Sunday, December 30, 2012

Birding Rally Challenge Perú 2012 - Part 4

This last episode of the series documenting the Birding Rally Challenge I attended in Peru earlier this month covers the final destination of that mad 6-day birding frenzy: Machu Picchu. 

Fabled travel destination ever since its discovery by American historian and explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911, Machu Picchu also offers fantastic birding. The ruins of the inca city were never discovered by the Spaniards during their conquest, and thus remained relatively intact. It's a lovely, tranquil place which, even though it is visited by many, does not feel crowded.

We arrived there around midnight, after a long day of travel that started in the Amazon rainforest in Madre de Dios, crossing the high Andes by car, then through the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo, where we got on the train to Machu Picchu. Rest and tranquility was just what everyone needed.

But the competing teams had to scour the area for as many birds as they could find — no rest for them! This biome being so different from what we just left, almost any bird we saw there was new for the trip.

Torrent Ducks
The spectacularly plumaged Torrent Duck (now which other bird species has colorful and strikingly different plumages for both sexes?) was definitely a highlight for me. They are relatively common on the river that runs through the high peaks around Machu Picchu.

Chestnut-breasted Coronet
Lovely is also this Chestnut-breasted Coronet. As before in the Amazon, we were the guests of Inkaterra, which has the most beautiful (and also most expensive) hotel in town, in the garden of which this species is easily observed.

Andean Cock-of-the-rock
Andean Cock-of-the-rock is another classic bird from the area. Someone alerted us to this nest on the other side of the river, on a rock wall just a few meters above the torrents of the river.

Blue-and-white Swallows
Blue-and-white Swallows were common birds on the ancient inca monument.

In the end, the team from LSU ("Tigrisomas") won the competition, with 493 species tallied in just 6 days of birding. I did not see quite that many birds, but this impressive number does bring home the whole point of the Birding Rally Challenge: where on earth can you see that many birds in only a few days?

The answer: Peru.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Birding Rally Challenge Perú 2012 - Part 3

Curl-crested Aracari

In this third installment of what is now shaping up to be a four part travelogue, I'll show some more birds from the Amazonian rain forest in Madre de Dios, Peru. I'll leave the Machu Picchu birds and scenery for a final post in this series.

I was in Peru a couple of weeks ago to cover the Birding Rally Challenge, a competition between ace birders from all over the world to find as many birds as possible in one of the birdiest countries in the world.

The bird at the top is a Curl-crested Aracari, a medium-sized toucan found in the Amazon Basin. It is considered uncommon throughout its range (eastern Peru, southwestern Brazil, northwestern Bolivia), and the Tambopata Reserve in Madre de Dios is one of the better locations for observing this wonderful bird. We saw it on Inkaterra's Canopy Walkway, a set of hanging bridges at 25 m above the ground that offer an eye-level view of mature rain forest canopy. 

Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant
Another cool bird we saw there was Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant, a bird the size and shape of a ping pong ball. Its tiny wings carried it on short, buzzy, insect-like flights through the canopy.

Black-fronted Nunbird
Black-fronted Nunbird is more easily observed in the Amazon Basin, and generally found at lower strata in the forest. 

Also easily observed - but none the less spectacular for it - are Hoatzins. Taxonomically, this is one of the best studied but least understood of all birds; its phylogenetic relationship to other birds are still not clear. We found them in small colonies throughout the area, including at Lake Sandoval. They're sometimes considered the arboreal equivalent of cows; they spend a lot of time feeding on plant matter, and possess an extended crop that pre-processes food in much the same way as the compartments in a cow's stomach do. 

Red-bellied Macaws
Parrots are easily one of the most charismatic avian families found in the tropics, and the Tambopata Reserve holds many different species. Each day we saw multiple species, including Scarlet Macaw, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Dusky-headed Parakeet, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, White-bellied Parrot, Blue-headed Parrot, and others.

Pale-legged Hornero
Pale-legged Horneros are one of the most common furnarids in the Amazon. We observed this individual building its nest with river mud.

Black-capped Squirrel Monkey
Black-capped Squirrel Monkeys are very cute. We saw them occasionally moving through the forest, or, as shown here, feeding. 

