It had been a little while since I had been to Pipeline Road and the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center, but when a friend called me up to go for a walk I was more than happy to head out to one of my favourite places on this planet. We left early on the morning of October 11, and arrived at the entrance of Pipeline Road around 6:30 am, and the bird activity had just started. We watched the hummingbirds at the Visitors Center, walked a short trail and spent some time on the tower before the rains started before mid-morning. Highlights included a Great Black-Hawk and over 100 migrating Common Nighthawks seen from the tower. Here is an e-bird checklist of the morning.
We didn't have a lot of time in the morning, but managed to get out before the heavy rains started and continued through the rest of the day. As we were driving out on Pipeline Road, we spotted three large birds walking down the road ahead. I quickly picked up my binoculars and saw that they were Great Curassows, the largest member of the Cracidae family in Central America. Great Curassows are rare on Pipeline Road, due to years of over-hunting in the area. In 2009, I had two sightings of Great Curassows on Pipeline Road, but far in, well past 15 km from the entrance. Recently, there have been occasional sightings closer to the entrance, and this trio was less than a kilometre from the gate. They were all in female plumage, but it was not determined whether one or more were young males. We watched the trio for 10-15 minutes, until they moved off the road into the forest when a car came along, and were seen feeding on fruits under a Ficus tree not far from the road.
The Great Curassow (Crax rubra) is a large, turkey-like bird of the lowland humid forests of Central America and northwestern South America. Males are stark black with a yellow knob at the base of its beak and white undertail coverts. Females generally have a reddish-brown body and dark grey neck and head, sometimes with barring in the wings, and have a heavily barred tail. Both sexes have a curled crest. Their diet consists mostly of fruit, but they will also feed on small invertebrates and sometimes vertebrates as well. They are often found feeding on the ground, and also spend time feeding and roosting in the mid-story and even the upper levels of the forest. Due to over-hunting and habitat loss in many parts of its range, the Great Curassow is considered vulnerable by IUCN, and their populations are decreasing. Hopefully with the extent of protected areas in Panama and throughout the Neotropics, their populations will stabilize and we will begin to enjoy regular sightings of these beautiful birds.
We were going to carry on for a walk at Metropolitan Park in Panama City, but the heavy rain forced us to reschedule, that will be saved for drier day.