Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Birds of Colombia: the joy of tropical bird feeding

This is another post about birds I recently saw in Colombia.  For the first, most important installment, click here.

Here birdie, birdie, birdie!

Where would birding be without backyard feeders?  Birder or not, most people in the US become familiar with birds as the cute little feathered things that eat seeds out of a tray in the backyard.  

Bird feeding is not as ubiquitous in the tropics as it is in the states,  but where it happens, the results are often spectacular.   

Blue-necked Tanager, Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve

Safflower and thistle won’t get you far here; it’s all about the bananas!

Silver-throated Tanager, Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve

Bay-headed Tanager, Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve

Every elevation offers a slightly different assemblage of tanagers.

Golden Tanager, Tatama National Park
Colombian Chachalaca, Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve

What?! Get out of here you chachalaca!  These bananas aren’t for you.  

Of course not all the tanagers go for bananas.  This young Multicolored Tanager (Vulnerable Colombian endemic) seemed to prefer the worms offered up by its parent.

immature Multicolored Tanager begging mom for food, Otun Quimbaya National Park
And then there’s the nectar-feeders.  Yeah, a few lucky folks in southern Arizona might enjoy a regular hummingbird spectacle, but the diversity down here is off the charts.  We saw a whopping 50 species, including some real stunners: 

young Violet-tailed Sylph, Tatama National Park
Black-thighed Puffleg, Los Nevados National Park - Near-threatened
Blue-headed Sapphire, Valle de Cauca - Colombian endemic

Imagine if people in the US could see this array from the kitchen window.  I reckon the outlook for Neotropical birds would be much rosier.

Sadly, habitat loss threatens far too many Colombian bird species.  About 5% of the species we saw are listed as threatened (or "near-threatened") by the IUCN, including the critically endangered Munchique Wood-Wren, which is known from just one mountain ridge in Tatama National Park. 

In addition to the Cauca Guan and Chestnut-capped Piha shown in the last post, I also got decent photos of these threatened species:

Gold-ringed Tanager, Tatama National Park - Vulnerable Colombian endemic

Buffy Helmetcrest, Los Nevados National Park - Vulnerable Colombian endemic

White-mantled Barbet, Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve - Vulnerable Colombian endemic

In some places you can even feed the endangered species.  Antpitta feeding was invented by Angel Paz in Ecuador, but it has been emulated since by other reserves throughout the Andes.  At Rio Blanco reserve our antpitta whisperer, Alvero, drew four species to us with worms.  Including the beautiful, but not endangered Chestnut-capped Antpitta...

Chestnut-capped Antpitta, Rio Blaco Reserve

...and the less-beautiful, but vulnerable and Colombian endemic Brown-banded Antpitta.   
Brown-banded Antpitta, Rio Blanco Reserve - Vulnerable Colombian endemic
Also seen was the Vulnerable Bicolored Antpitta and Slaty-crowned Antpitta.

There’s no shame in feeder watching in Colombia where there are endemic and threatened birds to see!
In some places all you have to do is throw the compost out the back door and you’ll have rails running up to your feet.  

Blackish Rail, Tatama National Park
The previous Colombia post caused some people to reevaluate their lives and birding lifestyles.  I sure hope this one didn't ruin your enjoyment of cardinals and chickadees!

Next time we will peer through undergrowth and darkness in search of skulking species.  Hope to see you there (unlike most of the tapaculos).