The next and last installment in this series documenting the Birding Rally Challenge in Peru will take us to Peru's number one tourist destination: Machu Picchu. Birders that have visited there know that the place is also an excellent birding destination.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Birding Rally Challenge Perú 2012 - Part 2

Turquoise Tanager
After birding the Pantanos de Villa in Lima and attending the opening ceremonies at the Universidad Científica del Sur on the 28th of November, we set off for the first of two spectacular birding destinations: the Amazon rain forest in Madre de Dios. When we landed in Puerto Maldonado in the afternoon of the 29th, I spotted a Southern Caracara being chased by two Tropical Kingbirds. The kingbirds we would continue seeing at every location we visited, but this species of caracara, uncommon in Peru, was not seen again as far as I know [edit: the LSU-team did see Southern Caracara again, leaving Puerto Maldonado on the way to the Andes]. During a short boat ride from Puerto Maldonado to the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica Lodge we saw some Black Caracaras. They were fairly common along the river Madre de Dios, and a daily sighting during the Amazonian part of the trip. Beautiful birds.

Black Caracaras
The first afternoon there we walked around the grounds of Inkaterra's Reserva Amazonica Lodge, literally teeming with birds. How about Black-throated Mango and Sapphire-spangled Emerald around your cabin, a roost of Black-fronted Nunbirds nearby, Spotted Tody-Flycatchers flitting around at eye-level, colorful mixed tanager flocks up in the trees, or colonies of Yellow-rumped Caciques and Russet-backed Oropendolas along the hotel's main trail? At night, we sometimes heard Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl and Great Potoo from the cabin, while every morning, just before first light, one or more Gray-necked Wood-Rails would give wake-up calls. That said, there was not a 'rainforest racket' of sound keeping you up all night, just some discreet frog background noise - the kind some people put on to fall asleep to. All these birds I just mentioned were easily observed around the cabins of this wonderful hotel. This place is not cheap, mind you. (We were invited, so for us it was free, ha!) Yet I think Inkaterra offers good value here, combining luxury and world-class cuisine with a thoughtful approach to limiting the environmental impact of the hotel. If I could afford it, I'd gladly come back here. (I'm plugging the hotel a little bit because I was invited there by the Peruvian government and by Inkaterra, to attend a birding event intended to promote birding tourism to Peru. Well, I'll say it again, this place is absolutely worth visiting.)

the birding rally kick-off: 30 November, 5 AM
We spent three days birding the Amazon rain forest in the southeastern corner of the district of Madre de Dios, close to the border with Bolivia. The organizers had selected a number of key sites in the vicinity of the hotel (the furthest a 40 km boat ride along the river Madre de Dios), and each day, two teams separately went to a site to find as many birds there as they could, rotating to go to the other sites on subsequent days. They were accompanied by a local bird guide, but the guide could only take them to the key spots, he or she was not allowed to point out or identify birds. The team I rooted for - Cornell's eBirders - had as their captain Tom Schulenberg, first author of the field guide everyone was using (the quite excellent Birds of Peru), so they had an obvious psychological advantage. However, it quickly became apparent that some of the other teams had extensive field experience in South America, and/or had thoroughly studied up on the bird calls. Other teams, although consisting of outstanding birders all, simply had less Peruvian field experience or knowledge of local bird calls, and seemed to be birding the area more or less the same way I myself was birding it: avidly, and with great enjoyment, without being able to identify every call coming from the forest. Comparing my own daily bird lists with those of the teams, I found that I actually wasn't doing so bad, lagging only a little behind the lowest-scoring team. And after all, they were searching for birds the entire time, while I was often in the company of non-birders or people only casually interested birding, and could not always, well, bird. Which was okay. There's just so many birds there, that I ended up seeing a few birds that the official competing teams didn't see. But the top teams observed way more birds than I did, and I could only be in awe of all the birds these guys were racking up there. Just incredible!

