Black-billed Mountain Toucan (Andigena nigrirostris)

…a small species of toucan that is native to the highland forests in the Andes of western Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and northern Peru. Like other toucan species A.nigrirostris feeds mostly on fruit and the occasional insect or lizard.  Despite what their common name suggests only one subspecies (A.n.nigrirostris) actually has a fully black bill the others have bills that are chestnut and partially black.



Image(s): Felix Uribe

A Little Owl (R) defends its feeding position from a Great spotted woodpecker (L) with both birds showing a their full colours with dramatic full wing extensions. (Photo and caption by Ian Schofield/National Geographic Photo Contest) (via 2013 National Geographic Photo Contest - Photos - The Big Picture - Boston.com)

Blue-cheeked Jacamar - Galbula cyanicollis 

Also referred to as Blue-necked Jacamar, Galbula cyanicollis (Piciformes - Galbulidae) is considered a species complex found across southern Amazonia, from eastern Peru and parts of Bolivia to east Amazonian Brazil.

This species can be easily distinguished by the yellow lower mandible and the bluish head and neck sides.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©Ciro Albano | Locality: Brazil (2013)


White-headed Woodpecker (Picoides albolarvatus)

…A species of woodpecker that is endemic to western North America, ranging from British Columbia through southern California. White-headed woodpeckers typically inhabit montane coniferous forests which are dominated by pine trees. Like other woodpeckers P. albolarvatus feeds mostly on insects and conifer seeds.

Interestingly, the subspecies P. a. gravirostris has a longer bill and tail than the other subspecies, and it is only found in the San Gabriel Mountains. The longer bill and tail are adaptations to be better able to feed on the large spiny cones of Coulter Pines (Pinus coulteri)


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Images: Marcel Holyoak and Frank D. Lospalutto

This Bird Will Put a Spell on You

There’s an element of luck in birdwatching, and sometimes that luck is mostly bad. A birder may find a particular bird so elusive, that after many unsuccessful attempts to see it, the bird becomes a kind of “jinx bird.”

Can a bird truly be equated with bad luck? Europeans centuries ago believed so, for the very word “jinx” and its connotation of a spell of bad luck comes directly from a bird’s name.

The bird once called the “jynx” — j-y-n-x — is the bird known today as the Eurasian wryneck. When a wryneck, a brown and gray-toned bird about the size of a small woodpecker, is threatened at its nest-hole, it twists its head sideways like a snake and hisses.

This anomalous behavior led to the wryneck being invoked in witchcraft to put a spell or a jinx on someone.

Today, the Eurasian wryneck seems harmless enough, although its scientific name, Jynx torquilla (tor-QUILL-uh), honors its neck-twisting, bewitching reputation.

(via Audubon Magazine)

From Wikipedia:

The genus name Jynx comes from the Latin iynx, the name for the bird. It had occasionally been used in magic and divination because of its remarkable ability to twist its neck and head through almost 180 degrees while hissing like a snake. The Online Etymology Dictionary entry for “jinx” states that the word was first used, as a noun, in American English in 1911. It traces it to a 17th-century word jyng, meaning “a spell”, and ultimately to the Latin word iynx.

Curl-crested Aracari 

Pteroglossus beauharnaesii (Piciformes - Ramphastidae), a stunning species of toucan, better known as Curl-crested Aracari, found in Bolivia, Brazil and Peru.

Pteroglossus beauharnaesii is one of the more spectacularly plumaged aracari, and one of the more stranger looking birds. Unlike any other aracari, or any other bird, it has modified head feathers that resemble shiny black pieces of plastic. It is from these modified feathers that this species gets its name.

Apart from the bizarre head ornamentation, the Curl-crested Aracari is a quite pretty toucan, with a red back, yellow underparts with a single red breast ban, and a quite ornately patterned, multicolored bill.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©Geoff Gallice

Locality: Tambopata National Reserve in Madre de Dios, Peru


Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius)

…a large species of woodpecker that is native to the northern palearctic ecozone, ranging east from France across Europe to Northern Asia. Black woodpeckers typically reside in mature woodlands like coniferous and subtropical boreal forests. Although they are also widespread throughout mountainous and lowland forests as well. Like other woodpeckers D.maritus feeds by hammering on dead trees to flush out carpenter ants and wood-boring beetles. They prefer to hammer at trees that are rotting or have fungal diseases, although they will hammer at healthy trees as well. Black woodpeckers are largely considered keystone species as their ‘excavations’ provide homes for a myriad of animals and they control populations of wood-boring beetles.


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Images: Nikos Petrou and Alastair Rae