20 December, 2010

Band-backed Wren

Scientific Name: Campylorhynchus zonatus

Population Estimate: 500K to 5M

Range / Habitat: Year-round in lowland and higher-altitude moist forest from eastern Mexico to northern Ecuador.

Field Notes: Large wren, found high in trees. Loud, raucous call. Can be quite aggressive with one another. Distinctive in range with boldly streaked back, white supercilium, white chest with black spots, rufous belly.

Personal Notes: Seen (and heard!) most mornings at Chaa Creek Resort.

Lineated Woodpecker

Scientific Name: Dryocopus lineatus

Population Estimate: 5M to 50M

Range / Habitat: Year-round on both slopes of Mexico, through Central America and into northern Argentina in South America. It prefers lowland moist shrubland but is found in a variety of wooded habitats.

Field Notes: Large woodpecker with bright red crested head, plain black back, white stripe contiguous from bill down neck and sides. Belly is barred black and white. Larger Pale-billed Woodpecker lacks white stripe extending to the face, instead it forms a complete "V" in the back.

Black-bellied Whistling-duck

Scientific Name: Dendrocygna autumnalis

Range / Habitat: Found year-round on inland wetlands from both slopes of Mexico, through Central America and down to south-central South America. Rarely found in the southern US.

Field Notes: Distinctive duck in its region. Neck and legs long. Head grey. Neck, chest and back rufous. Belly black and prominent white patch in wings.

Personal Notes: Tend to hang out on farmland.

19 December, 2010

Magnolia Warbler

Scientific Name: Dendroica magnolia

Population Estimate: 30M

Range / Habitat: Breeds in coniferous forest throughout most of Canada. Winters in southern Mexico down through Central America.

Field Notes: Small songbird distinctive in breeding plumage with black mask, white eye crescents, yellow throat and underparts, white undertail coverts, black chest band and heavy black streaking down chest and sides. Basic plumage more muted as above with olive head and white eye ring, two white wing bars, faint flank streaks. Cape May Warbler similar but with rufous in the face.

Personal Notes: After several fleeting sightings the year prior in Mexico, we finally got several good shots of this warbler at Aguacate, Belize. Several years later we caught in breeding plumage (top) a little closer to home at Hok-Si-La Park.

Hooded Warbler

Scientific Name: Wilsonia citrina

Population Estimate: 4M

Range / Habitat: Breeds in deciduous forests of eastern US. Winters in lowland moist forest from southeastern Mexico down through Central America.

Field Notes: Small songbird with yellow face and underparts. Back olive. White spots in tail. Male with black hood and bib as above. Wilson's Warbler, which can overlap in the winter, lacks black bib and white tail spots.

Personal Notes: Identified by voice by our guide initially, and later seen as above, outside the entrance to Barton Creek Cave in Belize.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Scientific Name: Dendroica virens

Population Estimate: 10M

Range / Habitat: Breeds in coniferous forest of eastern Canada and northeastern US. Winters in moist forest regions of southeastern Mexico through to northern South America.

Field Notes: Small songbird with yellow face and black throat extending as streaks down sides of chest, contrasting with white belly. Back and crown olive, wings grey with two white wing bars. Several similar looking warblers can overlap in winter: Golden-cheeked Warbler has black crown and eye stripe. Hermit Warbler has bright yellow face and black restricted to throat. Townsend's Warbler has black mask and crown with yellow chest.

Personal Notes: Spotted at Tikal ruins.

Yellow-throated Vireo

Scientific Name: Vireo flavifrons

Population Estimate: 1.4M

Range / Habitat: Breeds in the deciduous forests of eastern US and Canada. Winters in tropical and subtropical lowland moist forest of southern Mexico through northern South America.

Field Notes: Small songbird with yellow head and throat contrasting with white belly and grey wings and back. Distinct yellow spectacles and two prominent white wing bars.

Ruddy Turnstone

Scientific Name: Arenaria interpres

Population Estimate: 460K to 800K

Range / Habitat: Circumpolar breeder in the Arctic tundra. Otherwise can be found on shorelines throughout the world, including New Zealand and Pacific islands.

Field Notes: Stocky shorebird with short, black bill, slightly upturned and bright orange legs. A harlequin-like pattern of black and white is characteristic in all plumages. The breeding plumage is even more dramatic with bright, rufous sides. Behaviorally, often seen turning over stones and shells.

Personal Notes: Though quite common throughout the world, always a lovely sight on our travels. 

Ocellated Turkey

Scientific Name: Meleagris ocellata

Population Estimate: 20K to 50K, Near Threatened status

Range / Habitat: Found in lowland moist forest of Yucatan, northern Belize, northeastern Guatemala.

Field Notes: Unmistakable. Named for the orange spots on the head. Very similar to Wild Turkey, though they do not overlap in range.

Personal Notes: Seen all over the place at Tikal, one of the few areas this near-threatened species is protected. Kristen couldn't get enough pics of these blokes!

Slaty-tailed Trogon

Scientific Name: Trogon massena

Population Estimate: 20K to 50K

Range / Habitat: Tropical and subtropical lowland moist forest from southeastern Mexico through to northern South America.

