I have been trying to identify one of the birds that I photgraphed in Ecuador on a recent trip, on Jun 26, 2001. The location is Eastern Ecuador near the Napo River. This is an open area near the river. I have 4 different identifications of the bird. Three of the identifications are by experts, and they are all different.
Below are three photographs taken of the "Mystery bird" along with drawings of some of the candidate identifications. All three photographs are taken within a 2 minute interval. The drawings are from the book "The Birds of Ecuador - Field Guide, Robert S. Ridgely and Paul J. Greenfield".
This bird has been posted to the "Frontiers of Field Identification" listserv. One additional possibility was reported by two people. Before posting to the listserv, the identifications that I received were:
Peter English - VENT guide
and expert on Ecuador birds:
(from one picture) ... looks to me like a Piratic Flycatcher, but that is a 70% guess.
(from all three pictures) I am now thinking that it is a Swainson's Flycatcher (not perfect, but it works)
Real fast without much checking, it looks like it may be a Brownish Flycatcher, Cnipodectes subbrunneus. In my Panama book (Ridgely, 1989), it's called Brownish Twistwing. This bird is sometimes confused with Thrushlike Schiffornis, formerly Thrushlike Mourner or Thrushlike Manakin, one of the taxonomic mystery-birds.
Paul Greenfield - expert
and illustrator of Birds of Ecuador:
Looks to me like Crowned Slaty-Flycatcher (Griseotyrannus aurantioatricristatus). The reason it might not look exactly like the one on Plate 74 - #13 in the book is that it may be either a juvenile bird or perhaps in warn plumage. Note your bird shows some wing markings.
Identification received from Robert Ridgely:
The identifications received from the Fontiers of Field Identification are:
Myiarchus Short-Crested Flycatcher?
Michael L. P. Retter:
Reminds me of Golden-crowned Flycatchers I've seen in Venezuela, but I have no idea whether that species even occurs in Ecuador. So, just an idea.
An interesting bird. It is tempting to think of Myarchus, but the flat head and remnant of rearward supercilium point away from this - as does the streaking on the underparts visible in a few spots. It also suggests Pale-bellied Mourner (eye looks good), but the habitat/behaviour and the underparts streaking are wrong. So, I am left with a dull, worn, faded adult Golden-crowned Flycatcher (Miodynestes chryocephalus) - assuming that you were in theTena area of the Napo, and not much lower down the drainage. Many mid-lower-slope Andean species are seen at Tena - there's some evidence that seasonally, some species go down even lower. I'll be interested to know what others think!
This is a good test of the new field guide (which must have come out just too late for your trip). I'd say a slightly shabby austral migrant Swainson's Flycatcher of the feriocior subspecies.
Well, there certainly is a lot to choose from there! I have reconsidered, but still feel it is much closer to GCFly than anything else; I scanned-in two pics of GCFly from August: http://www.martinreid.com/gcrowfly.html - I ask that you compare them to your bird; I think that apart from the intensity of the pale head markings, it is a very close fit, especially: The underparts, which look perfect, including the scattered, sparse, blurry streaks that are clearly evident on your bird ( i copied the images and zoomed-in on them) - all wrong for other offered choices except Piratic. The warm tones in the tail edges, outermost wing coverts, and basal primary edges, plus the creamy edges to the inner wing coverts, tertials and secondaries. The general shape and structure, including the flattish head, and the large, wide bill with slight paling at base on mandible. I think that your bird in June is when an adult would be at its most worn/faded, while my August birds have probably recently finished their complete molt. The actual pattern on the head is extremely similar: the shape/position of the pale supercilium; the broadish dark loral "mask" continuing (more narrowly) behind the eye (no Myarchus would have this, surely?), the only major difference is the dullness of your bird's supercilium and sub-eyeline, which could be due to extreme wear and fading. In one of your images there is a faint but clearly evident malar streak - again perfect for GCFly and wrong for the other contenders except Piratic (which in my experience is more obviously streaked on the flanks, has a much thicker dark face mask, and less/no rufous in the wings and tail - plus the bill looks way too big) - and note that the malar streak is barely visible in my pics of GCFly, thus it can be faint. Anyway, all this leaves me preferring a slightly out-of-range GCFly to any of the other contenders - and I imagine that Paul G, Mitch Lysinger, etc, may be able to confirm (or not) that GCFly is an occasional visitor downriver to Sacha; certainly some other foothill species are recorded there seasonally.Feel free to share my thoughts/pics with anyone else - I need to learn from this too!
