Birder's Guide

MAR 2018

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 21 of 73

20 Birder's Guide to Travel | April 2018 Top 10 Birds in Colombia Antbird experience was the very same day, only minutes after departing the lek. We tallied 146 species in the forest that day. It's not only the bird itself but also the journey that makes these birds so special. Of course, it doesn't hurt to be retina-searing orange and possess a vocabulary of sci-fi sound effects to en- dear yourself to visiting birders. #3 • Chestnut-crested Antbird Rhegmatorhina cristata Chestnut-crested Antbird belongs to my favorite genus of birds on the planet, and a very odd one: Rhegmatorhina. These antbirds are among those that give the family their English name—they are ant swarm "obligates". Obligate antbirds have a special predilection for follow- ing and capitalizing on ant swarms, more so than other antbirds that can survive without a proliferation of army ants to scare up their food. These birds follow antswarms for days, aggressively defending their positions at the leading edge of the swarm with a number of an- I just described, won a top spot among the highlights of our time in Colombia. A family group of four put on an amaz- ing show for us and yet again demon- strated how exciting antbirds can be. #4 • Azure-naped Jay Cyanocorax heilprini This species is known from but a hand- ful of locations. Being restricted to de- pleted soils in the western reaches of the Amazon basin, reasonable access and opportunity to see this beautiful bird are limited to merely two or three options. Mitú is one of those options. Where one is most likely to encounter this highly sought-after bird just happens to involve a short hike up the side of an incredible dome of rock, similar to a small tepui. Reaching over 300 feet above the sur- rounding rainforest, the viewpoint is utterly humbling, with nothing but vast wilderness stretching out beyond eye's reach, impeded only by a few, neighbor- ing tepuis jutting up out of the perfect green like stony monolithic mistakes. In tics, so that they may eat the choicest of prey items rustled up by the relent- less army ants. Over time, these species have evolved to become dependent on antswarms and are known to abandon nesting territories, temporarily, to fol- low ants. This also means that a birder is unlikely to see one of these scarce obligate antbirds without finding an antswarm. Antswarms are notoriously ephem- eral, dependent on weather, and hard to follow unless you have wings for ma- neuvering among trees, shrubs, and tan - gles of vines. Add to that the low density of obligate antbirds, even in the most pristine forest ecosystems, and a visiting birder could easily say that dumb luck plays a huge part in getting to see one of these birds. Rhegmatorhina antbirds also happen to be the most handsome and charismatic of the lot, responding to playback with crests fully distended and brightly colored orbital skin accen- tuating their large eyes. It's no surprise that this species, which did exactly what Photo © Adam Riley # 6

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