Friday, November 29, 2013

Black-faced Grassquit, Venezuelan Troupial and Mangrove Cuckoo

[Puerto Rico. November 2013]

This post will cover a collection of species found in scrub forest habitat of Southwestern Puerto Rico -- specifically at Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge (see FWS link here); incluuding:
  1. Black-faced Grassquit
  2. Mangrove Cuckoo
  3. Caribbean Elaenia
  4. Antillean Mango 
  5. American Kestrel 
  6. Venezuelan Troupial
Black-faced Grassquit is one of ~240 species of tanagers; this grassquit was earlier classified as a sparrow and, visually, it certainly looks like one. Nonetheless, the male Black-faced Grassquit is stunning -- resplendent in jet black with satin olive wings.

Black-facedGrassquit


It is found in most of the Caribbean islands as well as coastal Venezuela and Colombia but is only casually found on our shores in Florida.


This is a tiny songbird, measuring only about 4.5 inches; the song itself is a soft buzzing sound.


The grassquit, as it name implies, tends to favor tall grasses and weeds; relishing the seeds for food.


Somewhat more drab than the grassquit is the Caribbean Elaenia. What it lacks in color it makes up in spirit -- this tyrant flycatcher is fearless and fiercely territorial.


A much smaller bird, the Antillean Mango was spotted alternatively perched and hovering to feed on nectar:


This medium-sized hummer has a downcurved bill and, compared to some of its cousins on the Island, is plumed rather modestly with a white breast and green uppersides.



Moving on to New World Blackbirds -- the Venezuelan Troupial, an attractive Icterid, is, like its name implies, not native to Puerto Rico.

Venezuelan Troupial


While this Oriole is quite the stunner, it however has had a very detrimental effect on the native avifauna. Being a nest pirate, the Troupial does not build a nest of its own; instead preferring to evict the rightful nest builders and killing their young.


This despicable behavior has had a particularly strong impact on the decline of the endangered and endemic Yellow-shouldered Blackbird.


Also spied was this Mangrove Cuckoo moving stealthily through the brush:

Mangrove Cuckoo seen at Cabo Rojo


Lastly, a familiar sight to the American birder -- a couple of American Kestrel:

American Kestrel


Every habitat brings a treasure trove of species uniquely suited to their environment; and the dry scrub forest of Southwestern Puerto Rico offers a spectacular collection of specialty birds such as the Black-faced Grassquit and the sinister Troupial.

2 comments:

  1. Another spectacular report, Hemant, with photographic quality you should be extremely pleased with.

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