Pipeline Road and surroundings - the best place for Panama Birds & Wildlife Photos of 2015 (pt. 6)
We are almost done with our special report about the Pipeline Road, and once again we return to the understory of the rainforest. Some of these pictures required being in the right place at the right time (we don't like to call it luck). In some cases light conditions were very poor; slow shutter speed, a sturdy tripod and a fast burst were required, and of course lots and lots of patience. Some of these birds might not be as colourful as others (a beautifulness standard for some) but overcoming the single challenge of getting them photographed was rewarding.
Lets start with some more antbirds we have found at Pipeline Road but that are not always easy to see exposed since they inhabit the understory thickets and adjacent tall second growth. Fortunately, they are found especially at edges and clearings which makes areas like borders of the Pipeline Road a place to find them commonly. Although, we already mentioned in previous posts that antbirds tend to follow ant swarms that's not necessarily the habit of all of them. To various degrees, only around eighteen species all over the Neotropics specialise in following columns of army ants, and many others may feed in this way opportunistically. Most species of antbirds feed in the understory and midstory of the forest, foraging for insects and other arthropods as the most important part of their diet but also will take small vertebrates. Antbirds are monogamous, mate for life, and defend territories, therefore, usually can be found in couples.
Unfortunately, thirty-eight species are threatened with extinction as a result of human activities. The principal threat is habitat loss, which causes habitat fragmentation and increased nest predation in habitat fragments.
Dusky Antbird (Cercomacra tyrannina) - female
Dusky Antbird (Cercomacra tyrannina) - male
Spot-crowned Antvireo (Dysithamnus puncticeps) is found in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama. Its natural habitat is lower levels of subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. It is the only antvireo with a streaked crown and pale eye, which are present in both sexes (female pictured). It inhabits the understory and is easiest to detect by checking through mixed flocks or listening through its song. Actually, we detected she in a mixed flock with Checker-throated and Dot-winged Antwrens. We were able only to make a portrait shot because the rest of the body was blocked by leaves but she was very cooperative remaining still for some minutes. In Panama it's uncommon on entire Caribbean slope and parts of the Pacific slope.
Fasciated Antshrike (Cymbilaimus lineatus) is found widely from southeast Honduras to northwest Venezuela and south through Colombia to northwest Ecuador, as well as across virtually all of Amazonia and the Guiana Shield. Its natural habitat is lower and middle level of subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. Males have a black crown and otherwise wholly black and white-barred plumage, with red eyes, while females (pictured) possess a russet crown, while the remainder of the plumage is barred dark brown and yellowish brown, with red eyes too. The bill is heavy with a relatively strongly hooked tip. They forage through vine tangles and other dense vegetation. In Panama it's fairly common on entire Caribbean slope and eastern Pacific slope. We observed a couple but the male was very shy and secretive, hiding very well behind vegetation.
The word "tinamou" comes from an indigenous term for these birds, "tinamu". It's one of the most ancient living groups of birds, and are found in Mexico, Central and South America. They are generally sedentary, ground-dwelling and, though not flightless, when possible avoid flight in favour of hiding or running away from danger. They are found in a variety of habitats.
Although some species are quite common and active during the day, tinamous are shy and secretive birds, and they generally have cryptic plumage. They are opportunistic and omnivorous feeders, consuming a wide variety of plant and animal food from fruits and seeds to worms, insects and small vertebrates. They are heard more often than seen.
They have been extensively hunted by humans. However, the main threat to their populations is from habitat destruction through land clearing and agricultural development. Seven species are listed as vulnerable and another seven as near-threatened. Often translocated and easily bred in captivity, they have never been successfully domesticated.
Great Tinamou (Tinamus major) also called mountain hen or locally "gallina de monte grande" is found in Central and South America. There are several subspecies, mostly differentiated by their coloration. It is approximately 44 cm (17 in) long, 1.1 kg (2.4 lb) in weight and size and shape of a small turkey. It's color enable great tinamou to be well-camouflaged in the rainforest understory. As a matter of fact, we passed next to this motionless big bird without detecting it, especially because it was standing on a very shaded area, for some reason the tinamou decided to shook, revealing its location. It was shy but remained visible through a big window in vegetation, letting us to make lots of pictures before it decided to continue its foraging. In other visits we were able to spot Little Tinamous too, they remained still but the dense vegetation made it impossible to photograph. In Pipeline Road only these two species of tinamous can be found. In Panama the great tinamou is common on entire Caribbean slope and parts of the Pacific slope.
Now we continue with the trogons and quetzals' family (Trogonidae). The word "trogon" is Greek for "nibbling" and refers to the fact that these birds gnaw holes in trees or termite nests to make their nests. Trogons are residents of tropical forests worldwide but the greatest diversity is in the Neotropics, where at least 24 species occur. In Pipeline Road five species of trogons can be observed, even all of them on the same day. They are: White-tailed, Gartered, Black-throated, Black-tailed, and Slaty-tailed Trogons, all of which are from common to fairly common.
They feed on insects and fruit and are arboreal, as their broad bills and weak legs reflect. Trogons are generally not migratory, although some species undertake partial local movements (Resplendent Quetzal for example). Trogons have soft, often colourful, feathers with distinctive male and female plumage.
Slaty-tailed Trogon (Trogon massena) - female
Slaty-tailed Trogon (Trogon massena) - male
White-tailed Trogon (Trogon chionurus) - female
The following birds have been previously featured on this blog HERE and HERE but we never miss an opportunity to share with you our newer (and better) photos:
Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher (Terenotriccus erythrurus)
Southern Bentbill (Oncostoma olivaceum)
Plain Xenops (Xenops minutus)
At last but not least we have a Scaly-throated Leaftosser (Sclerurus guatemalensis), a bird found on or near ground of lowland forests, it's a member of the ovenbirds and woodcreepers family present from the Caribbean slope of southern Mexico south through Central America to eastern Panama, northwestern Colombia, and northwestern Ecuador; it also occurs on the Pacific slope of southwestern Costa Rica and northwestern Panama. It forages noisily in the leaf litter, flicking leaves aside with its long thin bill. They are difficult to observe, in this case the leaftosser was quiet but we were able to spot it by its movement, and were able to photograph part of it since vegetation got in the way. In Panama the scaly-throated leaftosser is uncommon.
We are close to finish our special report which, as explained before, covers only our latest incursions in year 2015 at Pipeline Road, and by no means represents a complete compendium of all the species we have been able to observe and photograph there.