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Russet-winged Schiffornis (Schiffornis stenorhyncha)

Russet-winged Schiffornis is one of five species that formerly were united under the name Thrush-like Schiffornis (Schiffornis turdina); the other members of this group are Northern Schiffornis (S. veraepacis), Olivaceous Schiffornis (S. olivacea), Foothill Schiffornis (S. aenea), and Brown-winged Schiffornis (S. turdina). 

Russet-winged Schiffornis is a representative of this group that occurs from central Panama east across northern Colombia to western and northern Venezuela. All species in this group have similar, dull plumages, being primarily brown or olive brown, with paler underparts, and prominent large dark eyes. Although all members of the group also are poorly known, Russet-winged Schiffornis probably is one of the least studied members of the complex. This is a relatively low density species that occupies the understory of terra firme forests, most often foraging within 1-2 m of the ground, and typically is solitary. The clear whistled song is heard far more often than th…

Photographing birds at an army-ant swarm

Bicolored Antbird (Gymnopithys bicolor)


Eciton is a New World army ant genus that contains the most familiar species of army ants, being the most predominant and well-known species is Eciton burchellii, which is also more commonly known as the army ant. They are very visible because they forage above ground and during the day, in enormous raiding swarms. During a tour around Pipeline Road, we found one of these swarms and entered into it to grab pictures of several birds that were feeding at the swarm, obviously being very carefully of not stepping on the ants; not only to avoid harming them but also for our own safety. These ants are ravaging and their bite can be harmful to humans.


Gray-headed Tanager (Eucometis penicillata)

Eciton army ants have a bi-phasic lifestyle in which they alternate between a nomadic phase and a statary phase. In the statary phase, which lasts about three weeks, the ants remain in the same location every night. They arrange their own living bodies into a nest, protecting the queen and her eggs in the middle. When the eggs hatch, the excitement caused by the increased activity of the larvae causes the colony to enter the nomadic phase. In the nomadic phase the ants move their entire colony to a new location nearly every night for about two weeks, around the time when the larvae begin to pupate, the colony again enters the statary phase, and the cycle begins anew.


Whooping Motmot (Momotus subrufescens)

Because of the regularity and intensity of army-ants swarms, many insect and bird species have evolved complex relationships with these ants. While foraging, army ants cause many invertebrates to flee from their hiding places under leaves of the forest floor, under tree bark, and other such locations, thereby allowing predators to catch them more easily. For example, in the tropical rainforests of Panama, swarms of army ants attract many species of birds to this feast of scrambling insects, spiders, scorpions, worms, and other animals. Some of these birds are named “antbirds” due to this tendency. While focused on feeding on these invertebrates, birds at army-ant swarms typically allow very close approach by people—within 1 or 2 meters in many cases—often providing the best opportunities to see and photograph many of these species. Depending on the size of the ant swarm and the amount of prey the ants stir up, birds can number from a few to dozens of individuals. Birds that frequent army-ant swarms include the white-whiskered puffbird, rufous motmot, whopping motmot, rufous-vented ground cuckoo, gray-necked wood rail, plain-brown woodcreeper, northern barred woodcreeper, cocoa woodcreeper, black-striped woodcreeper, fasciated antshrike, black-crowned antshrike, spotted antbird, bicolored antbird, ocellated antbird, chestnut-backed antbird, black-faced antthrush, and gray-headed tanager. Some of which are pictured on this post.

Bicolored Antbird (Gymnopithys bicolor)

Bicolored Antbird (Gymnopithys bicolor)

Bicolored Antbird (Gymnopithys bicolor)

Bicolored Antbird (Gymnopithys bicolor)

Northern Barred Woodcreeper (Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae)

Northern Barred Woodcreeper (Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae)

Northern Barred Woodcreeper (Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae)


Northern Barred Woodcreeper (Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae)

Northern Barred Woodcreeper (Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae)

Northern Barred Woodcreeper (Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae)

Northern Barred Woodcreeper (Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae)

Plain-brown Woodcreeper (Dendrocincla fuliginosa)

Plain-brown Woodcreeper (Dendrocincla fuliginosa)

Spotted Antbird (Hylophylax naevioides) - male

Spotted Antbird (Hylophylax naevioides) - female

Spotted Antbird (Hylophylax naevioides) - female

Spotted Antbird (Hylophylax naevioides) - female

Spotted Antbird (Hylophylax naevioides) - male


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