Field Notes: Males (top two photos) with green head, neck and back. Wings and tail slaty grey. Belly, eye ring and bill orange. Females and juveniles (bottom photo) have grey instead of green head, neck and back. Lack orange eye ring and top half of bill is dark. Elegant Trogon, Mountain Trogon, and Collared Trogon all have a white breast band.

Personal Notes: A common morning visitor at Chaa Creek Resort

Emerald Toucanet

Scientific Name: Aulacorhynchus prasinus

Population Estimate: 50K to 500K

Range / Habitat: Prefers tropical and subtropical higher-elevation moist forest, from southern Mexico, through Central America, to northern Venezuela and along the Andes as far south as central Bolivia.

Field Notes: Unmistakable as above.

Personal Notes: One of the highlights of our trip to Tikal.

Keel-billed Toucan

Scientific Name: Ramphastos sulfuratus

Population Estimate: 40K to 500K

Range / Habitat: Tropical and subtropical lowland moist forest from southeastern Mexico through Central America.

Field Notes: Unmistakable bird with large, rainbow colored bill. Distinctive in flight as well due to the bill.

Personal Notes: National bird of Belize. We spotted it in a variety of habitats: a papaya tree in a farmer's field (above), lowland forests and scrub forests just outside of roadside villages.

Wood Thrush

Scientific Name: Hylocichla mustelina

Population Estimate: 14M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Summers in the eastern US and into Canada. Winters in southeastern Mexico down through Central America. Prefers interior moist forest.

Field Notes: Secretive thrush of the forest floor. Back all brown, belly white with distinct black spots that extend to the belly. Distinctive song. Hermit Thrush with less distinct spots that do not reach the belly. Brown Thrasher with longer tail and streaks, not spots, on the breast.

Personal Notes: Above photo from Chaa Creek Resort in Belize. 

13 December, 2010

Yellow-winged Tanager

Scientific Name: Thraupis abbas

Population Estimate: 500K to 5M

Range / Habitat: In subtropical to tropical lowland moist forest from southeast Mexico to Nicaragua.

Field Notes: Medium-sized passerine with unmistakable plumage as above.

Personal Notes: Seen at Chaa Creek Resort, Belize

Crimson-collared Tanager

Scientific Name: Ramphocelus sanguinolentus

Population Estimate: 50K to 500K

Range / Habitat: Tropical to subtropical lowand moist forest, particularly at forest edge, from southeastern Mexico to Panama.

Field Notes: Unmistakable in its range, as pictured above.

Personal Notes: Seen fairly routinely at Chaa Creek

Mangrove Swallow

Scientific Name: Tachycineta albilinea

Population Estimate: 500K to 5M

Range / Habitat: Tropical and subtropical mangrove forest throughout Mexico and Central America.

Field Notes: Neck and underparts white. Head, back and wings blue to green. Distinctive white rump seen while perched and in flight. This white rump helps distinguish from Blue-and-white Swallow and Tree Swallow.

Personal Notes: Seen on Ambergris Caye and in Aquacate, Belize.

Wood Stork

Scientific Name: Mycteria americana

Population Estimate: 38K - 130K

Range / Habitat: Freshwater, brackish and salt marshes, often wooded. Ranges from western Mexico and southeastern US down to western Ecuador and northern Argentina.

Field Notes: Head and neck naked. Black primaries and secondaries prominent in flight, but covered by white when standing as below. Unmistakable in range.

Personal Notes:

American Redstart

Scientific Name: Setophaga ruticilla

Population Estimate: 25M

Range / Habitat: Favors second growth forest. Summers in Canada, eastern US. Winters in southern Mexico, Central America, northern South America.

Field Notes: Unmistakable warbler. Male is black above, white below with orange armpits, wing bar, and edge to the tail. Female shown in middle picture and juvenile shown below, grey above, white below with yellow where the male has orange. Frequently fans tail and spreads wings.

Personal Notes: This bird entertained us for a long time on a garbage can in Ambergris Caye, Belize.

White-whiskered Puffbird

Scientific Name: Malacoptila panamensis

Population Estimate: 50K - 500K

Range / Habitat: Resident breeding species in lowland forest from southern Mexico through Central America, into northern South America.

Field Notes: Typical puffbird posture as above. Chunky birds with relatively long tail, held closed. They sit motionless and silent for long periods of time and are frequently overlooked. Plumage of this species unmistakable for others in this range.

Personal Notes: Seen at Aquacate, Belize and Cararo National Park, CR.

American Golden Plover

Scientific Name: Pluvialis dominica

Population Estimate: 200K

Range / Habitat: Breeds in the Arctic tundra of North America. Migrates to central and southern South America for winter, where it prefers grasslands. Seen on marine intertidal flats on migration. Frequent vagrant to Western Europe.

Field Notes: Breeding plumage distinctive. Basic plumage as above. Pacific Golden Plover very similar in basic plumage but not in the area of the above photo. Grey Plover (also known as Black-bellied Plover) similar but wings do not project beyond tail. Eurasian Golden Plover a frequent vagrant but has a most distinct breast band, shorter wings, and shorter bill.

