Monday, August 13, 2012

A Tale of Two Raptors

The number of bird species in the Republic of Panamá sends me staggering.  The country is compared in size to the state of South Carolina in the U.S.A. but is populated with more than twice as many bird species.  The Panamá checklist swelled to a phenomenal 985 entries with the latest revisions by the American Ornithologists' Union.  Along with the hefty number of birds, some species occur in a variety of color morphs and plumages.  The hawks are particularly confusing and not all plumages are illustrated in the field guides.

Needless to say, some of the birds visiting our yard have sent us scrambling for references.  In July 2011, a raptor put the feeder birds into a riot of alarm calls that drew us outside.   The ID kept us and most of the other locals perplexed until Ken Allaire identified it as a Barred Hawk by the vocalization I recorded.

Early this month another immature raptor gave us a few minutes viewing but didn't call.  Darién Montañez came through for us this time with an ID of Gray-headed Kite.  And he didn't know there was an adult of the species in the yard at the same time.  For me, the immature looked nothing like the adult it is related to; it had to be another species.  Our experienced friends are helping us sort out the vast array of bird life Panamá offers.

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