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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…

Featured Species: Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans)

Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans)

The Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans) is a medium-sized bird of prey in the falcon family (Falconidae), and the only member of the genus Herpetotheres. It is a specialist snake-eater, found from both coastal slopes of Mexico through Central and South America south to the Peruvian Amazon and Bolivian Amazon region, practically all of Brazil, and northern Argentina and Paraguay, at altitudes up to 1,500 m (4,900 feet) (rarely to 2,400 m (7,900 feet) in Colombia), though it is often absent from mountainous regions. It occupies varied habitats, usually including at least scattered trees; it prefers humid regions to arid ones and tends to avoid closed forest.

Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans)

The laughing falcon is 46 to 56 cm (18 to 22 in) long. Adults have a pale buff head, changeable between a more brownish and an almost white hue according to feather wear and individual variation. This bandit is unmistakable with it's dark brown/black mask from the eyes around to the nape. The mask stretches across the neck as a narrow collar, bordered with white. On the crown, the feather shafts are dark, producing a somewhat streaked effect. The upper wings and back are blackish brown. The underside is uniformly pale buff; there may be a bit of dark speckling on the thighs, however. The iris is dark brown, the bill is black with a pale yellow cere; the feet are also pale yellow.

Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans)

It catches mainly snakes, including venomous ones such as coral snakes, and also lizards, and, to a lesser extent, small rodents, bats and centipedes. The laughing falcon pounces on its prey from flight, and then biting it just behind the head, sometimes removing the head in the process. It carries the food to a perch to eat.

Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans)

Its English name comes from its loud voice, as does the specific name cachinnans, Latin for "laughing aloud”. The generic name Herpetotheres refers to its preferred food; it is Latinized Ancient Greek, derived from herpeton "reptile" + therizein "to mow down”. The Ch'ol Maya of Chiapas, Mexico, believe that the laughing falcon can kill poisonous snakes because the birds are healers that can cure themselves if they are bitten. Tzotzil healers imitate the call of a laughing falcon in order to cure a snake bite.


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