Silver-beaked Tanager
I'll close this blog entry with some 'pictorial highlights'. Some of these are actually rather poor photos of great birds. The light wasn't always good, and at times my camera suffered noticeably from the humidity (pulling the ole 'lens error' on me multiple times), from which it recovered once we got out of there. Yes, at 200 m elevation it definitely was hot and humid, and it being the rain forest, it did rain for almost an entire day once. Somehow I didn't really notice the heat or the humidity all that much, absorbed as I was with the bird life around me. And not just birds… also monkeys, butterflies, frogs etc.

Greater Ani
Greater Anis were quite common along the edges of rivers and lakes, often found in small groups of two or three.

White-throated Jacamar
I was fortunate to see a number of jacamar species. Besides this White-throated Jacamar, I also saw Paradise, Chestnut and Bluish-fronted Jacamars - all charismatic, beautiful tropical birds.

Cocoi Heron
Cocoi Heron was a cool bird that was a lifer for me, and relatively common in this area. But the heron I really hoped to see - and did see! - was Agami Heron. These birds also occur in Honduras, where I live, just not in my neighborhood.

Agami Heron
Fantastic bird!

Another one high on my wish list - and not seen by every team - was Sunbittern. It was getting dark at the end of a cloudy, rainy day, so the photo is poor, but what an incredible bird!

The other 'sun bird' on my wish list, Sungrebe, proved to be fairly common in this area.

I saw some amazing birds there. Amazonian Umbrellabird I will not forget easily. I'll leave the macaws, aracaris and pygmy-tyrants (and monkeys) for another blog entry.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Birding Rally Challenge Perú 2012 - Part 1

Elegant Terns with a Sandwich Tern and a Franklin's Gull
I have just returned from an amazing 8-day birding trip to Peru. I was incredibly fortunate to have been invited to cover the first Birding Rally Challenge, a birding competition in the Amazon Rainforest and high Andes between some of the world's top birders.

Sheer luck, produced by a series of unlikely coincidences, brought me to Peru, one of the world's dream birding destinations. Boasting an incredible 1836 species, Peru is second only to Colombia in terms of avian diversity. The event, organized by PromPerú and Inkaterra, aimed to promote Peru as a world-class birding destination. Six teams from various parts of the world competed in an intense 6-day birding rally trying to observe as many bird species as possible. My good friend Oliver Komar was invited by Cornell University to be a member of their team the eBirders; I was invited to be part of the press corps.

Oliver and I arrived the evening of the 27th of November, and were welcomed at the airport by the friendly and professional staff of Inkaterra, who took us to our hotel in Lima. The next day, we had our first birding outing scheduled, followed by a presentation of the teams and the opening of the event with a press conference at the Universidad Científica del Sur in Lima, Peru.

Check out this video from the first day (28 November 2012), when we birded a wetlands complex along the coast in Lima. The competition itself did not start until two days later in the Tambopata National Park in the Amazon rainforest; more about that in future blog posts. Here at Pantanos de Villa on the edge of Lima, everyone was getting to know each other and trying to find great birds.

I saw 70 species there, about a third of them 'lifers'. After all, this was my first trip to South America, so anything with the word "Peruvian" in it (Peruvian Booby, Peruvian Pelican, Peruvian Thick-knee, Peruvian Tern, West Peruvian Dove, and Peruvian Meadowlark) was new for me. Other lifers for me included White-cheeked Pintail, White-tufted Grebe, Great Grebe, Red-legged Cormorant, Guanay Cormorant (pronounced "One-Eye Cormorant"), Puna Ibis, Plumbeous Rail, Slate-colored Coot, Gray-hooded Gull, Belcher's Gull, Kelp Gull, Eared Dove, Croaking Ground-Dove, Burrowing Owl (finally!), Wren-like Rushbird, Many-colored Rush Tyrant, Long-tailed Mockingbird, Chestnut-throated Seedeater, Scrub Blackbird, and Yellow-hooded Blackbird.

juvenile Many-colored Rush Tyrant
The adults of the Many-colored Rush Tyrant live up to their name, although the juveniles are considerably duller. Still a pretty bird. Coastal marshes (such as Pantanos de Villa) are a good place to look for them.

