Panama bird species #1002: White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi), and then some)

In February 2016, Sociedad Audubon de Panamá released the latest edition of its official checklist of the Birds of Panama, which now includes 1002 species of birds recorded in the country. 

Unfortunately, this list includes a lot of species that are vagrant, accidental, possibly extirpated and only present temporarily due to human assistance, making it very difficult to register them all in pictures; disregarding the fact that there are another large quantity that are restricted to certain areas not easy to access, and are scarce or hard to see. 

The latest addition to the list was the White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi) which was recorded for the first time in our country precisely in February, at the banks of Gatún Lake close to Gamboa. As usual with this kind of records, a lot of avid and committed birdwatchers went ASAP to see the new species and add it to their "lifelist".

The hype was such that we even heard about a birder that didn't care about flushing the bird to get an in-flight picture just to have an original and different picture. Of course, we at Panama Birds & Wildlife Photos do not endorse that kind of practice. We waited until the initial hype passed and approached the site with a photo blind to avoid flushing the bird. Disregarding this, the area was already impacted by a fisherman that was standing on the bank of the lake, and the ibis flushed. We went to other places to make pictures, giving time to the bird to return. This was even better because we took advantage of the softer sunset light.

The White-faced Ibis returned, and this time it was not alone. It was accompanied by the congeneric Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), our hide was perfect and we could procure the pictures below of the White-faced since the Glossy was flushed by its larger cousin disputing the feeding territory.

White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi) - non-breeding plumage

White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi) is a dark wading bird with a long, down-curved bill. It's similar in appearance and habits to the Glossy Ibis, the two species can be distinguished only by slight differences in coloring of the face and legs. The Glossy Ibis has dark eyes and face, and black legs. Adults White-faced Ibis have red eyes and brighter coloured, redder legs.

Its breeding range extends from the western United States south through Mexico and northern Central America, as well as from southeastern Brazil and southeastern Bolivia south to central Argentina, and along the coast of central Chile. Its winter range extends from southern California and Louisiana south to the rest of its breeding range. In Panama its he first time to be recorded as a vagrant species.

 Type of photo blind we use to hide from wildlife


Some pictures we made while we waited for the ibis are below:

Barred Antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus) - male


Broad-billed Motmot (Electron platyrhynchum)


Whooping Motmot (Momotus subrufescens)


Brown-capped Tyrannulet (Ornithion brunneicapillus)
This fledgeling was found on the ground just beside a walking trail but we confirmed it was still under parent care (adult was bringing food from time to time), so we let it alone. The picture and video below were made from more than 3 meters away (9.8 feet) with a 500mm lens, and we did not disturb neither the chick nor the parents. This was the first time we see an adult of this species at low level of forest since they are most easily detected by their call from the canopy.




Heliconia flower (Heliconia sp.)


At close range or in good light, adult Little Blue Herons (Egretta caerulea) have a rich purple-maroon head and neck and dark slaty-blue body. They have yellow eyes, greenish legs, and a bill that is pale blue at the base, black at the tip.


Rusty-margined Flycatcher (Myiozetetes cayanensis)


Slaty-tailed Trogon (Trogon massena) - male, moulting to adult