Saturday, January 24, 2009

Colombia - Red and Yellow

When i go on a birding trip, i usually like to share some photos with friends arranged in a photo diary or photo essay and usually organised by habitat or taxonomy. This time, i thought i'd so things a little differently and go with colour as my organising principle. This is the first in a series of blogs from my recent trip to Colombia – a fantastic country with mind-boggling biodiversity!

Colombia 1 – Red and Yellow:

We begin with a quintessentially Neotropical group, one of many of the fascinating South American radiation of suboscine passerines, famous for extravagant male plumages, but this Andean Cock-of-the-Rock is a female, and while she may not be quite as gaudy as her mate, she is a stunning bird that i felt very fortunate to see feeding in a ripe fig tree (what a wonder is the Ficus!).

Another stunning contingid is the Red-ruffed Fruit-Crow. Seeing my first crow-sized, black-backed streak flying through moist Andean forest was a thrill, and even more so when they perch up and show you their red neck ruff!

Everyone loves a trogon, so here is a beautiful male Masked Trogon, with an interesting tail pattern because the finer barring is very hard to see in the field.

While in the trogon family, how could i not tell the story of climbing to the mountaintop at dawn to be visited by this magnificent god! I fell to my knees to worship… and to get a better camera angle… he may not be "resplendent", but this near-endemic, range-restricted White-tipped Quetzal is nothing short of exquisite.

The tanagers are of course oscine passerines and arrived in South America later than the sub-oscines… but boy did they make up for lost with a staggering evolutionary colour explosion. Among the many red-coloured tanagers are Crimson-backed Tanager

and Flame-rumped Tanager.

Then, moving to orange, we have the gorgeous Lacrimose Mountain Tanager, seen here scattering nectar and revealing the tear-drop face pattern that gives the species their name.

After orange we see gold, i.e. the Golden Tanager

and then the dazzling yellow of the Grey-headed Tanager, a bird of the undergrowth that follows ant swarms.

Next, the endemic Rufous-browed Conebill, also related to tanagers, feeding in páramo shrubbery at high altitude.

The Rufous-capped Warbler may be familiar to North American birders – some of you may even have seen it north of the Mexican border. They reach the southernmost portion of their range in Colombia and are just as handsome as further north!

Next, a Tyrant-flycatcher that is easy to identify, the very attractive Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant.

Switching gears completely, how about this stunning female Golden-green Woodpecker! Who needs those redhead males when you're a blonde bombshell like this knockout!

Back to the passerines to look at the classy Chestnut-headed Oropendula. There is something about the oropendulas – kind of like icterids on steroids – that conjures up strange images of exotic rituals... gods, oops, i mean Montezuma, knows why!

And for those of you who love to watch an oriole build a nest, here is how a Yellow-rumped Cacique does it.

This is the first blog in this series from Colombia. You can view these photos in larger format at:


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