Friday, August 12, 2011

Gray-crowned Yellowthroat

Gray-crowned Yellowthroat is a common species in agricultural areas throughout Mexico and Central America. It used to occur in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (Texas) but disappeared for unknown reasons around the end of the 19th century. Since the late 20th century, the bird has been recorded again irregularly in the Brownsville area. Population trends in Mexico and Central America are unclear, but the species may well be increasing, as it profits from land clearings for agriculture. It is often found in early successional grassy habitat and edge habitat, for example around sugar cane fields and in cow pastures.

In a group of very similar species - the yellowthroats of Central America - this bird stands out with its heavy, decurved, bi-colored bill, long tail and different behavior. Not a skulker at all, it likes to perch in the top of shrubs or trees, singing its charming, Blue Grosbeak-like song or giving its distinctive three-note call.

I recorded that call in the same field where I took this photo, through from a different individual. This was on the campus of Zamorano University, in central Honduras, east of Tegucigalpa.

The individual in the photos here, it will be noted, does not actually have a gray crown. It's probably a young male, based on the black, not slaty-gray lores that a female would have. Spring adult males (in alternate plumage) have mostly gray crowns, but in basic plumage the gray is much reduced to only the sides and forehead. On this particular bird, it appears to be completely absent.

Mexican birds have conspicuous eye arcs, much reduced or absent in Central American birds.

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