Featured species: American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)

Months ago our photographer, Miguel "Siu", had a couple of American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) visiting his house at El Espino, San Carlos. They were mating and looking for a place to nest, so we decided to help, and built them a wood nest box but they decided to use a cavity in the top of the house instead. Unfortunately, it appears they either decided to nest somewhere else or the nest was not successful, and they left after staying several months in the area, apparently without been able to breed. 

During the months they stayed we made some pictures from time to time, and decided to feature them on this blog. They are not the only birds found in the area which is basically an open area with dry forests edge, and gallery forest, so we also made pictures of other birds that occur in this place.


The male American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) brings presents to the female

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is Panama's (and North America's) littlest falcon but don't be fooled, its small size packs a predator’s fierce intensity. It's also one of the most colorful of all raptors, the male’s slate-blue head and wings contrast elegantly with his rusty-red back and tail; the female has the same warm reddish on her wings, back, and tail, lacking the blue/grey wing. They hunt for insects and other small prey in open territory, usually perching on wires or poles. We observed them hunting young green iguanas (Iguana iguana) and anoles (Anolis sp.), specially the male, which then brought the preys to feed the female, trying to convince he was the proper one to mate and breed. 

 The female American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) can be identified by the lack of blue/grey wings.

American kestrels are cavity nesters, but they are able to adapt to a wide variety of nesting situations. They generally prefer natural cavities (such as in trees) with closed tops and tight fitting entrances, as to provide for maximum protection of the eggs and young. Kestrels occasionally nest in holes created by large woodpeckers, or use the abandoned nests of other birds. They have been recorded nesting on cliff ledges and building tops. American kestrels also commonly utilize nesting boxes.


American Kestrel's breeding range extends from central and western Alaska across northern Canada, and south throughout North America, into central Mexico and the Caribbean. It is a local breeder in Central America and is widely distributed throughout South America. In Panama it's supposed to be a rare resident breeder, and breeding have been recorded in Chucantí. Unfortunately, this breeding in San Carlos was unsuccessful or a least we couldn't record success. Two populations meet in Panama, one migrating from North America and one from Colombia and South America but my observations indicate that the South American sub-species could be establishing in Panama.



Barred Antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus) is a sexually dimorphic songbird that is abundant in its range from Mexico to Argentina. It is commonly found in dense thickets and forest edge habitat. The upper plumage of the female (as shown) is a cinnamon-rufous color and the breast is lighter ochraceous-buff.


Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway)


Blue-black Grassquit (Volatinia jacarina) is a small bird in the tanager family, Thraupidae. It breeds from southern Mexico through Central America, and South America as far as northern Chile, Argentina and Paraguay, and on Trinidad and Tobago. This is a common bird in semi-open areas, including cultivation and gardens.

They have a slender conical black bill. The male (as shown) is glossy blue-black, with a black tail and wings; the white inner underwing is visible in flight or display. Female and immature birds have brown upperparts and dark-streaked buff underparts.

Lesser Elaenia (Elaenia chiriquensis) nestlings almost ready to leave the nest

Maybe the kestrel's nest was not successful but there were other species nesting on Miguel's house, one of these species was the Lesser Elaenia (Elaenia chiriquensis), a species of bird in the Tyrannidae family, the tyrant flycatchers, which is found in Argentina, Aruba, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Netherlands Antilles, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. Its natural habitats are dry savanna, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, subtropical or tropical seasonally wet or flooded lowland grassland, and heavily degraded former forest. In Panama it's fairly common on Pacific slope eastward to eastern Panamá Province, uncommon on Caribbean Canal area, found in scrub, second growth, and open areas.

Lesser Elaenia (Elaenia chiriquensis) fledgelings after leaving the nest

Lesser Elaenia (Elaenia chiriquensis) feeds on berries and insects. On the series of photos above an adult can be seen feeding the young with "nance" (Byrsonima crassifolia) and a bunch of winged termites.


Panamanian Flycatcher (Myiarchus panamensis) 


Yellow-olive Flycatcher (Tolmomyias sulphurescens) ranges from southern Mexico south to northeastern Argentina; across this large region, it is a resident in a variety of habitats, but always is associated with forest and forest edge. The Yellow-olive Flycatcher has a broad bill; a pray or dark olive crown; and dark auriculars, which usually surround a paler central spot. There are at least 16 subspecies which exhibit subtle variations on this basic appearance; these subspecies also often differ in voice and to sometimes in habitat. In Panama it's uncommon on entire Pacific slope and on Caribbean in western Bocas del Toro, northern Coclé and western Kuna Yala, found in middle levels of dry forest, gallery forest, and woodland.