Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ocellated Poorwill at Refugio Bartola

During an eight-day visit to Refugio Bartola and the Reserva Biológica Indio-Maiz along the Rio San Juan in southeast Nicaragua, Klemens Steiof and Rob Batchelder observed nearly 200 species of birds, including nearly a dozen antbird species. 

The undisputed highlight of the visit was a calling male Ocellated Poorwill (Nyctiphrynus ocellatus), located around 9:00 p.m. on March 16, 2011, approximately 500 meters north of Refugio Bartola along the trail that runs parallel to the Rio San Juan. The bird called persistently from its original location in dense secondary growth for nearly 30 minutes but failed to emerge into the open in response to the playback of a voice recording. The bird eventually relocated another 300 meters further north into more closed forest, where Klemens and Rob finally found it after another 20 minutes of searching the bird's apparent new location with spotlights (the ventriloquial quality of the bird's call made it seem considerably higher in the trees than the low horizontal branch on which it was eventually found perched).

Although this species is already found on the official Nicaragua checklist, it is described as a rare vagrant to cloud forests in the northern mountains, occurring between 800 and 1000 meters above sea level. Its inclusion in the checklist is based on a single specimen collected by Richardson at Peñas Blancas (Jinotega) on June 5, 1909, as published by Miller & Griscom in 1925. In Thomas R. Howell's Check-list of the Birds of Nicaragua as of 1993 (Martínez-Sánchez, J. C., and T. Will, Eds. 2010), the author speculates that this species is "Probably a permanent resident…Rare in humid forest." Howell further explains, "The only Nicaraguan record, and until 1988 the only one outside of South America, is a single female collected by Richardson at Pena Blanca [= Peñas Blancas], Depto. de Jinotega, on 5 June 1909. The label gives no indication of altitude, habitat, or gonad size. Miller and Griscom (1925a) described it as a new species, N. lautus, which is now considered a subspecies of ocellatus. Stiles (1988) obtained a male specimen in breeding condition on 28 March 1988 in Costa Rica which he refers to N. o. lautus."

This latest record represents only the second for Nicaragua, and the first in more than 100 years. It also appears to represent only the fifth record of Ocellated Poorwill in Mesoamerica (aside from the two Nicaragua records, there are single documented records for eastern Honduras, north-central Costa Rica near the Nicaraguan border, and from central Panama).

Among the many other highlights of this trip were Great Curassow (Crax rubra), Agami Heron (Agamia agami), King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa), Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias), Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguous), Rufous (Baryphthengus martii) and Broad-billed Motmots (Electron platyrhynchum), American Pygmy Kingfisher (Chloroceryle aenea), Pied Puffbird (Notharchus tectus), Spotted (Hylophylax naevioides) and Ocellated Antbirds (Phaenostictus mcleannani), Rufous Piha (Lipaugus unirufus), Green (Chlorophanes spiza), Shining (Cyanerpes lucidus) and Red-legged Honeycreepers (Cyanerpes cyaneus), and Black-faced Grosbeak (Caryothraustes poliogaster).

Spotted Antbird
Bicolored Antbird

Ocellated Antbird
In addition to the Ocellated Poorwill, Klemens and Rob added a second bird to Refugio Bartola's already impressive checklist of almost 350 species: a single Sora (Porzana Carolina) which was seen several mornings in a row, foraging at the edge of the tall marsh grass just below the Refugio's dining patio.

American Pygmy Kingfisher


  1. It's good to see that you had a lucrative trip to Bartola. It is indeed a marvellous place - don´t you think?

    Had Refugio Bartola been a Costa Rican lodge, it would have had so much more publicity.

    So thank you Rob for publishing records from my favourite birding lodge!


    Jørgen Peter (Jorge) Kjeldsen, Denmark

  2. Hola... es precioso ver la pasión que tiene por las aves y el tiempo que dedica para realizar la publicación de estas maravillas aladas. Decirle que ni los nicaraguenses hacemos por donde dar a conocer nuestras bellezas naturales, gracias por darnos una mano en ello.

    Suerte en todo

    Reserva Quelantaro