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…
eBird. 2012. eBird: An online database of bird distribution and abundance [web application]. eBird, Ithaca, New York. Available: http://www.ebird.org. (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.