Birdwatching at Cerro Azul, Panama (pt. 1)
East of Panama City, and less than an hour away, you can find the private project Altos de Cerro Azul, a gated community located in the mountains within the Chagres National Park. Although the project has been developed for residential use, it remains surrounded by a tropical mountain forest and some trails to enter the forest. Being a private property requires special permits to visit, so we suggest contacting tour operators as Advantage Tours Panama, who gladly organized a guided tour and who took us on this occasion to make some shots. Most are holiday houses but some are occupied by retired expats.
Altos de Cerro Azul is located around 750 meters above sea level with a pleasant climate, it is secluded and quiet, with lots of tropical trees, plants and animals, which makes it very productive for bird watching and taking photos. Additionally, this location is the gateway to other areas around Cerro Azul and Cerro Jefe which rises to 1000 meters, the highest point in the capital of Panama.
As you may recall we rarely use feeders, blinds, or hides, but this time we went to Cerro Azul to make some video shots for a promo, so we just took advantage of the feeders that were already set in the houses we visited to guarantee the takes, and in the meantime made some pictures.
The Bay-headed Tanager (Tangara gyrola) is a vibrantly-colored bird that occurs in Costa Rica, Panama, and in much of northern South America. The Bay-headed Tanager commonly occurs found in the canopy of humid forest. They also inhabit nearby clearings with scattered trees, semi-open areas, and tall second growth forests. Their diet mainly consists of fruits, but they frequently eat insects. Like most tanagers, the Bay-headed Tanager is a very social bird, and typically forages in pairs or small groups that travel within larger mixed-species flocks. This species is highly variable geographically but generally the upperparts are green and the underparts are blue; the chestnut-red head is separated from the green back by a yellow to golden nuchal band. The intensity of color on the nuchal band and the color of the upper and underparts of the body vary among subspecies. Males and females are similar, but females are duller in color. In Panama it's fairly common in foothills and lower highlands from 600 to 1,600 m (2,000 to 5,300 ft).
Plain-colored Tanagers (Tangara inornata)
The Black-cheeked Woodpecker (Melanerpes pucherani) occupies a range, principally over the Caribbean slope of Middle America, where it is found from southern Mexico south to Panama, thence south through the Pacific lowlands of northwest South America to western Ecuador, from around sea level to 1,500 m (4,900 ft). The black-cheeked woodpecker feeds on insects, but will take substantial quantities of fruit and nectar, and hence could be found in feeders. It has black upperparts with white barring on the back, white spotting on the wings and a white rump. The tail is black with some white barring, and the underparts are pale buff-olive with a red central belly. There is a black patch through the eyes and on the cheeks, a yellow forehead, and a red nape. The crown is red in the male (as shown) and black in the female. In Panama it's found in middle and upper levels in forest, it's common on entire Caribbean slope and on the Pacific slope from the Canal Area eastward.
This Blue-black Grosbeak (Cyanocompsa cyanoides) was not visiting the feeders but was unceasingly singing nearby at middle level, so we approached and make some shots of him. This species of cardinals family is resident over much of Middle America and the northern two-thirds of South America, where it is widespread over forested lowlands, and is mainly found below 1000 m (3,300 ft). Females are basically deep chocolate-brown throughout, whilst males are largely deep blue, becoming paler blue over the eyebrow, malar, and shoulder region (as shown). It is only easily located by voice, and in Panama it's common on both slopes in lower levels of forest and woodland.
Hepatic Tanager (Piranga flava) is a species in the cardinals family that ranges from the southwest United States south to northern Argentina. Males are brick red to red-orange, and females (as shown) are olive-yellow, both secex are identified by the dark lores and dark bill. In Panama it's fairly common in foothills mainly from 600 to 1,350 m (2,000 to 4,500 ft).
Besides banana feeders, our hosts also had nectar feeders that, of course, attracts the lesser shy hummingbirds, and honeycreepers though honeycreepers may also take bananas besides nectar. Some of these species have already been featured on this blog before.
Blue-chested Hummingbird (Amazilia amabilis) - male
Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer (Chalybura urochrysia) hummingbird is identified by its pink feet and pinkish lower mandible. It's a fairly large hummingbird that inhabits the understory and middle levels of humid and wet forests edges where they primarily forage on flowers of large herbs and shrubs or flycatch. In Panama it's uncommon in lowlands on Caribbean slope, somewhat more common in foothills, on the Pacific slope in foothills in middle, eastern Panama, and in Darién, close to Colombia. Male is pictured.
Crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica) - male
Snowy-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia edward)
White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga mellivora) - female
Green Honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza) is found from southern Mexico to Brazil. This species from the tanager family occurs in the canopy of humid lowland forest. They can be found singly or in pairs and often forage as part of mixed species flocks. Green Honeycreepers consume mostly fruit although they also consume small insects and nectar. One of the most distinctive features of this species is the slender, slightly decurved bill, which is mostly yellow. The male (as shown) is a brighter, bluer green in color, with a broad black mask. Females are a duller, more uniform green. In Panama it's fairly common on both slopes to 1,200 m (4,100 ft), found in upper levels of forest and woodland.
Red-legged Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus) - male
Shining Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes lucidus) - female
Shining Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes lucidus) - male
Shining Honeycreepers are small tropical tanagers occurring from southeastern Mexico south to extreme northwestern Colombia. Are usually seen in small groups, often mixed with tanagers of a different genus. The male is deep blue and black, whereas the female is green above and buff or creamy below, streaked with light blue on the breast. Their main food is variety of fruit and insects and on nectar. In Panama it's fairly common in foothills and lower highlands on entire Caribbean slope, and on Pacific slope from eastern Panamá Province eastward, and uncommon and local on western Pacific slope.
Since we do not only care about birds, had the opportunity to photograph this lovely parent carrying his twins. Geoffroy's Tamarins (Saguinus geoffroyi) give birth to either a single infant or twins, and males contribute significantly to care of the infants.
Thick-billed Euphonia (Euphonia laniirostris) - female
Thick-billed Euphonia (Euphonia laniirostris) - male
The Thick-billed Euphonia (Euphonia laniirostris) is distributed from Costa Rica south to southern Amazonia. Despite its name, the size of the bill is of extremely limited use in the identification process. Males are mainly glossy steel blue with a yellow forecrown patch that reaches to just behind the eye, and bright yellow underparts including the throat. Females are, like those of most euphonias, much duller, being olive above and yellow below. In Panama it's common entire Pacific slope and on Caribbean slope from northern Coclé Province eastward, found in shrubby areas, cleared areas with trees, forest edge, and gardens.