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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.


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.

1 comment:

Bob Pelkey said...

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