Thursday, December 17, 2009

The GreenTracks Naturalist


When you travel in Peru the most conspicuous vertebrates (aside from humans) are birds, and they are as varied and wonderful as the country itself. Taken as a whole, Peru has over 1800 species of birds of which over 100 species are endemics (known only from Peru). The lowland rainforests of the Amazon Basin in northeastern Peru comprise but one of the nine life zones in the country, yet they contain some 700 species of birds, or 38% of the country’s total.
Birds exploit practically every type of habitat ranging from the high Andes to the Pacific Ocean. In the Peruvian Amazon birds have exploited the aquatic realm, wading and shore birds use the water’s edge, birds live in swamp forest, upland forest, secondary and primary growth, scrub and the high canopy. It is impossible to convey the rich diversity of Amazonian birds with a few photographs, so we’ll show a few and revisit the subject many times in upcoming contributions.

Masked Crimson Tanager Ramphocelus nigrogularis. Peru has a richness of magnificently colored tanagers and fortunately many are conspicuous inhabitants of pasture land and other areas of secondary growth.

Cream-colored Woodpecker Celeus flavus. This unmistakable beauty is best located along river margins and in swamp forest.

Barred Forest Falcon Micrastur ruficollis. Although forest falcons are difficult to observe they may be the most dominant predatory bird group in the Peruvian Amazon where no fewer than five species can be found.

Wattled Curassow Crax globulosa. Curassows are the size of turkeys and as such are hunted for food. Most of them are now restricted to the more remote regions of forest. Interestingly, locals examine their crops for gold flecks the big birds consume.

Blue and yellow Macaw Ara ararauna. Macaws rank among the most spectacular and noticeable of Amazonian birds and a raucous flock of Blue and yellow Macaws makes for an unforgettable sight.

Scarlet Macaw Ara macao. The classic pirate’s pet, Scarlet macaws are familiar the world over. Sometimes we see mixed flocks of Scarlet with Blue and yellow macaws. It looks like an airborne (and noisy!) festival when they fly over our boat.

Ferruginous Pygmy-owl Glaucidium brasilianum. One of the smallest owls in the country, this tiny predator is often active by day. It prefers riverside and swamp forests and second-growth. The distinctive call is often heard just prior to dawn.

Hoatzin Opisthocomus hoatzin. This bizarre bird is in its own family. It is herbivorous and the newly hatched young can swim and have claws on their wings to help them climb back into the spiny palms where these strange creatures nest.

Pied Lapwing Vanellus cayanus. This boldly colored plover is a fairly common resident along sandy beaches and adjacent open areas.

Sun Bittern Europyga helias. This interesting bird hunts for food along streams, rivers and the edges of forest lakes. When threatened it spreads and raises the wings exposing a pair of imposing eye spots.

Birds of Peru.
by Schulenberg, T.S., D. F. Stotz, D. F. Lane, J. P. O’Neill, and T. A. Parker III. 2007
Princeton University Press.

At last! The long awaited comprehensive guide to the avifauna of Peru, featuring sumptuously beautiful color plates and treating 1,800 species. The range maps are adjacent to the illustrations and the book is handy despite its 656 pages. It is a shame comparative info for diagnosing species could not be included but the authors obviously opted for the critical coverage provided by plates and maps and they chose wisely.

More info/Order



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