Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Still around... thorntails and others

On november 24 I went back to Cerro Azul, east of Panama city, this time with Osvaldo Quintero and Osvaldo Quintero Jr, in order to relocate the Green Thorntails that have been around since last saturday, first noticed by Rosabel Miró. Again, we arrived in the afternoon, around 4:00 pm. The activity around the tree with the white flowers at the parking lot was low, but soon we found the first hummingbirds but no thorntails. After five long minutes I saw it again (well, I saw its tail again), elegantly flying around the flowers and even perching in order to suck the nectar. This time, it was not so showy, nor so agressive, and was keeping a low profile, with long periods of time without seeing it at all. The female (only one this time) was shy also. Again, its preference for the canopy of the tree, and the poor light conditions (plus the fog) made difficult to photograph it... so this time I concentrate in the others species attending the same tree. Perhaps, the most interesting hummingbird of the group (apart of the thorntails, of course) was the Violet-capped Hummingbird. The female that I picture here may look extremely ordinary at first glance (please note the hint of dull reddish chestnut in the rectrices)... but this species is near-endemic to Panama, barely reaching extreme NW Colombia. The beautiful males are less often spotted than the females, specially around Rosabel's house in Cerro Azul, but are somewhat commoner at higher elevations (Cerro Jefe, Cerro Chucanti). If you don't see the deep reddish-chestnut tail, you can still recognize this beauty by its particular green irridiscence at the back, quite different from that of any other hummingbird in range. Even the history of this little friend is quite interesting, being described by E. W. Nelson as a monotypic species (Goldmania violiceps) and named in honor of Mr. Edward A. Goldman, who collected the type specimen from the higher slopes of Cerro Azul nearly a hundred years ago during one of his Smithsonian Biological Surveys in the Canal Zone and adjacent parts of Panama. By far, this is the easiest place to see this species in the world!! They are adaptable birds, and they do visit hummingbird feeders, unlike the next species that was also haunting around the thorntails' tree: the Violet-headed Hummingbird. It is readily identified by its small size and prominent white, tear-like post-ocular dot (its genus, Klais, literally means tears, referring to this particular mark) and usually they are kept visiting the flowers at low and medium-sized shrubs, avoiding the canopy of tall trees. A male was working at the lower flowers while a female appeared for few seconds behind us, visiting the Verbenas (Stachytarpheta) and being furiously banished by a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. By the end of the evening we recorded nine hummingbirds species (we missed the Fairy), plus tons of tanager, honeycreepers and dacnises. I will not get tired of saying it... if all the backyard birding were like this!


  1. Very nice shots of all the hummers Jan but I must say that Rufous-tailed Hummingbird is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. That combination of colors on the head and breast contrasting with the red bill is extraordinary!

  2. Jan Axel
    Nice hummers! Wishing you a merry upcoming xmas