I took a look at your photos of your mystery bird. My first and lasting impressions are that of the Crowned Slaty Flycatcher--I bird that I have seen quite a few times. Your photos seem to show a bit of olive or yellow on the underparts, but I assume that this is a case of the photographs or my computer screen not showing the true color.
Floyd E. Hayes - Lecturer
in Zoology - University of the West Indies
Having briefly looked at your bird several days ago and considering several species, I gave up--just had too many other things to do. I considered Crowned Slaty Flycatcher because of the head shape and pattern, but the warm tones didn't look right. Now, having considered the comments of others and checking up on Ridgely and Tudor, I would tentatively vote for an immature Crowned Slaty Flycatcher. I've seen a lot of them in Paraguay and even in museum collections--but don't recall looking carefully at immatures, which of course would be expected to have some brown tones, especially on the wing coverts. Recall that breeding should occur October-February followed by northward migration around March. But somehow I would think by June it would be looking more like an adult...
I saw your mystery photos, and I was wondering what the elevation was where you saw the bird. I gather you meant near the Rio Napo (not Naro), which might make the elevation fairly low. I have just returned fom Ecuador myself, and will have a report ready in the next 6 months.
I received the 3 photos of the Flycatcher. Very interesting. I do not believe it is a Brownish Twistwing (Flycatcher) at all. Habitat, sitting on an open branch for photos, bill shape, etc rule that out. I personally would look at a worn plumage Variegated Flycatcher (Empidonomus varius). The habitat would be right and the fact that it stuck around for photos and sat on an open perch. I could be a first year bird or worn plumage in which case you would need to take the picture in any plate and wash out most of the obvious streaking. My first impression was Piratic Fly but the tail and wing showed too much rufous and more pink at the base of the bill. Very interesting photo though, habits would have been a good clue had I seen it. Thanks for the challenge!!!
Notes sent for clarification:
I sent a note to Paul Greenfield:
I had looked at the drawing of the Crowned Slaty-Flycatcher and thought that it was close. I was not sure about the color of the chest, since the picture shows almost a brown color with just a hint of yellow, and the drawing shows a darker gray. The eye-line is right, but the drawing indicates a back with a little more rufous color.
I had asked Peter English and he said Swainson's Flycatcher. This does not look like a Swainson's Flycatcher to me. Almost everything is wrong. The back color, the line through the eye, the color of the breast, and the color of the bill.
I Think Swainson's Flycatcher would be wrong.
I sent a note to Peter English:
In my quest to identify the flycatcher, I sent the pictures to Paul Greenfield. He indicated that he thought it was a Crowned Slaty Flycatcher. Do you think that this is possible?
I sent a note to Martin Reid:
< text of the other calls and sending him a scan of the description that Ridgely has for the range of the Golden-crowned Flycatcher. Ridgely indicates that it is found "Mostly 1000-2200 m.">
The "farm" at Sacha Lodge is located at 221 m. according to my GPS.
Thanks for the scan; I have not gotten the new EC book yet! Note that they say "mostly"; Birds of S.Am quotes it as low as 500m, while Birds of the High Andes says down to c.600m; Sacha is at 300m (I've been there 3 times), and I know that e.g. Orange-breasted Falcon has be confirmed there a couple of times - this is an upper foothill species that seasonally wanders; I can't remember what other examples there are, but I know there are at least one or two other foothill species that are occasionally seen in the 500 - 300m zone.You did not mention my comments about the similarities with GCFly; The underparts alone are so much like GCFly and unlike any of the other contenders (the flammulated appearance plus the sparse blurry streaks on the lower belly and extreme undertail coverts), that to my mind, it is more likely to be a mildly extralimital form that it strongly resembles, than an in-range form that would shatter the known range of plumage variations, IMHO...
Note to John Sterling:
Did you consider a Swainson's Flycatcher?
Did not consider Swainson's Flycatcher--not even close in my opinion.
It certainly is interesting that so many different identifications have been made of this bird.
Peter English brings up the point of the yellow cast shown under the bird. I'm not sure if this is actual color or a misrepresentation of the color by my camera. The camera seems to give a very accurate color rendition, but lighting may effect its output. The pictures are taken with a Cannon D-30 digital camera. All the pictures are taken with an f/2.8 300mm lens with a 2x doubler. In order to provide some indication of color shift, the two photographs below are taken at about the same time as the three pictures shown above. The second picture shows a distinct yellow cast on the bird.
Variegated Flycatcher - 2001 Jun 26 9:15:18 CDT
Variegated Flycatcher - 2001 Jun 26 9:23:40 CDT
Last update 2001 Nov 13