Elegant Terns
Franklin's Gull and Elegant Tern were the most numerous birds there, with an estimated 1,000 Elegant Terns, quite possibly a low estimate. The large, dark gulls in the background are mostly Belcher's and some Kelp Gulls. Other larids present here were Gray-hooded Gull, Peruvian Tern (on the ocean), Sandwich Tern and Black Skimmer.

Peruvian Tern
Peruvian Tern is a small tern similar to Least Tern. I spotted one cruising the shoreline in front of us and got the whole group on it. This species is uncommon at the site, and was a good find for us.

The Pantanos de Villa is also a good shorebird spot. With the exception of Peruvian Thick-knee, all shorebirds we saw were familiar species like American Golden Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, American Oystercatcher, Black-necked Stilt, Spotted Sandpiper, both Yellowlegs, Willet, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, and Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers.

American Oystercatcher chick
Not all shorebirds here were migrants from North America, though. Evidently is was breeding season for the local population of American Oystercatcher.

After the birding trip to Pantanos de Villa, we were welcomed by the Universidad Científica del Sur, where the teams of the Birding Rally were presented to the press, and the Peruvian Minister of Tourism expressed the hope that the event would attract the attention of birding tourists from around the world. From my perspective, I can only corroborate that Peru is definitely worthy of such attention. It's a truly amazing birding destination, with a rich cultural heritage and impressive scenery on offer as well.

Oliver Komar presenting eBird to a wider audience
As a member of Cornell's team the eBirders, Oliver took the opportunity to present Cornell's eBird to a wider audience. In the US, eBird is already widely used by birders, and in Latin America eBird is growing by leaps and bounds - in no small part due to efforts to promote eBird by Oliver and others. In other parts of the world, however, eBird is still relatively unknown. It was great to see members of the South African and Spanish teams express an interest in using eBird for their own record keeping.

I have many photos and stories from this incredible event, and will save them for future posts... Stay tuned.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cuckoo cornucopia

Never before have I seen as many Coccyzus (i.e. Yellow-billed and Black-billed) cuckoos as in the last week or so. Down here in Honduras, these birds seem to be everywhere right now. The majority of what I've seen thus far have been Yellow-billed Cuckoos, which sometimes aggregate in small migrant flocks of up to 10 individuals.

This is a first fall Black-billed Cuckoo, with a dull yellow (instead of red) orbital ring. 

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:

Monday, July 30, 2012

Yellow-headed Caracara

Last time I went to my local birding patch Laguna Villa Royal (Sabana Grande), a couple of weeks ago, I found a Striped Owl. Yesterday, this was topped by this immature Yellow-headed Caracara. 

It appears to be only the second record, and the first documented record, for Honduras. An undocumented sight record from northern Honduras in November 2005 was published in North American Birds (fide Oliver Komar).

image provided by eBird ( and created 30 July 2012

Yellow-headed Caracara is common in disturbed habitats (even cities) in South America and southern Central America. The first Costa Rican record dates back to 1973 (Garrigues & Dean 2007); now the species is common in the Central Valley and Pacific lowlands. eBird shows recent records in southern Nicaragua, and Yellow-headed Caracara may well be one of several open habitat species (like Pearl Kite and Double-striped Thick-knee) expanding their range in Central America, as a result of continuing deforestation and the creation of cattle pastures. 

Cited literature:
Garrigues, Richard & Robert Dean. 2007. The Birds of Costa Rica. Zona Tropical, Ithaca, New York.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Los Farallones

Los Farallones

Yesterday, Roselvy and I took our friend Dan Germer on a boat trip to a group of rocky islets in the Gulf of Fonseca called Los Farallones. Our objective was to find breeding Bridled Terns, and who knows what else pelagic. These rocks are about 10 km from the Cosiguïna Peninsula of Nicaragua, and about 10 km from Meanguera, an island that belongs to El Salvador. We left from Amapala, a Honduran island at about 25 km distance. Yes, the small Gulf of Fonseca is littered with volcanic islands and peninsulas from all three countries. Most authorities now accept that Los Farallones belong to Nicaragua, although the (Honduran) harbor master of Amapala was of the opinion that those rocks really belong to all three countries. It matters little to the birds that breed there, and ultimately — I'm not really a lister — not that much to me either. I was excited to see these birds no matter what nationality they possess.

