Central America: Fall 2017

Fall 2017: 1 August–30 November

John van Dort

Oliver Komar

Recommended citation:

van Dort, J., and O. Komar. 2021. Fall 2017: Central America. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-aGX> North American Birds.

With the exceptions of El Salvador and Honduras, most Central American countries added species to their lists this fall, with Panama topping the effort with four additions: Eurasian Collared-Dove, Inca Dove, Cassin’s Kingbird, and Carib Grackle. The discovery of Carib Grackle in Panama adds another South American species to the Central American list. Other first country records during this period include Yellow-crowned Parrot and Flame-rumped Tanager in Costa Rica, Northern Mockingbird in Belize, Black-vented Shearwater in Guatemala, and Connecticut Warbler in Nicaragua.

Connecticut Warbler is one of those long-distance Neotropical migrants that usually bypasses Central America during its twice annual intercontinental migrations. There are only a handful of convincing records of vagrants showing up during migration (or during winter), never staying long enough even for a photograph. Yet for some reason 2017 was the year of the Connecticut Warbler. After Belize got its second record in spring, Costa Rica picked up its second record this fall, in addition to Nicaragua’s first, mentioned above.

Subregional compilers:

George Angehr (Panama), John Cahill (Guatemala), Liliana Chavarría-Duriaux (Nicaragua), Jan Cubilla (Panama), Roselvy Juárez (El Salvador), Lee Jones (Belize), Darién Montañez (Panama), Pat O’Donnell (Costa Rica), John van Dort (Honduras).

Doves through Hummingbirds

Eurasian Collared-Dove is becoming established throughout Central America. A photo of one at Playa Barqueta, Chiriquí Prov. on 4 Sep provided the first documentation for Panama (ph. Yasmin Cerrud). The southerly spread of Inca Dove continues and has now reached Panama, where it was new for the country on 11 Sep (ph. Euclides Campo, Mario Ocana); one was found in Agua Fría, Coclé Prov. Maybe it will reach the land of the Incas one day… Two Maroon-chested Ground-Doves singing at Volcán Pacayita Biological Reserve, Lempira Dpt. on 4 Sep were noteworthy, as the species had not been recorded in Honduras since 2006 (v.r. Oliver Komar, Edwin Miranda). An Eared Dove was photographed at the Biomuseo in Amador in Panama City, Panamá Prov. on 17 Oct (ph. Darién Montañez). The species has been reported only twice before from Panama: sight records from 1973 and 1987.

A familiar bird of humid lowland forests throughout the region, White-necked Jacobin is nevertheless exceedingly rare in the drier areas of the Pacific Slope. It was photographed for the first time in El Salvador on 25 Nov, when an adult male was found near Cinquera, Cuscatlán Dpt. (ph. Ivania Sibrian, Benjamin Melara). Prior undocumented sight reports from El Salvador date back to the 1990s.

Gulls through Parrots

Every few years, a Black-legged Kittiwake shows up somewhere in Central America, where records are scattered throughout the year. This year one briefly visited Costa Rica at Chomes, Puntarenas Prov. on 13 Sep (David Rodríguez Arias, Robert Dean); there is at least one prior record from the country. White-tailed Tropicbird is rarely reported off the Atlantic coast of Central America; one found at Southwest Cayes, Stann Creek Dist. on 29 Nov (Israel Manzanero Jr) was the first since Apr 1976 and only the second for Belize. Rare anywhere off Pacific Central America, let alone on land, a Red-tailed Tropicbird was found grounded a few kilometers inland at San José de Pinilla in Guanacaste Prov., Costa Rica on 3 Sep (Judith Estrada Gómes); the bird was brought to a vet who eventually released it on the coast (ph. SINAC- MINAE Santa Cruz – Carrillo).

Waved Albatross is a rare visitor to Costa Rican waters; an adult photographed 5 miles off Malpais, Puntarenas on 17 Oct was one of a handful of records confirmed for Costa Rica (ph. Clyeber Zamora). Black-vented Shearwater prefers colder waters of the Pacific off Mexico and California, but dispersing birds sometimes reach Central America in fall. It was new, though hardly unexpected, for Guatemala on 23 Oct, when three individuals were seen on a pelagic trip off Escuintla Dpt. (ph. Alfredo Valle, David Alinan).

Maguari Stork, a South American species prone to wandering, occasionally reaches Central America. One was at Finca Bayano, Panamá Prov. on 3 Sep (ph. Rolando Jordan); presumably the same individual had first been seen six weeks earlier on 16 Jul at the same locality (ph. Rolando Jordan). It represents just the second reported on eBird for Panama. A Jabiru seen flying low over the Chanis neighborhood in Panama City, Panamá Prov. was quite the surprise there on 12 Aug (Mauricio Hoyos). In Costa Rica, Blue-footed Booby is a regular but sporadic visitor to waters off and along the Pacific coast; a report of 65 from the Gulf of Nicoya 10 Sep was an unusually large number for the country (ph. Jorge Zúñiga Lopez).