Personal Notes:

12 December, 2010

Red-billed Pigeon

Scientific Name: Patagioenas flavirostris

Population Estimate: 2M

Range / Habitat: Tropical and subtropical forest up to 1800m. Found on both slopes of Mexico, the Yucatan and down into Costa Rica.

Field Notes: Large, arboreal pigeon with pale bill on red base. Purplish head, neck and chest with slaty flanks, belly and undertail coverts. Tail dark grey.

Personal Notes: Seen at Chaa Creek Resort, Belize.

Montezuma Oropendola

Scientific Name: Psarocolius montezuma

Population Estimate: 50K to 500K

Range / Habitat: Subtropical lowland moist forest from southeastern Mexico through to Panama.

Field Notes: Large icterid. Unmistakable with orange tip to bill. Tail yellow underneath. Shape and flight may suggest Brown Jay. Chestnut-headed Oropendola smaller with all pale bill.

Personal Notes: Seen at Tikal Mayan ruins. We saw the related Chestnut-headed Oropendula while driving in the mountains between Arenal Lake and Monteverde in Costa Rica.

01 December, 2010

Yellow-tailed Oriole

Scientific Name: Icterus mesomelas

Population Estimate: 500K-5M

Range / Habitat: Ranges from the Yucatan and SE Mexico through Central America into northern South America. Preferred habitat is subtropical and tropical lowland moist forest, often swamp or mangrove forests.

Field Notes: Adult (top photo) is distinctive with yellow head, belly, rump, and outer rectrices. Mask, back, wings and tail black but with prominent yellow wing bar. Juvenile (bottom photo) distinguished by mottled olive and black back with yellow wing bar.

Personal Notes: Both seen at the Chaa Creek Resort.

29 November, 2010

White-tailed Kite

Scientific Name: Elanus leucurus

Population Estimate: 500K-5M

Range / Habitat: Found year-round on open grassland and pastures of California, Mexico, Central America and parts of South America.

Field Notes: Medium-sized hawk with white head, breast and tail with black shoulders, prominent when perched and in flight. Hovers over open land.

Personal Notes:

Ringed Kingfisher

Scientific Name: Megaceryle torquata

Population Estimate: 20M

Range / Habitat: Found in wooded wetlands on both slopes of Mexico through Central America and throughout all of South America.

Field Notes: Large, noisy and conspicuous blue kingfisher. Larger than Belted Kingfisher, with rufous extending to entire belly.

Personal Notes: Seen at Aquacate, Belize and again on Arenal Lake, Costa Rica.

Brown Jay

Scientific Name: Psilorhinus morio

Population Estimate: 2M

Range / Habitat: Resident on eastern slope of Mexico through the Yucatan and into Central America. Found primarily in subtropical and tropical lowland and montane moist forest but can also be seen on dry savanna.

Field Notes: Large, boisterous jay with dark brown head, bill, neck and back. Belly and undertail coverts white. Light morph shown above; there is also a dark morph with dusky belly and all brown tail. Like other jays in this region, juveniles have yellow bills and eye rings which disappear by the 2nd winter.

Personal Notes: Seen at Muyil ruins in the Yucatan and subsequently photographed at the Tikal ruins in Guatemala. Ubiquitous at Monteverde, Costa Rica.

Northern Jacana

Scientific Name: Jacana spinosa

Population Estimate: 500K-5M

Range / Habitat: Resident breeder from coastal Mexico through to Panama. Occasionally found in southwestern US. Also resident on Cuba, Jamaica and Hispanola. Found in wetland habitat.

Field Notes: Medium-sized wader with extremely long legs and toes for walking on top of floating vegetation. Adult plumage unmistakable as above. Juvenile with white underparts, brown back, white supercilium

Personal Notes: Seen mating in Costa Rica on a posh golf resort that DEFINITELY would not have approved of such actions in public.

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Scientific Name: Galbula ruficauda

Population Estimate: 500K-5M

Range / Habitat: Resident of southeast Mexico through Central America. Into South America as far as southern Brazil. Preferred habitat is subtropical and tropical lowland moist forest.

Field Notes: Jacamars are elegant birds with long bills and tails. This is the only jacamar in Mexico / Central America and so unmistakable in this range. Can be quite noisy. As with other jacamars, nests in holes in the ground.

Personal Notes: Seen several times (along with several howler monkeys) in a central Belize lowland forest with a lot of blowdown from hurricane Richard and, sadly, a fair amount of illegal logging. We saw this species a second time in Arenal Hanging Gardens, a female seen sitting on a nest at the end of a long hole in the ground.


Scientific Name: Jabiru mycteria

Population Estimate: 10K-25K, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Locally common in parts of the Yucatan, Belize, Guatemala. Resident down through South America with largest populations in Brazil and Paraguay. Prefers wetlands and seasonally flooded grasslands.

Field Notes: The largest flying bird in the Americas, males can stand 1.5m. Unmistakable.

Personal Notes: We were fortunate to witness this breeding pair constructing a nest at Aquacate in Belize. There had not been been a breeding pair at this site for several years.