Monday, November 30, 2015
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
At 44 cm, the Tawny-browed Owl is a large owl; however this is the smallest of the three species in the genus Pulsatrix (some authors split it to give a fourth species though not widely accepted). This genus is Neotropical in distribution with the largest species, the Spectacled Owl, being widespread in the region, the Band-bellied being Andean and the Tawny-browed being endemic to the Atlantic forest. Many other owls in the Atlantic forest seem to fear the Tawny-browed Owl or at least they seem to stop singing when there are tawny-brows around.
Last but certainly not least comes the magnificent genus Aegolius and the incredible Buff-fronted Owl, the only Aegolius species found in South America and quite an avian enigma. After so many years of dreaming of seeing this bird and so many sleepless nights in the dry forest of Peru, Ecuador and elsewhere, I finally managed to see this species in the cerrado habitat north of with “a little help from my friends” Cal Martins, Gustavo Pinto, Norton Santos and the enthusiasm of young Matias Ternes who first told me about the Dourado site. Although my visit was at the wrong time of year and although we heard nothing on the first night, on the second evening, after heavy rain, we had an incredible moment of luck when we found this owl with a prey item that appears to be a small bird, possibly a seedeater (the diet of this species is very poorly known). This was well worth the “slide” there and back on treacherous muddy roads. I felt it worth sharing a few points of interest. When the owl turned its head, I noticed that this species has interesting markings on the back of the head that somewhat resemble a false face (vaguely similar to its congenitor Boreal Owl and not unlike the Northern Hawk Owl, but not nearly as obvious as in the pygmy-owls). Unfortunately I didn’t manage a good photo of this. Although I have read about this feature in Boreal Owl, I had not seen this referred to in the literature for Buff-fronted Owl. This bird from southeastern Brazil is the iheringi subspecies, which has sometimes been suggested to be specifically different from the Andean nominate race, although the differences seem relatively minor. The three photos below show the owl with prey, then a side view that show nicely how the long bill is angled down so as not to interfere with the owl's binocular vision and finally a back view that gives a little bit of a sense of the false-face-like pattern on the rear of the head.
Huge thanks to my Brazilian friends for their extraordinary hospitality! Comments most welcome!