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Birding Hacienda Jacana: July/August

As is typical of my style, by the time we were rolling down the hill approaching the Hacienda Jacana entrance, all I could hear was my stomach digesting itself. With approximately two hours left in the day, the question was to bird or to eat? Obviously the only logical answer was both.

I wolfed down that late lunch, and recorded a number of species by ear as we ate – trying desperately to hear Barred Antshrikes and a distant Southern Beardless Tyrannulet over the din of mastication. My food had not yet reached my stomach properly and I was already getting my camera ready for a brief walk before the sun dipped below the treeline.

Opting for slight cover, I walked along the various walkways linking the cottages and enjoyed the song of a lone Yellow-rumped Cacique from across the river. A movement from the undergrowth caught my eye, and I was excited for a brief moment until I realized that it was indeed a familiar bird – albeit looking a bit odd. This balding Blue-black Grassquit is likely an immature that is currently mid-moult into his adult plumage.

blue black quit







Further down the road the unmistakable tap, tap, tap on a branch could only mean one thing. Didn’t take long at all to locate the largest woodpecker in the Caribbean, the Crimson-crested Woodpecker.

crimson crested woodpecker at last light







Happy to get such a great view of such a beautiful bird before the night fell, I was content and about to return to the cabin when I heard the all-too-familiar call of one of Hacienda Jacana’s specialty species – Red-bellied Macaws! Snapped off a couple frames as two pairs rocketed past, thanking my lucky stars for the sighting. But more was to come.

red-bellied macaws at last light










An hour into the darkness of the night and we had a pair of Tropical Screech Owls calling to each other for quite some time. The raucous shriek of a Limpkin shattered the regular night chorus of frogs and insects for a brief period of ten minutes or so. Before dawn broke, we heard the expected friendly hooting of a Ferruginous Pygmy-owl. Always brings a smile to my face.

The following morning luck didn’t particularly follow me – but I definitely heard a lot. At the crack of dawn the Limpkin from the night before descended on the bank of one of the ponds, and I decided to take my chances to grab the shot. Skittish as always, I took great care in stepping silently on the damp ground. Perhaps a little too much care. I got to the pond and there was no sight of the Limpkin. Then it popped up no more than twenty feet away, startled both photographer and intended subject and instantly took off. Oh well.

Hacienda Jacana is the best place on the island to secure excellent views of some of Trinidad’s most sought after avian species, such as the Red-bellied Macaw, Grey-necked Wood-Rail – and most recently I personally learned that if you want to get a good view of Black-tailed Tityra…

black-tailed tityra-2







The trema tree next to our cabin was producing the small green berries I know birds love – so I kept a casual eye on the tree as I had a cup of coffee. Trinidad was under a national heat-wave-watch, and even in the forest it got rather hot rather quickly. The sun sprung high in the sky and seemed to linger as high as possible for as long as possible. Even the clouds avoided the sun.

Anyway, the trema tree was somewhat quiet, only visited by the occasional Tropical Mockingbird. Until a flash of mysterious looking feathers darted into the thickest part of the tree. A little bending on my part and I was able to secure a decent view – the closest view I’ve ever had actually – of a Piratic Flycatcher. These nest-robbing birds are usually found at the tops of the tallest trees, calling into the distance and scanning the horizon for potential prey and/or homes.

piratic flycatcher close







Also in the same tree was a very flitty Ochre-bellied Flycatcher.

ochre bellied flycatcher







I noticed another tree that was bearing fruit – well something edible – that was interestingly enough only attended to by the two species of Thrush, nothing else. Not sure what it’s called, but it was a definite dinner bell for the ubiquitous Spectacled Thrush.

spectacled thrush-2










As well as the slightly less colourful but no less musical Cocoa Thrush.

cocoa thrush










Of course, the hummingbird opportunities are always there for the taking – we recorded eight species during our stay. This Copper-rumped Hummingbird seemed to have a white moustache – likely parasites of some sort?

copper rumped hummingbird










Channel-billed Toucans, although listed as vulnerable according to the IUCN are regulars within forested areas in Trinidad. It’s also the only species of toucan that’s native to the Caribbean – which makes sightings like these all the more special.

channel billed toucan










Toucan vocalizations can travel for miles, and so too can the calls of an equally attractive bird; the metallic-looking Rufous-tailed Jacamar. We had been hearing these birds in the distance for most of the day, but when the calls increased in volume we knew they were close. A quick scan of the mid-story branches where they enjoy perching revealed this male.

rufous tailed jacamar-6







The often overlooked Tropical Pewee is another mainstay on the grounds. Yes, its name sounds like its call.

tropical pewee-2






Bird calls are often critical in identification, the frenetic twittering of battling Boat-billed Flycatchers ensured that I didn’t record them as Great Kiskadees (which there were lots of). One individual perched for a half a minute, giving me an excellent view of that bulbous bill.

boat-billed flycatcher










Bird calls can also be misleading, especially when certain species are around. I’ve heard Tropical Mockingbirds imitate the call of the Common Pauraque (caused a lot of confusion in my poor brain) during the last trip here. Violaceous Euphonias routinely imitate a myriad of neighboring species, including the uncommon Trinidad Euphonia. There is a fine point within the intonation of the imitation that will give an indication of the origin of the call. But a sighting circumvents that headache-inducing process, for sure. Trinidad Euphonias tend to stay high in the canopy, males have a dark throat as opposed to the yellow throat of the more common Violaceous Euphonia.

trinidad euphonias






While my neck was already on a strain from looking up into the branches, my peripheral vision picked up some movement behind a clump of vegetation. Although Lineated Woodpecker was already on the list, it was still pleasant viewing.

lineated woodpecker







Also extremely high up for a brief moment was a single Variegated Flycatcher – I had to bring the pictures up on the computer before I could make a definitive call on its identity due to its scarce nature. Also saw a lone Grey Kingbird fly through – they seem to be getting more and more common within Trinidad.

Taking a break from all that flycatcher activity in the treetops, I decided to undertake the supposedly mountainous task of locating the ventriloquist of the forest, using its call. All trogon species are notorious for their ability to seemingly throw their voice from one tree to the next – for brightly coloured birds they are ridiculously difficult to spot. Nevertheless, I finally managed to locate this male Guianan Trogon – of course after many minutes of whistling back to him.

guianan trogon







By this time, the sun had started to dip toward the horizon again, and I decided to check around the water’s edge for anything out of the ordinary. Just as I was pondering the dearth of woodcreepers thus far, I heard a fluttering no more than ten feet above my head. I actually had to move away from this Plain-brown Woodcreeper to create this image.

plain brown woodcreeper










Nothing out of the ordinary at the water’s edge as I had hoped – but what is Hacienda Jacana without its namesake? A brief shower of rain sent these young Wattled Jacanas into a frenzied search for cover, except the one chick who figured out it was a passing cloud 🙂

wattled jacana and young-3







I was hoping for better luck the next morning – and before the sun had a chance to rise properly I managed to sneak up on this Green Kingfisher. Usually bolts when they sense any attention directed toward them, this female probably wasn’t fully awake yet. Unlikely though – take a good look at her huge pupils – she’s funneling all the available light onto her retinas, fully focussed on the first meal of the day.

green kingfisher-3







The call of the Rufous-browed Peppershrike is a staple of the auditory landscape of the forest – but most times this bird remains strangely hidden.

rufous-browed peppershrike










I almost didn’t get the shot of the previous bird because I got distracted by some movement in a nearby palm tree. To my amazement, unbelievably, the tree was literally filled with Red-bellied Macaws! This was the most I’ve ever seen at one time – there were at least a dozen birds here. How many can you spot?

red-bellied macaws-2










While macaws are some of the largest members of the psittacine family, parrotlets are some of the smallest. This Green-rumped Parrotlet is only a fraction of the size of its large cousin, but the similarity within the family is nothing short of astounding.

green rumped parrotlet










It’s completely absorbing to observe the life cycle of many of these birds, and I do consider it an honour that they let me enjoy that little slice of their life. From the last time I was at Hacienda, I noticed many birds gathering nesting material or hunting non-stop to feed their ever-hungry brood. This time I noticed many young birds making their first forays into their world; this young Black-tailed Tityra is now killing grasshoppers all on its own – albeit supervised from a distance.

black tailed tityra imm







The list:

  1. Little Tinamou
  2. Striated Heron
  3. Turkey Vulture
  4. Black Vulture
  5. Zone-tailed Hawk
  6. Limpkin
  7. Grey-necked Wood-Rail
  8. Southern Lapwing
  9. Wattled Jacana
  10. Pale-vented Pigeon
  11. White-tipped Dove
  12. Grey-fronted Dove
  13. Ruddy Ground Dove
  14. Smooth-billed Ani
  15. Squirrel Cuckoo
  16. Tropical Screech-owl
  17. Ferruginous Pygmy-owl
  18. Grey-rumped Swift
  19. Short-tailed Swift
  20. White-necked Jacobin
  21. Rufous-breasted Hermit
  22. Little Hermit
  23. Ruby-topaz Hummingbird
  24. Black-throated Mango
  25. Blue-chinned Sapphire
  26. White-chested Emerald
  27. Copper-rumped Hummingbird
  28. Guianan Trogon
  29. Green Kingfisher
  30. Rufous-tailed Jacamar
  31. Channel-billed Toucan
  32. Golden-olive Woodpecker
  33. Lineated Woodpecker
  34. Crimson-crested Woodpecker
  35. Lilac-tailed Parrotlet
  36. Orange-winged Parrot
  37. Green-rumped Parrotlet
  38. Red-bellied Macaw
  39. Black-crested Antshrike
  40. Barred Antshrike
  41. Plain-brown Woodcreeper
  42. Streak-headed Woodcreeper
  43. Forest Elaenia
  44. Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet
  45. Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
  46. Yellow-breasted Flycatcher
  47. Tropical Pewee
  48. Piratic Flycatcher
  49. Great Kiskadee
  50. Boat-billed Flycatcher
  51. Variegated Flycatcher
  52. Tropical Kingbird
  53. Fork-tailed Flycatcher
  54. Grey Kingbird
  55. Golden-headed Manakin
  56. Black-tailed Tityra
  57. White-winged Becard
  58. Rufous-browed Peppershrike
  59. Golden-fronted Greenlet
  60. Southern Rough-winged Swallow
  61. Grey-breasted Martin
  62. White-winged Swallow
  63. House Wren
  64. Rufous-breasted Wren
  65. Long-billed Gnatwren
  66. Cocoa Thrush
  67. Spectacled Thrush
  68. Tropical Mockingbird
  69. White-lined Tanager
  70. Silver-beaked Tanager
  71. Blue-grey Tanager
  72. Palm Tanager
  73. Turquoise Tanager
  74. Blue-black Grassquit
  75. Bananaquit
  76. Crested Oropendola
  77. Yellow-rumped Cacique
  78. Shiny Cowbird
  79. Trinidad Euphonia
  80. Violaceous Euphonia


Feel free to check the activity at this beautiful eco-resort via my previous reports!

Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/Jun

7 thoughts on “Birding Hacienda Jacana: July/August

  1. ” But more was to come.” Truth be told I zoomed passed the rest of the birds to get to the “more” (sorry, not sorry). It looks like they were eating acai ??!!! pronounced a-sa-ee not ah-kai (pet peeve). Gosh I’m so jealous. The aborigines say it’s the fruit that cries. Hope you got to sample a few I like it but it’s so expensive here and I don’t think these “gourmet” shops consider how it’s harvested. I’m rambling on…

    I don’t know how many macaws there are in the photo but it’s enough to make me happy. Parabens pela linda foto!

    1. Thanks Aliya for stopping by. I figured you’d enjoy this post 🙂

      Didn’t get to sample the fruit as it was high up and didn’t really want macaw drool on any fallen fruit. You should pay Hacienda Jacana a visit, you’re bound to get good views of them there.

  2. Hey! so I shared the blog with my friend/ palm-ologist and tentatively the palm is acai (Euterpe oleracea). He said it’s a great photo too. Don’t worry macaw drool doesn’t kill.

    Yes I should and I will!

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