Bridled Terns (and a Brown Booby)

The Bridled Tern colony on Los Farallones was first described by my friend Oliver Komar (Komar & Rodríguez 1996), who encountered an estimated 600 breeding pairs in 1993. Nineteen years later, this colony still exists, although my impression was of fewer individuals. 

Bridled Terns

As we circled the islands, it was difficult to get an accurate sense of how many Bridled Terns were there, but we estimated about 600 individuals, or 300 pairs. There may be a fairly wide margin of error in this estimate.

breeding Bridled Terns - note chick on right

We found at least one chick, and many apparently incubating birds. Komar and Rodríguez reported 8 chicks in early August of 1993, so the breeding season there appears to be July/August.

Blue-footed Boobies and a Brown Pelican

We saw five other species on the island: Blue-footed Booby (estimated 30, possibly more); Brown Booby (estimated 60, possibly also a low estimate); 300 Magnificent Frigatebirds; 80 Brown Pelicans; and 15 Gray-breasted Martins. A Least Storm-Petrel was seen darting away from the islands just as we approached.

Blue-footed Booby with a USFW band on its left leg

One of the Blue-footed Boobies was banded. Blue-footed Booby, a relatively recent addition to the Honduran list, now appears to be regular in the Gulf of Fonseca, as well as off the coast of El Salvador. Jenner et al. (2007) listed the species as unknown but expected from the Honduran part of the Gulf of Fonseca, and indeed eBird shows several recent records for the area.

Adult male Brown Booby

Unlike Atlantic Brown Boobies, adult male eastern Pacific Brown Boobies have a beautiful frosty-pale head around the face.

Note: a trip to Los Farallones needs to be planned beforehand; you can't just show up there and ask a fisherman to take you to 'those rocks out there'. If traveling from the Honduran side, a permit can be obtained from the harbor master in Amapala. Bring your passport and enough money to buy gasoline. From Amapala, the roundtrip is about 50 km. We spent about 80 USD in gasoline (which included the boatsman's fee) plus 12 USD for the permit.

Cited literature:
Jenner, T., O. Komar & A. Narish. 2007. Noteworthy bird records from the Gulf of Fonseca, Honduras. Cotinga 28: 13—20.
Komar, O. & W. Rodríguez. 1996. A Major Bridled Tern (Sterna anaethetus) Colony in the Gulf of Fonseca, Nicaragua. Colonial Waterbirds Vol. 19, Nr. 2: 264—267. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Striped Owl

Yesterday, while birding my 'local patch', I found this Striped Owl. We've been birding this little laguna about 10 minutes from our house fairly frequently since we discovered it back in January. This place, Laguna Villa Royal it's called, delivers consistently, and after 17 visits thus far we've accumulated 136 species there, including species considered uncommon in Central America. Almost every time we go there, we pick up something new. I expected the pace to slow down a bit during the summer (with all the migrants gone) but we're still adding new resident birds, like Thicket Tinamou and Yellow-billed Cacique last week, and this week Striped Owl.

It wasn't difficult to find. Tropical Kingbirds, Melodious Blackbirds and Groove-billed Anis were kicking up a tremendous racket, so I knew upon approach that there was likely a raptor perched somewhere.

The owl seemed completely oblivious to all this commotion, as it sat there low on a branch dozing in the late afternoon sun. As I got closer, it became more alert, and then flew off a short distance, with loud, angry passerines in tow. Although easily relocated, I decided to leave it alone and give it some rest.

Striped Owl occurs from Mexico through Central America well into South America. Here in Central America it is rarely reported, with most of the eBird records from places more heavily birded by tourists (Belize, Costa Rica). eBird has no records from Guatemala, El Salvador or Nicaragua for this species, and my record is the first Honduran eBird record.

