22 May, 2010

Belize Birds of the Week #2 and #3 – OvenBird and WaterThrush

Last week’s bird of the week was the lovely rufous-necked wood rail. This week‘s birds were photographed at the same time and place as the rail. The place is the edge of the marsh that borders Black Creek at the north end of our property.

The marsh is a lush, dense tangle of ferns, orchids, white, red, and black mangroves, buttonwoods, and lots of other plants that I don’t know the names of (yet!). Five years ago, we cleared out much of the fallen and dead trees that had been caused by a hurricane in the late 1990s, but the marsh has been left untouched. Consequently it is almost impenetrable by people. For the lizards, possums, coatis, gibnuts, snakes, and ground loving birds it is a haven from birds of prey and jaguars that live in the area.

These photos are heavily cropped and not very sharp; the day was overcast, the marsh dim, and I was pretty far away. I include this photo because it shows the ovenbird standing atop the remains of an old termite nest.
Yes, that black stuff that looks sort of like lava is an old termite nest that used to be in up in a tree. These nests can be quite large, often more than 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. I’ll write about termites in the future – they are very interesting creatures and deserve a post of their own (get it? a ”post” of their own. ;-)).
Ovenbirds have cream colored eye rings and streaked breasts, both of which are easily observed in the first 2 photos.

A very distinguishing mark is the orange crown bordered by dark streaks that show up so well in the photo above.

The white, unstreaked throat helps distinguish the ovenbird from the waterthrushes  
which have streaks all the way up the underside of their beaks. In the dim understory it can be quite difficult to tell these birds apart. Looking at these photos, it is pretty obvious that these are 2 different birds, but at the time I was taking the photos, I had assumed they were one and the same. Enlarging the photos and lightening them made it clear that the waterthrush lacks the prominent cream eye ring of the ovenbird, but does have a light colored streak above the eye that with just a quick glance could be confusing. And the waterthrushes are browner than the olive green of the ovenbird. Based on its appearance and ranges, I can’t tell if this is a northern or a Louisiana waterthrush. Perhaps someone else can comment?


  1. Hi Wilma,
    What a nice message. Unfortunately I cannot help you with the ID... Sorry but the pictures are nice and one might be able to help you ;-)

  2. beautiful birds, beautiful photographs Wilma
    Have a great day.

  3. What a handsome looking bird.

  4. Hi Wilma. Can't help with the ID but I enjoyed the commentary and pics. As for the 'ant' post..Lol. FAB.

  5. Oh gosh - I just wrote a comment but did not post it - instead zoomed on the waterthrush to see if a bigger pic helped ID. Then comment disappeared. So here again - NOWA likes still swamps, LOWA likes faster moving streams - at least in the north. On Trinidad I saw a NOWA is a still swamp and flat muds. NOWA looks dirtier - white is not bright like LOWA - songs different too, though not very and I have to cheat with my iPod to be sure which I am hearing. Difficult to say for sure on your waterthrush, but if it was taken in early morning or late afternoon, then that may explain the slightly dirty look and make it a LOWA. Eye strip on NOWA when I see it in the beaver swamp is distinctly tannish. Is that enough waffling for you?
    Our daughter and family spent 12 days in Belize & Tikal in April. We're planning a trip next February (possible) southern coast, Cara region, and Tikal. So I may be in touch for some info. Chris

  6. Lovely to see birds which we don't have here, Wilma although I do see a resemblance between your Waterthrush and our Song Thrush. An enjoyable post!

  7. Chris, Costas, Madi, and Frank,

    thanks for letting me know you stopped by.

    Chris P - wow, that was a lot of info. I took the photo in mid-afternoon, but the light was coming through the dark marsh growth. I guess I have my work cut out for me when we are there again to get better photos! I really don't have a good ear for bird song; only the most obvious seem to stick with me. I will be happy to reciprocate with what I know of Belize to help with your trip planning.

    Jan - yes, there is a resemblance between the two.

    cheers to all,


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