Birdwatching at Cerro Azul, Panama (pt. 2): In search of the Rufous-Crested Coquette (Lophornis delattrei)

Weeks after (May 2016) our first visit we returned to the community of Altos de Cerro Azul with only one target in mind: the Rufous-Crested Coquette (Lophornis delattrei). As mentioned on the previous post we were able to observe and photograph this species in our first visit. Unfortunately, it was high, far, and looking backwards, so the picture was not very good. We also saw this species on the garden of Río Indio Lodge without opportunities for pictures, and you might already had seen our old (and bad) pictures from Pipeline Road. 

The Rufous-crested Coquette (Lophornis delattrei) is a species of hummingbird (Trochilidae family), found in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Peru. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical moist montane forests, and heavily degraded former forest. Its flight is rather beelike and individuals tend to favor high perches. The coquettes are hummingbirds in the genus Lophornis, these are all tiny, and males are noted from their colourful crests and markings

This time we got the tip that a male individual was visiting on a regular basis a different feeder than the ones previously visited. So we travelled to the spot with the expectation of getting better pictures. At our arrival we set our gear and waited for this little hummingbird, which with a maximum of 7 cm (2.75 in.) and flight style resembles a large bumblebee. It took a lot of time until he finally showed up, he fed on the less crowded nectar feeder, rapidly perched for fractions of a second on a tree nearby and left the place. Everything happened so fast that we only saw it without being able of make pictures.

The good news: the coquette was indeed still visiting the place so all we had to do was stay and wait for more photos opportunities. The bad news: he was very shy and given his smaller size it's apparently intimidated by the other hummers. It took long periods between each visit and he stayed for a very short time after each feeding. Sometimes just fractions of a second but luckily sometimes he stayed for a couple of seconds allowing us to make a burst of photos. The perch was high but we were on a second floor, therefore getting closer to the perch.

In the end it took us several hours waiting and shooting, with the best results between 11:15 am and 12:15 pm when he stayed for enough time on each visit to capture his plumage from different angles. The main challenge was being fast enough to focus and shoot once the coquette perched but the perch was not always the same, by the end of our endeavour he was favouriting certain leaves. The second challenge was getting the details of the gorget which appears brilliantly green when sunlight hits it in certain angle. We didn't considered in-flight shots because feeders were too close to us to be able to shot with a super-telephoto lens, and photos in a artificial feeders are not really attractive unless you are able to get the shot of the bird separated from the feeder.  The third challenge, was actually the inconvenience of rain.

Below you can observe a selection of our pictures of this beautiful male, the female was not observed on location. Male has short straight orange-red bill, tipped black; with a long rufous filamentous crest. It also shows a conspicuos white band across the rump. You have to be aware that due to its remarkably similarities in appearance to the Spangled Coquette (L. stictolophus), not present in Panama, a lot of photos found on Internet of Rufous-crested Coquettes are actually Spangled Coquettes wrongly labeled, and there are even Tufted Coquettes (L. ornatus) pictures also wrongly labeled.

After securing several shots at 700mm focal length (500mm + 1.4x), we passed to 1000mm (500mm + 2x) or the equivalent to 1600mm in our cropped sensor camera. With this configuration we had to focus manually, and above you can see how at certain angle the gorget glows.

On the same position but with different angle the gorget appears darker.


In Panama the Rufous-crested Coquette is rare and local, found in lowlands, and somewhat more numerous on foothills, from Ngöbe-Bugle Comarca eastward to Colombia, in forest edge and adjacent clearings.


Of course this was not the only species we observed during the working day so in the meantimes we were waiting, we took the opportunity to photograph other visitors to the area like the ones below.


Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) - juvenile

Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola)
Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) is a species of bird of uncertain relation. It is tentatively placed in the tanager family, but classified as incertae sedis by certain authorities. It inhabits a variety of habitats from scrubland to tropical lowland forest edge, from the Antilles and Mexico south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. In Panama it's widespread and common.

This female Black-throated Mango (Anthracothorax nigricollis) was passing by after the rain but not visiting the feeders.

A very handsome cockroach (Paratropes bilunata)

Euphonia (Euphonia sp.) - female


 Red-legged Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus) - female

 Red-legged Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus) - male

Red-legged honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus) is a bird in the tanager. It is found from southern Mexico south to Peru, Bolivia and central Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, and on Cuba, where possibly introduced. The red-legged honeycreeper is has a medium-long black, slightly decurved, bill. The male is violet-blue with black wings, tail and back, and bright red legs, a turquoise crown, and the underwing, visible only in flight, is lemon yellow. After the breeding season, the male moults into an eclipse plumage, mainly greenish with black wings. Females and immatures are mainly green, with paler, faintly streaked underparts. The legs are red-brown in the female, and brown in young birds. It's common throughout most of the country.


Snowy-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia edward)


On our way to Cerro Azul with our gear in the motorcycle

We made a new friend; Peanut unfortunately passed away weeks later. He was making this face because was scared of thunders