A Burrowing Owl at the international airport in Belize Dist. on 27 Nov (Jamal Andrewin, Zhawn Poot) was only Belize’s fourth record. Yellow-crowned Parrot occurs in edge habitats in many parts of Panama, including the far west of the country; a group of 7 individuals seen well and photographed at Palma Quemada near the border with Panama on 4 Sep provided a new species for the Costa Rica list (ph. Geinor Mena Murillo).

Flycatchers through Sparrows

A Cassin’s Kingbird at the Sierra Llorona Panama Lodge, Colón Prov. on 20 Oct (ph. Ken Rosenberg, ph. Peter Blancher) was totally unexpected as a vagrant in lowland tropical Panama. Its presence near the Panama Canal might suggest the possibility of a ship assisted vagrant, although there is no reason to suspect this upland species would migrate across an ocean and board an ocean-going vessel.

The status of Northern Mockingbird in northern Central America remains enigmatic, as mockingbirds with varying amounts of white in the wings are regularly reported. Many of these white-winged birds have dark or mostly dark primary coverts, a feature that is thought to be diagnostic for Tropical Mockingbird. Nonetheless, a bona fide Northern Mockingbird with very large white areas in the wings (including the primary coverts) convincingly provided a new species for Belize on 27 Oct, when observers found it at the Cattle Landing waterfront in Toledo Dist. (ph. Jorge Eduardo Ruano, Victor Gamez, Jonathan Urbina, Geovanni Martinez, Hector Ortiz, Melvin Arevalo).

Rare anywhere in Central America, Vesper Sparrow was an exciting find in Guatemala on 6 Nov in the Chajbaoc Reserve in Alta Verapaz Dpt. (Max Noack). The species had not been documented in Central America since 2001 (a Belizean record), and not in Guatemala for over 50 years. Clay-colored Sparrow is a very rare but possibly overlooked wintor visitor to Costa Rica. A bird photographed at Grano de Oro, Turrialba (Cartago Prov.) on 23 Oct was one of the few confirmed records for Costa Rica (ph. Elkin Elizondo). An immature “Gambel’s” White-crowned Sparrow visited Belize on 30 Oct at the Turneffe Island Resort, Belize Dist. (ph. Eddie Polanco). Two previous Belizean records of White-crowned Sparrow were from 2006 and 1988.

Blackbirds through Tanagers

Though by 2021 Carib Grackle was known to breed and to occur in small numbers throughout the eastern half of Panama, the species was new for the country in 2017. Was it overlooked previously, or did it spread from South America following increased urbanization? Or, indeed, both? The first report for Panama was on 15 Aug, when a smaller bird, a male, stood out in a flock of about a hundred Great-tailed Grackles at Finca Bayano near Chepo (ph. Jan Cubilla). On 10 Sep, four birds were found near Tortí (Carlos Bethancourt, Raymond VanBuskirk, ph. Michael Retter), and 22 Sep, a flock of 35 was seen flying over the Río Chucunaque near Yaviza (Raymond VanBuskirk, Michael Retter). An impressive congregation of 500 Orchard Orioles was a high count for Belize; the flock was at Spanish Lookout, Cayo Dist. on 27 Aug (Gary Reimer). While most migrants have peaks later in the season, Orchard Orioles are already present in large numbers in the region by mid-August.

A Connecticut Warbler, exceedingly rare anywhere in Central America, was seen at close range and described in detail at the Empalme al Cielo, Jinotega Dpt., Nicaragua on 6 Oct (Liliana Chavarría Duriaux, Georges Duriaux, Edgard Castillo Rivas); this represents the first report for Nicaragua. Another Connecticut Warbler was carefully described in Costa Rica on 19 Oct at Ujarrás, Cartago (Ernest Carman); there are only two prior eBird records for Costa Rica. El Salvador’s second Bay-breasted Warbler was a surprise on 20 Oct in Ecoparque El Espino, La Libertad Dpt. (ph. Guillermo Funes, Fernanda Ramos); this species is regular on the Caribbean Slope and in southern Central America. The same locality and date hosted another “Caribbean Slope” warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, of which there were only three previous El Salvador records (ph. Guillermo Funes). A common winter visitor in the highlands of northern Central America, Townsend’s Warbler is nevertheless virtually absent in the Caribbean lowlands; a transient female was found on Half Moon Caye, Belize Dist. on 10 Oct (ph. Jorge Eduardo Ruano, ph. Isaias Morataya, ph. Francis Canto Jr., Roni Martinez, Fidelio Montes Jr). The only previous records for Belize were in Dec 2001 and Oct 2014.

Flame-rumped Tanager occurs throughout Panama, right up to the Costa Rica border. Thus, finding one on the other side of the border near Agua Buena, Puntarenas Prov. on 15 Oct was exciting and new for Costa Rica, but perhaps not entirely unexpected (ph. Henry Sandi Amador).

Report processed by Michael L. P. Retter, 22 Jun 2021.

Photos–Central America: Fall 2017

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