Monday, December 20, 2010

Peru: Part 4 - High Elevation Wetlands

As you can see from the photo below (which was taken by my wife, Youn-Young Park, and the only photo in this post not taken by me), the valleys between ridges and the high plateaus of the Andes will gather water (even when there is little to go around) and create wetlands, some large some small. Some form expansive reed beds, whereas others have very little vegetation around them. A wide variety of species call these wetlands home.

Among the waterfowl of the high Andes is the distinctive Puna Teal, shown here taking off, which is quite common at large high elevation lakes. The Puna Teal is a relatively recent split from the similar-looking Silver Teal, who occurs further south.

The Speckled Teal was also recently split into two species, the Andean Teal (greyish bill) and the Yellow-billed Teal (yellow bill). No prizes for guessing which species this is…

This next photo shows just how bustling with life some of the high altitude marshes can be: in the foreground a pair of Yellow-billed Pintails and in the background a Puna Ibis stands alert while a Plumbeous Rail makes a dart across an open area. The Yellow-billed Pintail is superficially similar to the Yellow-billed Teal but is larger and has different shape, lacks the dark grayish head and a different underpart pattern.

Here you can see a Puna Ibis in flight. This bird is in basic (non-breeding) plumage. In breeding plumage (alternate plumage) the bill becomes red and the overall colour richer.

And here is a closer look at the distinctive Plumbeous Rail – pinkish legs and a lime green bill, what a colour combination!!

This juvenile Plumbeous Rail has not acquired the adult colour yet…

The Andes have given rise to the evolution of several interesting coot species. This is the Andean Coot (not quite as famous as their cousin the Giant Coot)

Wherever you find high altitude bogs, or relatively open marsh edges and other types of open grassy areas, including agricultural fields (a pasture in this case), there is a good chance of finding the subtly beautiful Andean Lapwing. These large shorebirds (like all lapwings) are related to plovers.

Boreal migrant shorebirds also utilize the high altitude wetlands, mostly as stop-over sites. It is always fun to see a familiar face in an unfamiliar environment and so I took some time to observe this Wilson’s Phalarope (a species that breeds in my neck of the woods in Canada) feeding in typical fashion at a high elevation pool on their way to the “southern cone” of the South American continent.

These wetlands don’t have the gull diversity of the coast but the Andean Gull is very common here.

The Cinereous Harrier is beautifully plumaged and seems to blends in well with the brown reeds. They seem very skill and “harrying” prey by flying very low over the reeds. These two photos are of a female (the male is also well barred below but has a pale grey back).

The Andean Negrito is another one of those Andean flycatchers that has taken to hunting on the ground. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this individual run down invertebrate prey on the exposed mud in the drier parts at the marsh edge. In this photo you can see the relatively long-legged, short-tailed shape of this bird that accompanies this lifestyle (though not as long-legged as a ground-tyrant and also lacking the ground-tyrant's vertical posture).

In the reeds in the wetter portions of the marsh, skulks a rather different flycatcher. You may not think of flycatchers as reed-bed skulkers and you may have the impression that the majority of this large family are not brightly coloured but the Many-colored Rush-Tyrant is not your typical tyrant flycatcher. I wish I had a managed a photo that would show off their spectacular colours to better effect but you still get a sense of the magic of this bird from this poor photo…

The Wren-like Rushbird looks rather like a Marsh Wren, except for the tail shape (and seems to be just a skulky, if not more so). This unique species is a member of the Furnariidae (ovenbird family) but has evolved to fill an ecological niche that is dissimilar from nealy all other furnarids. This species is placed in their own genus (Phleocryptes).

This next photo gives you a sense of how tall some of the reed beds can grow. These birds are Yellow-winged Blackbirds, although the yellow on the wing is often concealed when perched (if you look closely you can see a hint of yellow on the bird that is second from the right).

Here is a photo of a female Yellow-winged Blackbird (notice the resemblance to a female Red-winged Blackbird).

Next we begin our descent of the lush eastern Andes, where biodiversity goes through the roof!

1 comment:

  1. This has been very informative.I enjoy seeing the birds in other parts of the world.Hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas.


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