Monday, August 6, 2012

Pearl Kite

I recently blogged on what appeared to be the second record of Yellow-headed Caracara for Honduras, and speculated that this species might be expanding its range northwestward in Central America.

Pearl Kite is another raptor with a very similar distribution (most of South America and southern Central America) and is found in similar degraded habitats. It too appears to be expanding its range. It was first documented for Honduras and El Salvador in 2009 (Van Dort et al. 2010); since then, it has been observed in Honduras at least twice: one bird in 2011 in the department of Choluteca and a pair earlier this year in the department of Francisco Morazán (eBird 2012).

Saturday I found one in the department of Valle, not far from San Lorenzo. This is the same location where I found the Clapper Rail family that day. The Pearl Kite was perched in a short tree in someone's yard, right across from the entrance to the salinera La Ostia, and allowed close approach. A mostly hazy white sky was unfavorable for photography, but the bird was close enough for the photos to show rufous edging to the mantle, a character associated with the juvenile plumage. 

Finding rare birds is always exciting, but in the case of Pearl Kite and Yellow-headed Caracara (Southern Lapwing would be another example here in Central America, or European Starling in Veracruz, Mexico) the excitement for me is tinged with a feeling of regret. These are opportunistic species that succeeded in adapting themselves to heavily degraded habitats. On the other side of the coin we find regional endemics or habitat specialists disappearing along with the habitat that was cleared to make way for cattle pastures, and for the likes of Yellow-headed Caracara, Pearl Kite and Double-striped Thick-knee…

Cited literature
eBird. 2012. eBird: An online database of bird distribution and abundance [web application]. eBird, Ithaca, New York. Available: (Accessed: 6 August 2012) 
Van Dort, J., O. Komar, R. C. Juárez-Jovel & M. Espinal. 2010. First records of Pearl Kite Gampsonyx swainsonii for El Salvador and Honduras. Cotinga 32 (2010): 129-130.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Clapper Rail

Clapper Rail is found in salt marshes and mangrove swamps from the northern United States south to Peru and Brazil, but little is known about its distribution in Latin America (Rush et al. 2012). eBird does not show it for Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras or Nicaragua, and neither do Howell & Webb (1995). Burt Monroe (1968) did not report the species for Honduras either.

I found two adults tending two very young chicks in a salinera in southern Honduras today. I actually first spotted the chicks, little black fluffy things on large feet, before I saw the parents. They looked like they were perhaps less than a week old.

I was not searching for this species, and I obviously lucked into seeing them. They tried to stay under cover of the mangrove vegetation and were difficult to photograph. When the parents became aware of my presence, one of them briefly vocalized, which I was able to record:

Honduran friends tell me there have been two previous reports from Honduras.

Cited literature
Howell, S. N. G. and S. Webb. 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, UK.
Monroe, B. L. 1968. A Distributional Survey of the Birds of Honduras. Ornithological Monographs No. 7. American Ornithologists' Union. 
Rush, Scott A., Karen F. Gaines, William R. Eddleman and Courtney J. Conway. 2012. Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: