PHOTOGENIC ENDEMICS: BAHAMA YELLOWTHROATS ON ABACO


Bahama Yellowthroat Abaco 7

PHOTOGENIC ENDEMICS: BAHAMA YELLOWTHROATS ON ABACO

I’ve been keeping this little bird up my capacious avian-friendly sleeve for a while. In June we took a truck and headed for deep backcountry to the edge of the pine forests and beyond to see what we could find in the way of birdlife. Good choice – the answer was ‘plenty’.Bahama Yellowthroat Abaco 5

Among the birds we encountered were the endemic Bahama swallows, hairy woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks, kingbirds, red-legged thrushes, red-winged blackbirds, western spindalises, tobacco doves, La Sagra’s flycatchers, crescent-eyed pewees with a nest and eggs, a wonderful ‘booming display’ by antillean nighthawks courting during an early evening fly hatch**… and Bahama yellowthroats Geothlypis rostrata.Bahama Yellowthroat Abaco 1

The illustrative photos are of poor quality, but rather than blame my camera (as I am only too ready to do), I plead ‘overexcitement’ in mitigation. Of the 4 endemic species on Abaco, this was the only one I’d never seen. There was a tweeting noise on the edge of an abandoned sugar cane field (above), followed by  some rustling… and out fluttered this bird, crossing the track right by us and landing quite close to inspect us. Bahama Yellowthroat Abaco 2

This striking bird, with its Zorro mask and bright yellow body, is an endearing mix of shy and inquisitive. Only the males have the mask – the females are less colourful, though naturally equally interesting… Bahama Yellowthroat Abaco 8

Yellowthroats are responsive to pishing, and once lured from cover they may happily remain on low-to-medium height branches or on a shrub, watching you watching them.Bahama Yellowthroat Abaco 3

Their song is quite easily imitated, and that may also bring them into the open – a source of immense satisfaction to the amateur (me) if it works. Here’s an example, courtesy of my iPH@NE METHOD for bird recording. It’s the call at the start and the end.

The one we watched had plenty to sing about – it’s just a shame that my images are so poor, because in some you can see its tiny tongue. A bit too blurry, though, even by my own moderate standards for inclusion.Bahama Yellowthroat Abaco 4

At a formative stage of this blog, I did a short post about the endemic Bahama Yellowthroat and its comparisons with the similar and better-known Common Yellowthroat, which is also found in the Bahamas. You can read it HERE. There’s a female shown, a video, and an unacknowledged debt to Wiki or similar source, I can’t help but notice…Bahama Yellowthroat Abaco 6

**ANTILLEAN NIGHTHAWKS AND THE ‘BOOMING DISPLAY’

Common Nighthawk Photo “On summer evenings, keep an eye and an ear out for the male Nighthawk’s dramatic “booming” display flight. Flying at a height slightly above the treetops, he abruptly dives for the ground. As he peels out of his dive (sometimes just a few meters from the ground) he flexes his wings downward, and the air rushing across his wingtips makes a deep booming or whooshing sound, as if a racecar has just passed by. The dives may be directed at females, territorial intruders, and even people.” We found ourselves right in the middle of one of these astounding displays, with maybe 100 birds behaving exactly as described, often whooshing within inches of our heads. I’ll post some more about it in due course. Credits: Philip Simmons; All About Birds (Cornell Lab)

Toyota Truck, Abaco Backcountrygeothlypis_rostrata RANGE MAP

BAHAMA YELLOWTHROAT: ABACO’S ENDEMIC WARBLER


BAHAMA YELLOWTHROAT: AN ENDEMIC WARBLER

The Bahama Yellowthroat (Geothlypis rostrata) is a resident breeder species of warbler endemic to the Bahamas, closely related to the migratory Common Yellowthroat. The other birds endemic to Abaco / Bahamas are the Bahama Swallow, BAHAMA WOODSTAR and ABACO PARROT

HABITAT Dense low scrub, usually in drier areas than used by wintering Common Yellowthroats. It builds a cup nest low in dense vegetation and lays two eggs. Like other yellowthroats it feeds on insects and other small invertebrates in low vegetation

THE 3 VARIETIES The adult Bahama Yellowthroat is 15 cm long with a large bill. There are 3 subspecies: G. r. rostrata on Andros and New Providence islands (uncommon to rare);  G. r. tanneri on Grand Bahama, Great Abaco and associated islands (common); and G. r. coryi on Eleuthera and Cat islands (common). The noticeable distinction between these 3 types seems to be in the forecrown colour (not one I myself would readily spot…)

DIFFERENCES FROM COMMON YELLOWTHROAT The Bahama Yellowthroat is slightly larger than wintering Common Yellowthroat and has a heavier bill and ‘slower, more deliberate movements’. Males have ‘more extensively yellow underparts, a larger facemask extending onto the nape, and in the case of coryi the distinctive yellow forecrown. Females have a grey wash to the head not shown by Common Yellowthroat’.

Bahama Yellowthroat (Adult female), Little Abaco                                    Photo credit ©Mike Danzenbaker  http://www.avesphoto.com

SONG Described as a loud wichety wichety wichety wich, similar to that of Common Yellowthroat, with the call a softer jip than that of Common Yellowthroat. This is meaningless to me – lots of warblery birds sound like that as far as I can make out. Here is a very short recording of a BY on Abaco courtesy of Xeno-Canto, but it’s not saying wichety to me – more like whee-hew 

Below is a short self-crediting video to illustrate the song of a Bahama Yellowthroat on Grand Cayman. There’s a hint of wichety there.

CONSERVATION The Bahama Yellowthroat population overall is quite small and is outnumbered in winter by migrant Common Yellowthroats. It appears not to be endangered. Its conservation is currently listed as ‘Least Concern’ (see Wiki-Box above). The population may be decreasing slightly due to habitat destruction, but not yet sufficiently to bring the species within the ‘vulnerable’ classification.

Here is an excellent clear image of an adult male by Craig Nash who has taken many wonderful photos around Delphi and further afield – see the 4 ‘Peregrine’s Blog’ links under the Blogroll in the SIDEBAR Highly recommended.                        [I am also clearing copyright permission to add a few other photos – I haven’t taken my own BY photo yet…]Photo credit: Craig Nash

Sources: various, including relevant books (see reviews in BOOKS BirdLife International and good old Wiki