Streaks, Variegations, and Pirates – 10,000 Birds


With my current relocation to the central forests of Trinidad, I’ve been afforded the unimaginable alternative of observing three oft-confused species in shut proximity to at least one one other. Often the sector information presents a curated number of species on the identical plate as an example key variations important to nailing a optimistic identification. In actuality these species are hardly ever in the identical place on the similar time, nevertheless!

Every now and then the species in query could share habitat, thus it could be potential to understand the scale distinction between Lesser Yellowlegs and Higher Yellowlegs, versus counting on extra delicate subject traits such because the ratio of invoice size to go size. The birds I’m referring to on this publish are all flycatchers that occupy woody, forest habitat; however they’re very occasionally in the identical place on the similar time. Some days in the past I used to be guiding a pair right here and we encountered all three, Streaked Flycatcher, Variegated Flycatcher, and Piratic Flycatcher – therefore the motivation for this consideration.

The biggest and bulkiest of the three is the kind of ever-present Streaked Flycatcher. With a robust, hooked invoice, it dismembers cicadas, beetles, and enormous grasshoppers with ease. Like many different flycatchers, it dietary supplements its arthropod food plan with fruits and berries from the forest. Of the three, the Streaked Flycatcher is best to discern, for it’s usually vocalising loudly all through the day. Even whether it is silent, its giant measurement, thick, two-toned invoice, and prevalence of rufous on its plumage are all distinctive subject marks.

Streaked Flycatcher

Two Streaked Flycatchers posture to one another. Observe the in depth rufous on the tail.

Whereas the chicken above recollects a Nice Kiskadee in measurement and construction, each Variegated and Piratic Flycatchers are significantly smaller and slimmer. Variegated Flycatcher is the intermediate by way of measurement and plumage – it maintains some rufous on its rump and tail and likewise has a two-toned (albeit a lot smaller) invoice.

Variegated Flycatcher

Curiously although, some Variegated Flycatchers have payments which are all darkish!

The Piratic Flycatcher is the smallest of the three, and sometimes probably the most vocal. Its strident name could be one of many extra recognisable and far-reaching vocalisations inside the soundscape of forests at most elevations on each Trinidad and Tobago. All three species talked about on this article breed on these islands, however the Piratic Flycatcher employs a very piratic technique: the breeding pair targets a lately constructed woven nest, usually by a Yellow Oriole or Yellow-rumped Cacique however they’ve additionally been recorded concentrating on the nests of different flycatchers. Once I say they aim the nest, what I actually imply is that they aim the current occupiers and rightful house owners of the nest. By fixed harassment, egg ejection, and in some circumstances hatchling elimination, the unique house owners abandon ship and the Piratic Flycatchers transfer in. Typically they might redecorate a bit inside the nest with lifeless leaves or different materials. In contrast to brood parasites, they elevate their very own younger of their pirated nest.

Piratic Flycatchers don’t have any vital rufous plumage, nor have they got any pink base to their tiny invoice.

In separating Piratic Flycatcher from Variegated Flycatcher, I’ve discovered it most helpful to examine the facial sample. The darkish masks of the Piratic Flycatcher tends to widen considerably behind the attention, whereas the corresponding characteristic on the Variegated Flycatcher doesn’t. As an alternative, the white cheekband on the latter species fattens past the attention.

The chicken above appears to have a black masks that widens past the attention, however its two-toned invoice says it’s a Variegated Flycatcher. The chicken pictured beneath appears to have rufous on its rump, however that is merely the well-documented rusty cinnamon or fulvous edging on the uppertail coverts of a Piratic Flycatcher.

Whereas voice is a helpful identifier, the Variegated Flycatcher is notoriously silent, even throughout breeding. Each it and the Piratic Flycatcher take pleasure in perching at top on naked branches and from a distance silent birds can pose a problem to establish. With persistence, nevertheless, as soon as the chicken embarks upon a sally to pursue a close-by insect the presence or absence of rufous can simply be discerned.

Variegated Flycatcher

Individualism is rife amongst birds the nearer one inspects, and for these comparable species oftentimes a number of packing containers should be checked prior to creating a assured ID name. All of the extra cause to maintain birding!


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