Four Seasons

Four Seasons
Blessed by the beauty of Creation ~ sharing what I see from my little place in His world.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Of Toucans and Woodpeckers

Birding in a foreign country is full of excitement and unknown birds.  This was definitely the case for me on our trip to Colombia.  
Of course, thanks to Toucan Sam of cereal box fame, even little kids can recognize a toucan.  But seeing one in the wild is an fantastic experience... maybe more so because of the cereal box 'fantasy' bird!

I was out early one morning looking for any birds I could see, and I was not disappointed.  There were loads of neat and interesting birds.  I was constantly taking photos of them so I could try to identify them later.

Now, birding in Colombia is not like birding at home.  At home, though I'm not an expert ornithologist by any means, at least I can usually recognize most of our local birds.  In Colombia, while I knew these were toucans, I didn't know what kind.  Turns out there are 24 species in the Ramphastidae family to which toucans belong.  Colombia has the most kinds of any country, just like hummingbirds.  (Click here to see amazing photos of toucans!)

One thing I do know about birds is that woodpeckers like dead trees.  So I checked out this large dead tree and the one next to it.  I was really excited to see both woodpeckers and toucans!
Top two are toucans, lower one is a woodpecker
Two toucans (Lettered Aracaris it turned out once I had time to study and look them up) and two kinds of woodpeckers!
Let's look closer now at the first woodpecker...
Spot-breasted Woodpecker

I would have loved to have spent more time observing.  I didn't see the woodpecker taking any food to the cavity so I don't know if there was a nest.

The toucans were not very happy with the woodpecker being there.  But toucans can't really do without woodpeckers-- because they are cavity nesters, too, but they depend on ready-made holes for their nests.  Toucans use their large bills (which can be over half the length of their bodies, depending on the species) for eating fruit and intimidating smaller birds.  More on that later!  But they can't really excavate nesting cavities with them.  Therefore, their dependance on woodpeckers.
I wondered if the toucans had a nest somewhere nearby, too.  This one almost looks like it has a brood patch on its belly.

As I watched the dead trees for awhile, I noticed another bird... another woodpecker!
Yellow-tufted Woodpecker
It and one of the toucans were having a look-alike photo posing contest.
Speaking of look-alikes,  the next toucan I saw had a definite resemblance to a prehistoric monster.
In my last post about Colombian hummingbirds (click here to read it), I said it seemed like a stretch to think hummingbirds were evolved from dinosaurs.  Well, not as much a stretch to say that about toucans...  in looks and in name (the scientific genus name of the one above sounds quite dinosaur-ish). Pteroglossus castanotis!
Chestnut-eared Aracari
Though birding in Colombia meant there were a lot of things I didn't know anything about, the reason I even saw this toucan was because of a habit of birds called 'mobbing'.  Here in the US, it's typically crows or blue jays picking on hawks or owls.  In Colombia, it was tropical mockingbirds picking on a Chestnut-eared Aracari!
In the photo above, see the fanned out tail feathers of a mockingbird to the right of the toucan?  They were having quite a go-around!
I would say the toucan successfully defended his papayas. 

Here's a short video of some of the action:
(Sorry for the noise in the background of the video, I was actually sitting next to an outdoor cafe when I took this).

And one final thing I want to show you, even though it technically doesn't have anything to do with nature.  It does have to do with toucans.
Yes, that's a Colombian pottery nativity scene (notice the llama!) in a toucan belly.  If you are ever shopping in a Colombian artisan market, you may not want to show quite as much delight in an item you want to purchase!  I'm pretty sure this 'gringo' got priced gouged.  But that's okay, I really HAD to have it!