With my current relocation to the central forests of Trinidad, I’ve been afforded the unbelievable alternative of observing three oft-confused species in shut proximity to at least one one other. Regularly the sphere information presents a curated number of species on the identical plate as an example key variations important to nailing a constructive identification. In actuality these species are hardly ever in the identical place on the identical time, nonetheless!
Every now and then the species in query might share habitat, thus it might be attainable to understand the dimensions distinction between Lesser Yellowlegs and Larger Yellowlegs, versus counting on extra delicate area traits such because the ratio of invoice size to move size. The birds I’m referring to on this publish are all flycatchers that occupy woody, forest habitat; however they’re very sometimes in the identical place on the identical time. Some days in the past I used to be guiding a pair right here and we encountered all three, Streaked Flycatcher, Variegated Flycatcher, and Piratic Flycatcher – therefore the motivation for this consideration.
The biggest and bulkiest of the three is the kind of ever-present Streaked Flycatcher. With a strong, hooked invoice, it dismembers cicadas, beetles, and enormous grasshoppers with ease. Like many different flycatchers, it dietary supplements its arthropod food plan with fruits and berries from the forest. Of the three, the Streaked Flycatcher is best to discern, for it’s usually vocalising loudly all through the day. Even whether it is silent, its giant measurement, thick, two-toned invoice, and prevalence of rufous on its plumage are all distinctive area marks.
Two Streaked Flycatchers posture to one another. Observe the intensive rufous on the tail.
Whereas the chook above recollects a Nice Kiskadee in measurement and construction, each Variegated and Piratic Flycatchers are significantly smaller and slimmer. Variegated Flycatcher is the intermediate by way of measurement and plumage – it maintains some rufous on its rump and tail and in addition has a two-toned (albeit a lot smaller) invoice.
Curiously although, some Variegated Flycatchers have payments which can be all darkish!
The Piratic Flycatcher is the smallest of the three, and sometimes essentially the most vocal. Its strident name may be one of many extra recognisable and far-reaching vocalisations throughout the soundscape of forests at most elevations on each Trinidad and Tobago. All three species talked about on this article breed on these islands, however the Piratic Flycatcher employs a very piratic technique: the breeding pair targets a not too long ago constructed woven nest, usually by a Yellow Oriole or Yellow-rumped Cacique however they’ve additionally been recorded focusing on the nests of different flycatchers. Once I say they aim the nest, what I actually imply is that they aim the current occupiers and rightful homeowners of the nest. By fixed harassment, egg ejection, and in some instances hatchling elimination, the unique homeowners abandon ship and the Piratic Flycatchers transfer in. Generally they might redecorate a bit throughout the nest with lifeless leaves or different materials. Not like brood parasites, they increase their very own younger of their pirated nest.
Piratic Flycatchers don’t have any vital rufous plumage, nor have they got any pink base to their tiny invoice.
In separating Piratic Flycatcher from Variegated Flycatcher, I’ve discovered it most helpful to examine the facial sample. The darkish masks of the Piratic Flycatcher tends to widen considerably behind the attention, whereas the corresponding characteristic on the Variegated Flycatcher doesn’t. As an alternative, the white cheekband on the latter species fattens past the attention.
The chook above appears to have a black masks that widens past the attention, however its two-toned invoice says it’s a Variegated Flycatcher. The chook pictured under appears to have rufous on its rump, however that is merely the well-documented rusty cinnamon or fulvous edging on the uppertail coverts of a Piratic Flycatcher.
Whereas voice is a helpful identifier, the Variegated Flycatcher is notoriously silent, even throughout breeding. Each it and the Piratic Flycatcher get pleasure from perching at peak on naked branches and from a distance silent birds can pose a problem to determine. With endurance, nonetheless, as soon as the chook embarks upon a sally to pursue a close-by insect the presence or absence of rufous can simply be discerned.
Individualism is rife amongst birds the nearer one inspects, and for these comparable species oftentimes a number of packing containers have to be checked prior to creating a assured ID name. All of the extra cause to maintain birding!