Monday, December 3, 2012

The "Paticuervo"

As many common birds in Panama, the Neotropic Cormorant is well-known by its local name: "paticuervo".  Everybody in Panama knows what a "paticuervo" is; however, the name cormorant is probably unknown.  Literally, "paticuervo" means Crow Duck... saying so, we know these birds aren't ducks, neither crows... but their aquatic habits and black plumage surely recall those birds.
In fact, the cormorants are related to a group of aquatic birds that includes boobies, gannets, frigatebirds, darters and others... and used to be closely related to the pelicans (notice that the gular patch of the cormorants recall the gular pouch of the pelicans).
These are abundant birds in Panama, specially around the Bay of Panama where I took all these photos.  In a good morning I can count 2000 birds flying along shoreline in few minutes.  These birds are found not only at the ocean, but also in rivers and lakes, sometimes very deep inland.
As you can see, they exhibit a wide variety of plumages, ranging from all black in adults, brownish in immatures and paler with whitish underparts (almost pure white in some individuals) in juveniles... but surely they are not olive, as its old name suggested (Olivaceous Cormorant).  Besides, this is the most widely distributed cormorant (by far) in the neotropics... so its actual name seems very adequate.
They are small-eyed birds... but if you are lucky enough to approach closely one of these birds, you will notice the beautiful deep-greenish eyes, as you can see in the next picture (in spite that the rest of the bird is out of focus).  Notice also how wet this bird looks... the cormorants don't have water-proof feathers... so they spent many time drying up.
So, in your next visit to Panama, keep an eye for the "paticuervo".

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