Birder's Guide

MAR 2014

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 23 of 91

22 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2014 all fve of the Neomorphus ground- cuckoos hold a special allure for reg- ular visitors to the Neotropics. They are extremely diffcult to see, even after spending months in the feld. The two authors of the Ecuador feld guide spent years collecting birds and describing new species, and logged many, many long hours in the feld, yet neither saw this bird during their decades of research. Ground-cuckoos have the added charm of being ant- followers, making sightings of them all the more exciting, as they appear, dra- matically, in a frenzy of action around the center of a swarm. This is how I saw my frst one, running in to snatch insects feeing the lead phalanx of an ant swarm in the Andes. 10 • Orange-throated Tanager (Wetmorethraupis sterrhopteron) Ecuador is graced with a profusion of gorgeous and colorful tanagers. In my mind, this one stands head and shoul- ders above most of the rest. Not only is it a large and beautiful species, it is also rare, confned to the foothills of the far southeast. It has a tangerine- colored throat and black upperparts, with cerulean-blue panels in the wings. It inhabits the treetops, so "warbler neck" often results from searching for it. But it's another source of the "Black- burnian effect": its throat glows from within the dark recesses of the canopy. 11 • Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan (Andigena hypoglauca) I simply had to pick a toucan, as they have brought such joy to me and the many groups I have led in Ecuador. The mountain-toucans hold a special mag- netism; they comprise a small group of inconspicuous, though colorful, spe- cies, and are confned to the scenic An- dean cloudforests. They are character- ized by a largely blue body—unusual among toucans—and beautifully pat- terned bills. Given its cloudforest habi- tat, it's often seen perched on branches that are decorated with deep-red tank bromeliads, copper-colored moss, and gray-green lichens, making for quite a sight indeed. 12 • Cream-colored Woodpecker (Celeus favus) This woodpecker is exactly what it says on the box. It is a woodpecker, and it is cream-colored. The thing is, wood- peckers are just not meant to be this color! It's an Amazonian species, so you often see it from a canopy tower while perched in the treetops and surrounded by magnifcent rainforest. 13 • Giant Conebill (Oreomanes fraseri) This tanager family member is the high- Andean equivalent of a nuthatch, and it has a fnicky preference for "hatching" within distinctive, red-barked Polylepis trees. The stands of these trees, which oxymoronically occur above treeline, exist amid the scenic windswept pára- mos that are home to Andean Condors. These hardy woods can often appear birdless, until the silence is broken by a jumbled warble that reveals the pres- ence of a conebill within. Finding cone- bills in the dense stands is not easy, but it is well worth the effort for such a handsome bird. They are dove-gray above, with a burnt red underside, and white fashes on the cheeks. This spe- Photo © Andrew Spencer Photo © Andrew Spencer Photo © Sam Woods 5-Ecuador.indd 22 3/4/14 1:02 PM

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