Laguna Villa Royal is just a small, artificial lake (or large pond, if you will) in a valley surrounded by pine-oak forest. The valley is mostly cattle pasture and dry scrub forest. The laguna area is privately owned and fenced off, although the owner allows people on the property. Many people from the nearby hamlet come here to fish or swim, and there's usually cattle or horses grazing the area. The birding there is as good as any in the area, with notable sightings such as Ruddy Duck, Lesser Scaup, Masked Duck, Roseate Spoonbill, Great Black-Hawk, Bell's Vireo, Mangrove Swallow, and Mourning Warbler. Resident species such as Limpkin, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Brown-crested Flycatcher and White-lored Gnatcatcher are easily observed there.

Friday, June 29, 2012

White-throated Flycatcher

adult White-throated Flycatcher

Despite its wide range from Mexico to Panama, White-throated Flycatcher is a species seldom reported in large parts of Central America. IUCN lists it as Least Concern, citing the Partners in Flight species assessment database, which gives a global population estimate between 50,000 and 500,000 individuals. Yet eBird, for example, has no 2012 records for this species from Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua or Panama. There is just one 2012 record from Belize, presumably of a wintering bird, and only a handful of 2012 reports from Honduras: all from Cerro de Hula (four different territories, which I found this spring/summer). Monroe (1968) calls it "an uncommon resident in Honduras with a very local distribution". Thurber et al. (1987) mention a few Salvadoran localities (Santa Ana Volcano, San Salvador Volcano, Montecristo and even El Imposible), and note that White-throated Flycatcher was locally common at some of them. A couple of years ago, Carlos Funes and I also found one in El Pital, El Salvador. Binford (1989) lists it as a "very uncommon permanent resident" in Oaxaca. White-throated Flycatcher breeding distribution appears to be very local nearly throughout its wide range. The paucity in distributional records is mirrored by a scarcity in life history information; most of the region's literature dealing with this species (e.g. Sutton 1951) or genus (e.g. Moore 1940) refers to descriptions of subspecies based on specimens in museum collections. 

adult White-throated Flycatcher

The photo above was taken on 16 May, 2012 on Cerro de Hula, about 15 km south of Tegucigalpa. That day we found a breeding pair on territory there, and on subsequent visits the birds were typically easily relocated. Suitable breeding habitat includes open and semi-open areas with shrubby growth. Here on Cerro de Hula, the bird is found around edges of agricultural fields, and, given the local abundance of this habitat, is probably fairly common - like the Sedge Wren, another bird with a highly local distribution in Central America.

juvenile White-throated Flycatcher (note cinnamon wing bars, yellow flange on mouth; very short tail)

On 11 June, that first pair that we found on Cerro de Hula had with them two recently fledged young. Although capable of flight, these juveniles had possibly fledged that very same day or perhaps the day before. Flight feathers were still growing (note short tail in photos) and, unlike their parents, these young were easily approached. They were mostly silent; their parents occasionally gave the distinctive "rreeah" call, which to me sounds like the barking of a very small dog - utterly different from any other Empidonax.

juvenile White-throated Flycatcher

In Honduras, White-throated Flycatchers are altitudinal migrants, breeding from middle to higher elevations, and wintering in lower elevation marshes. All Honduran eBird records not from Cerro de Hula are winter records from Lago de Yojoa and the Sula Valley.

adult White-throated Flycatcher

Cited literature:
Binford, L. C. 1989. A Distributional Survey of the Birds of the Mexican State of Oaxaca. Ornithological Monographs No. 43. American Ornithologists' Union.
eBird. 2012. eBird: an online database of bird distribution and abundance [web application]. Version 2. eBird, Ithaca, New York. Available: (Accessed: June 29, 2012).
IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species [web application]. Available: (Accessed June 29, 2012).
Monroe, B. L. 1968. A Distributional Survey of the Birds of Honduras. Ornithological Monographs No. 7. American Ornithologists' Union.
Moore, R. T. 1940. Notes on Middle American Empidonaces. The Auk, Vol 57 (3): pp. 349-389.
Sutton, G. M. 1951. Empidonax albigularis in southwestern Tamaulipas. Wilson Bulletin, Vol 63 (4): p. 339.
Thurber, W. A., J. F. Serrano, A. Sermeño & M. Benitez. 1987. Status of uncommon and previously unreported birds of El Salvador. Proceedings of the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, Vol 3 (3): pp. 111-293.