Tuesday, January 24, 2012

eBirding Honduras

Cassin's Kingbird, Jan 23, 2012, Cerro de Hula, Honduras
eBird, an online database for bird observations launched in 2002 by Cornell University and National Audubon Society, now routinely logs over a million bird observations each month!

The vast majority of those sightings are of course from the United States and southern Canada. Certain localities - the more populated areas on both coasts - receive ample coverage.

Recently, eBird asked its community of birders to make an effort and contribute checklists from 'under-birded' areas, typically areas where fewer birders live.

The other day, upon hearing I was now in Honduras for a whole year, a friend of mine from Massachusetts asked me whether I was eBirding down here at all.

"All the time!" I said. (According to eBird, I've submitted 26 checklists so far this month.)

Not surprisingly, Honduras is a seriously under-birded country. Very few birders live here, and few birders visit (compared to countries like Costa Rica, Panama and Belize, or even Guatemala or Mexico). Thus, it is not unusual to find birds here that have few or no Honduran reports in eBird. Here's a sample from just the last few days:

Ash-throated Flycatcher, Jan 22, 2012, Los Noques, Honduras
Sunday, Roselvy and I went to a nearby valley, where we encountered an Ash-throated Flycatcher, a species rarely reported this far south. Other Myiarchus flycatchers, like Dusky-capped, Brown-crested, Nutting's, or Great Crested, are more frequently observed.

eBird records for Ash-throated Flycatcher in Central America as per Jan 24, 2012 (data courtesy of ebird.org)
The only other Central American record of Ash-throated in eBird is from a 2004 checklist submitted from Nicaragua (species crossed off as 'present', without further details).

Ring-necked Ducks, Jan 22, 2012, Los Noques, Honduras
Also Sunday, at the same place, we found a group of 12 Ring-necked Ducks (a male and two females pictured above).

eBird records for Ring-necked Duck in Central America as per Jan 24, 2012 (data courtesy of ebird.org)
The only other Honduran record in eBird for this species is from 2008, Lake Yojoa, where 4 individuals were seen. Our Ring-necked Ducks were in company of two female Lesser Scaup, a more expected species in Central America.

Ruddy Duck, Jan 22, 2012, Los Noques, Honduras
Ruddy Duck is also rare in Honduras. eBird has one other record, 10 individuals seen in 2008.

Cassin's Kingbird, Jan 23, 2012, Cerro de Hula, Honduras
Cassin's Kingbird is probably rare almost anywhere in Central America.

eBird records for Cassin's Kingbird in Central America as per Jan 24, 2012 (data courtesy of ebird.org)
There's a January 2010 record from Nicaragua in eBird, but that's it. The bird we found yesterday in Cerro de Hula could not be relocated today.

Each bird mentioned above we found within a radius of 10 minutes driving time from our house, in unprotected areas. While doing point counts today (at only 3 minutes from our house), we saw or heard several Sedge Wrens, many Grasshopper Sparrows, four Wilson's Snipe... all birds that are infrequently reported in Honduras.

This begs the question whether all these birds are genuinely rare in the region, or have simply been overlooked. Over time, eBird will provide the answer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

John: Very nice work! If you don't have a copy, you might want to pick up Dave Anderson's and my 'Birding Honduras.' You are recording several species that are somewhat under-reported in dry interior valleys. I think your best records so far are the grasshopper sparrow, sedge wren, and the ring-necked duck. Ruddy duck is not that uncommon in Olancho, and ash-throated flycatcher is common in the most arid parts of the Olancho and Agalta valleys. I'll be happy to send you more data if you message me on Facebook.
--Mark Bonta