Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mostly common birds at Cerro Azul (plus Thorntail)

I visited Cerro Azul (foothills close to Panama City) three times in the past seven days. The reason: last week report of the very rare (for Panama) Brown Violetear at Birders' View. In the first two visits I recorded almost exactly the same species of birds, most of them common backyard birds in Cerro Azul, with the only exception of the female Green Thorntail that I saw atop the white-flowered tree of the parking lot with Gloriela during my first visit exactly seven days ago. She (the thorntail, not Gloriela) was a new year-bird for me... more or less a year ago I got my life thorntails in that very same tree. No photos of that first visit because of the clouded and dark day up there. During my second visit (this time with Osvaldo Quintero and Rafael Luck) last sunday, the light conditions were much better, and I got pictures of many common birds, including all the photos I'm showing in this post. It is true that the protagonist of the day was the White-tipped Sicklebill, but that is matter of another post. Back to the Birders' View garden, the Yellow-faced Grassquits were abundant, making their thrilling call everywhere and having an snack at the feeders, but also checking the native plants. At first they were a little shy, but after a couple of minutes they got very close to us because we stayed next to the feeder. We also saw a pair of Variable Seedeaters working the bushes away of the feeders. This is one of the most common species in Panama, with a rich song that is a common sound in the lowlands, but also up there. This black and white form is the dominant one in most of Panama, but we also have a totally-black form in the Caribbean slope (hence the name "Variable"). Another little friend that is quite common, but hard to see, is the Scaly-crested Pygmy-Tyrant. It has a loud voice, for such a tiny bird, that usually reveals the true commoness of this tiny flycatcher. The full crest is often seen in the field, but usually you can see the flattened look of its head and a bit of color of the hidden crest by the nape (not in this picture by the way). We also saw a lot of common hummingbirds, including Green Hermits, White-necked Jacobins, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteers, Blue-chested, Snowy-bellied, Rufous-tailed, Violet-headed and Violet-capped Hummingbirds. The last species is near-endemic to Panama, only found in this mountain range all the way to the Tacarcuna range and adjacent parts of Colombia (also in the Maje range in the Pacific slope of Panama-Darien provinces), making Cerro Azul the most reliable site IN THE WORLD to see this little jewel... so even a photo of a female at a feeder is good photo! Of course, I also got photos of my favorite hummer in that garden: the Violet-headed Hummingbird! In the way out we saw another of the Cerro Azul's regular birds. Perched on a telephone wire, an immature male American Kestrel was inspecting its surroundings. It was in Cerro Azul when some years ago the first signs of breeding for this species was noticed in Panama... now they are year-round residents in central and eastern Panama, a population that probably came from the south (Colombia) to firmly stablished here. Well, all these birds may be common, but they are so interesting anyway!


  1. The Violet-capped Hummingbird was a new sighting for me recently. I mistook it for something else, so Darién corrected me. Here's a link to some video.
    When it flies from the first perch the rufous tail feathers are visible as a quick flash.
    Thanks for your brilliant pix.

  2. Nice video... the tail is diagnostic (is not as rufous -more chestnut- as the rufous-tailed HB tail). Very special hummer