura buffonii) is found in Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests, subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, and heavily degraded former forest.

A large hummingbird, the male has a metallic green body, dark wings and a blue-black tail. The namesake feature is a large patch of white undertail coverts. Bill is entirely black, as are the feet. The female is similar, but has an entirely white belly, chest and chin. In Panama it's fairly common in lower levels of forest in eastern Pacific slope and central Caribbean slope.


Crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica) - male

 Crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica) - female


Crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica) is found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical moist montane forests, and heavily degraded former forest. In Panama it's common in lower levels of forest in lowlands, less common in foothills.


Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl)


Blue-chested Hummingbird (Amazilia amabilis) - male

Blue-chested Hummingbird (Amazilia amabilis) is found in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Panama. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and heavily degraded former forest. Males and females have straight bills and bronzy-green or maroonish tails. Males have sparkling green crowns with a violet blue lower throat and chest. The throats of females twinkle with blue spots. In Panama it's fairly common in lower levels of forest on entire Caribbean slope and eastern Pacific slope.




Violet-bellied Hummingbird (Juliamyia julie) - male

Violet-bellied Hummingbird (Juliamyia julie) is found in Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Peru; it can occasionally be seen in Costa Rica. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests, subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, and heavily degraded former forest. In Panama it's fairly common in lower levels of forest on eastern part of the country from Coclé and Panamá Oeste provinces eastward.


Other species of hummingbirds that we have observed in Pipeline Road are: Stripe-throated Hermit, Black-throated Mango, Rufous-crested Coquette, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird and Purple-crowned Fairy.


Manakins on the other side are small birds that eat fruits and to a lesser degree insects, they primarily inhabit the understory of lowland forest and woodland, although a few especies occur at higher elevations. As stated above they only occur in the Americas but are restricted to the tropics. They range in size from 7 to 15 cm (2.8–6 in), they are compact stubby birds with short tails, broad and rounded wings, and big heads. The bill is short and has a wide gap. Females and first-year males have dull green plumage; most species are sexually dichromatic in their plumage, the males being mostly black with striking colours in patches, and in some species having long, decorative tail or crown feathers or erectile throat feathers

Many manakin species have spectacular lekking courtship rituals, which are especially elaborate in the genera Pipra and Chiroxiphia. The members of the genera Machaeropterus and Manacus have heavily modified wing feathers, which they use to make buzzing and snapping sounds.


Blue-crowned Manakin (Lepidothrix coronata) - female

Blue-crowned Manakin (Lepidothrix coronata) - male

Blue-crowned Manakin (Lepidothrix coronata) is found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and heavily degraded former forest. The males have a brilliant blue capFemale is noticeably blue-green in coloration. In Panama it's common on entire Caribbean slope and parts of the Pacific, in lower levels of forest.


Golden-collared Manakin (Manacus vitellinus) - male

Golden-collared Manakin (Manacus vitellinus) is exclusively found in Panama and western Colombia, and is known to hybridize with two congenerics, the White-collared Manakin (Manacus candei) in northwest Panama and the White-bearded Manakin (Manacus manacus) in Colombia, which evidence has been used sometimes to maintain all four Manacus as a single species. Males are very distinctive birds, a mixture of principally yellow and black feathering.


 Red-capped Manakin (Ceratopipra mentalis) - female 

Red-capped Manakin (Ceratopipra mentalis) - male

Red-capped Manakin (Ceratopipra mentalis) male is velvety black apart from a bright red head and nape, bright yellow thighs, and a pale yellow chin and wing linings. The female is olive green above, with paler, more yellow-green underparts. Both sexes have dull brown legs. The male's irides are white, while those of the female and young are brown.

While the adult male is distinctive, the female and youngsters can be confused with several similar species. The female golden-collared manakin is larger, and has orange (rather than brown) legs, while the female blue-crowned manakin is a brighter green (rather than olive).


These are the only three species of manakins that occur in Pipeline Road.

To be continued...