When I was only just getting into birdwatching, I used to go through the list of birds of Trinidad and Tobago and mark off birds that I felt were interesting, attractive, or any combination of these. The family of wood-rails always stood out to me – for their vibrant colours over anything else. Well, that was all I could’ve gathered from the pictures. As I learned more and more about birds in general, I realized how slim my chances of seeing any one of these rails were. Residents of thick forest, mangrove and swamps, they were notoriously skittish and avoided any sort of human contact whatsoever.
One of these species was the Grey-necked Wood-rail. This wide-ranging bird was recorded from northern Mexico to South America. This year, however, ornithologists have split the species into two: the Russet-naped Wood-rail and the Grey-cowled Wood-rail. The former ranges from Mexico to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, and the latter from Argentina in the south to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The split was based on differences in vocalizations, which usually is the first indicator of differing species. Now somewhere in Costa Rica, both Russet-naped and Grey-cowled Wood-rails cohabit; which I’m certain is going to exacerbate someone’s sanity issues.
Anyway, back here in Trinidad, we have the Grey-cowled Wood-rail. Beautiful bird, skittish as ever, to get this photograph I lay under a large patch of bougainvillea and enjoyed numerous insect bites as I waited.
Lucky me, I didn’t get stung by this guy – I saw it on a leaf close by – an Assassin Bug. These inch long insects can give a nasty bite, injecting a toxin into whatever they can sink their mouthparts into. It’s rumoured that Assassin bugs kill up to 10,000 people per year, but I do believe that’s just internet bunk. Chances are the worst that can happen once the toxin is injected is an allergic reaction. I’ll pass on testing it out, thanks.