Saturday, 13 February 2016

Honeycreepers

     Whenever I plan a visit to Central America or northern South America I start to think of honeycreepers. These birds seem to embody the essence of a tropical species before one has ever seen one. And they are easy to find and are attracted to the feeders which are a standard feature of most lodges. Bananas seem to be a magnet for honeycreepers.
     On our recent adventures in Costa Rica two species were common; especially Green Honeycreeper Chlorophanes spiza. I think that, on average, we saw more males than females and it is indeed a handsome bird.




     It is instantly recognizable with its brilliant turquoise body, yellow bill and red eye in a black hood.
     The female might merit the name Green Honeycreeper more than the male perhaps, for she truly is green, a lovely lime green in fact, with a slightly decurved yellow bill and a dark culmen. Equally as handsome as the male in my opinion, it is not hard to understand why early ornithologists upon first seeing them, thought they were a separate species, until pairs were seen together engaged in behaviours that clearly marked them as different genders of the same species.



      Green Honeycreepers are prone to join mixed flock species but are aggressive towards other birds, defending feeding areas tenaciously. Skutch (1962) observed honeycreepers seizing small birds in their bill and hanging on viciously. My experiences have been limited to feeder birds and individuals perched on branches, but I never tire of seeing them. This is a bird to be enjoyed by even the most casual observer and I cannot imagine that watching the antics of a Green Honeycreeper would not enhance anyone's experience of the tropics.






     The second species we saw was Red-legged Honeycreeper Cyanerpes cyaneus, not as frequently, however as Green Honeycreeper. Here is a male perched in the lower branches of a tree.



     As you can see the name is appropriate for the red legs are indeed a distinguishing feature. Red-legged Honeycreepers do not join mixed flocks as frequently as Chlorophanes honeycreepers and when they do their hostility is limited to posturing rather than physical action. Females especially (seen below) seem to be more argumentative than males.



     We saw the male several times displaying its pale turquoise crown but we were never able to determine what proximate conditions caused it to do this.




     It was entertaining to watch, however.
     So, if you have plans to travel to the neotropics be sure to keep an eye open for these attractive little birds. Observe them closely and you will be rewarded with a living lesson in avian ecology. It is sure to enhance your experience.

28 comments:

  1. Wow, what do you still had beautiful birds for the lens David
    Magnificence pictures of these colorful birds.
    Nice weekend, greetings Tinie

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  2. Beautiful birds watched and wrote about them . They have beautiful colors. Pictures are very nice. Regards.

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  3. Olá, David!
    A Natureza observada sob a lente da sua câmera se torna ainda mais exuberante!
    Minha esposa também gosta de fotografar o que temos ao nosso redor aqui na
    nossa chácara.
    Abraços!

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  4. Love the rich colours,and beautiful eye details,superb captures.
    The Red-Legged Honeycreeper is my favourite.
    John.

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  5. Hello David!:) Lovely photos of two very beautiful species, and I would be overjoyed to see these lovely birds in the wild, and observe them as you have.The vibrant turquoise and blue colours of the males are simply magnificent
    Enjoy your weekend!:)

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  6. splendid birds David. You are lucky !!!!
    Good week

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  7. Amazing birds David. That turquoise honeycreeper is almost beyond belief ... Certainly beyond beautiful! I would so love to go to Costa Rica! Wonderful, thanks for sharing.

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  8. You saw a great variety of honeycreepers David. thank you for your informative commentary, not to mention those lovely, colourful photographs. As one who eats a banana for breakfast most morning (I kid you not) I can understand why the honeycreepers find them satisfying to eat. Once a banana gets overripe I am sure that it must also attract insects to feed on it, a further source of food for birds.

    Now if I put a banaa out on my bird table will I get a honeycreeper next to my Goldfinches?

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    1. Depends on how much you drink before you out out the banana.

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  9. Lovely colors and birds.. Have a nice day..

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  10. Such vibrant colours, David! So exotic in appearance.

    Best wishes to you and Miriam.

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  11. Very nice pictures, David.
    Gr Jan W

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  12. Dearest David,
    It is always rewarding to stroll through tropical regions to observe the exotic looking birds. We enjoyed doing that on the island of Curaçao. But in Indonesia, sadly there are not many wild birds left on the over populated island of Java. Once we walked and encountered a teen who had shot birds and wore them as a string around his hips. Knowing their language fluently I let him have some words but doubt it left a lasting impression. It is very much a lack of culture and foremost a lack of respect for nature!
    Anyone who can observe these heavenly critters in their natural habitat is blessed.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. The sad situation you found on Java is all too true in other parts of the world too, Mariette. Maybe they can see the value of ecotourism and at least protect the wildlife in their own self-interest.

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  13. Beautiful Honeycreepers, a jewel in the sky, love them.

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  14. Hi David and thanks so much for your visit and comments. Love these birds and totally unknown to me. We will be in the USA in June so I am looking forward to trying to identify unknown birds. I still struggle a bit with unusual European birds having lived most of my life in Africa. I will be following your travels from now on. Have a good week, Diane

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  15. Wow !!! These are so beautiful birds !!!!
    Greetings

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  16. Outstanding photos David. I am a novice birder and appreciate posts such as yours. Thank you for dropping by and commenting. I have read similar articles that you mentioned. Yes it is indeed very sad.

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  17. Beautiful birds and such beautiful colours.

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  18. Wow, David, the color of these birds is amazing and stunning. Great series. You really must have enjoyed to be there and to see them with your own eyes. Fantastic! Greetings, Joke

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  19. Hello David, a bit late with my reaction sorry for that. It is amazing what birds you have seen. The colours are so splendid it must have been as if you were walking in Paradise.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  20. Exotic species arouse interest in the unusual plumage :-) I hope that it sounded good;-)

    Greetings from Poland for you David :-)

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  21. Lovely images of the honey creepers, such vibrant colours.
    My favourite is the turquoise one with tha banana peel, gorgeous :)

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  22. Hi David and Miriam
    Some wonderful images, such vibrant colours, difficult to pick a favourite,but the red legged honeycreeper is a stunning bird. Are starting to hear the Barn Owls more at the moment
    All the best to you both.
    John

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    1. Great to hear from you again, John. Thanks for your comment.

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  23. Gorgeous birds! The colours are spectacular.

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