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.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Range extension for Arizona Sister

This is Adelpha eulalia, or Arizona Sister, which I found yesterday in Aldea Sicatacare, a small community about 2 km SE of Santa Ana in Dpt. Francisco Morazán, Honduras. Adelpha is a large neotropical genus of brushfoots in which many species have a white band across the wings and an orange subapical patch on the forewing. About a third of all genus members have been reported from Honduras (Miller et al. 2012). This observation, however, represents a first country record and an extension of the known range of Adelpha eulalia, recently split from Adelpha bredowii.

Arizona Sister, an oak-specialist, is found from southwestern USA through Mexico to Guatemala — and apparently also Honduras. It is similar to the allopatric California Sister (Adelpha californica) and the partly sympatric Mexican Sister (Adelpha bredowii), but differs morphologically from those species in a number of ways, including the shape of the orange subapical patch, alignment of the spots in the white postdiscal band, and other minor characters (Prudric et al. 2008).

This year I've already found eleven or twelve new butterfly species for Honduras, and I expect more will follow. For more information on the butterflies of Honduras, please visit my other blog Butterflies of Honduras.