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 25 of 91

24 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2014 17 • Elegant Crescentchest (Melanopareia elegans) This species lives in the dry Tumbes re- gion of southwestern Ecuador, where many of the birds are dowdy brown- and-gray things—ideal for living in this relatively colorless, scrubby ecosystem. This one, though, bucks that trend. It has a striking black highwayman's mask, a creamy throat and eyebrow, and a black chest band bordered below with rich cabernet. It is anything but dull, gives the bird a remarkable silhouette, quite unlike any other on Earth. And it's all accompanied by an incredibly low- pitched, cow-like moo! 20 • Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) Ecuador's national bird, the Andean Condor is one of the largest birds on Earth, with a wingspan of 10.5 ft. The appeal of this bird comes from both its immense size and its beautiful sur- roundings. It is a bird of the high An- des, where it can often be seen soaring effortlessly above spectacular, snow- topped volcanoes. It appears large and all dark except for its "Elizabethan" white neck ruff, and when it banks, it reveals gleaming white "solar panels" on its upperwings. and brings a welcome splash of color to this habitat. The crescentchests have a checkered taxonomic history. Formerly considered a group within the largely dowdy tapaculo family, they have since been recognized as a distinct family in their own right. 18 • Booted Racket-tail (Ocreatus underwoodii) This bird is a living cartoon. With its minuscule stature; comical, fuffy white boots; and odd tail, it seems like it has been created by sticking the end of a motmot onto the back of a humming- bird. This species regularly tops "bird of the trip" lists in Ecuador. 19 • Long-wattled Umbrellabird (Cephalopterus penduliger) While many of the birds in this list are brightly colored, or even gaudy, this species is just black. But what it may lack in chromatic qualities, it more than makes up for in terms of shape. The male of this large species of cotinga gathers with other males at lek sites to display for females. When displaying, he transforms himself from a vaguely crow-like bird into something entirely different. He erects his crest feathers, which expand into something resem- bling a Teddy Boy haircut from the '50s, and simultaneously extends a large wattle down from his chin. The wattle can be more than 10 inches long! This For those of you who have not visited Ecuador, I hope this list encourages you to venture here. For those of you who have visited, I hope you'll stop by the BirderÕs Guide website to share your own Top 20 list. Or perhaps some of my choices will even inspire you to come back to the country I am pleased to call "home". And one final thought: I am riddled with guilt. Should I have included Hoatzin? or Vel- vet-purple Coronet? or Toucan Barbet? No, no, no, I really must stop this! Photo © Pablo Cervantes Photo © Nathan Goshgarian Photo © Andrew Spencer 5-Ecuador.indd 24 3/4/14 1:02 PM

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