Two more new birds

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Melodious Blackbirds at the fruit feeder trees at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

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The Melodious Blackbird is a rather unique and vociferous all black icterid of Mexico and Central America. It has a relatively thick and long bill, but most noticeable is that the legs and feet look a size too big on this mid-sized blackbird.

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Arenal Volcano stayed hidden behind clouds during our visit.

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Inside an observation tower we found a small, strikingly-colored bird resting on the floor. It may have flown in an open window and hit another window or couldn’t find its way out. It seemed fine. And what a great close up look!

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Figured out later it was a Green Honeycreeper.

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Very attractive small tanager of humid tropical lowlands. Found in humid evergreen forest edges, plantations, and gardens; at times with mixed-species feeding flocks of honeycreepers and euphonias. Often in pairs, feeding at all levels in fruiting trees and bushes. Note the short, curved bill. Males are a unique green-blue color with black hood and a banana yellow beak. Female resembles female Red-legged Honeycreeper but is larger, brighter, uniform green, with yellow lower bill and grayish legs.

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Tiny little thing. It made it out the window and away into the tropical forest before we left.

Breakfast bird club

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Great Curassow pair on the grounds of the Volcano Lodge, Hotel & Thermal Experience near Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica.

Very large game bird of tropical forest, eliminated from most areas by hunting. Rarely found except in protected parks or very remote areas. Usually seen on the forest floor, singly or in small groups, but also feeds in trees. Males often sing from high in canopy: song is a very low-pitched, almost subliminal, booming sound. Not likely to be confused if seen well. Both sexes have distinctive curly crest. Female plumage is variable: some have bold barring, others have darker and mostly unbarred plumage.

 

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Finally got photos of the Orange-chinned Parakeet. I keep seeing them fly over in small flocks.

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Small, fast-flying parakeet of humid lowlands on the Pacific slope. Favors forest patches and fairly open country with hedges and tall trees, including towns and villages. Usually seen in pairs or small flocks; associates readily at fruiting and flowering trees with much larger and longer-tailed Orange-fronted Parakeet. Flight is distinctively bounding, not direct like larger parakeets. Plumage is green overall with bronzy shoulders; small orange chin patch is very hard to see.

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The feeding station was very active this morning. Crested Guan pauses for his portrait.

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Crimson-collared Tanager appears.

The Crimson-collared Tanager is beautiful and easily identified black and red bird with a strikingly pale bill that is endemic to Middle America, where it is found from southeast Mexico south to Panama.

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Fruit lovers.

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So many species in one spot.

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Parakeet banana face.

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Clay-colored Thrush, Blue-gray Tanagers, Palm Tanagers and a parakeet.

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Yellow-throated Euphonia on the scene.

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Tiny finch of tropical lowlands and foothills, mainly in humid areas. Found in forest canopy, adjacent clearings with trees, gardens.

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Palm Tanager and Greyish Saltator.

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Montezuma Oropendola is a large member of the blackbird and oriole family. We have seen a lot of them here in the Arenal region.

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I think that’s a female Scarlet-rumped Tanager.

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Crested Guan has a nice mohawk.

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Tiny crest – we have seen these little sparrows all around.

The Rufous-collard Sparrow is a ubiquitous resident of lowland and montane scrub from Mexico south to Tierra del Fuego.  Rufous-collared Sparrows have a gray head with two broad black crown stripes and a blackish line through the eye, prominent rufous collar, rufescent upperparts streaked black and white underparts with black patches on either side of the chest.  The sparrows are very tolerant to human presence, and are a common sight in settlements across South America.  Rufous-collard Sparrows are often encountered hopping on open ground as they forage for seeds and insects or singing from a  prominent perch on a shrub or rock.

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The Scarlet-rumped female among the breakfast crowd.

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I tinkered with camera settings and I’m happy with today’s photos. Still a lot to learn!

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Rainforest feast.

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Birds small and large.

Jacana and more

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Oystercatchers on Playa Brasilito.

For the first time on this blog I am using someone else’s photos to share the birds I saw. The four of us old friends vacationing together went for walks on three different beaches two days ago and I didn’t have my camera. David kindly shared some of his great photos with me.

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Such a unique bird.

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Orange-fronted Parakeets nibbling flowers.

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The most numerous parrots on the Pacific Slope of Central America, the Orange-fronted Parakeet is found from Western Mexico south to Costa Rica. Primarily colored a dull green, the Orange-fronted Parakeet has an orange-peach forehead and lores, dull blue mid-crown, olive-brown throat and breast, yellow green belly and blue flight feathers. These parakeets inhabit a variety of habitats including forest edge, deciduous woodland, Pacific swamp forest, savanna, arid thorn scrub and even cow pastures and urban areas. These birds feed primarily on fruits and flowers, but outside of the breeding season, large flocks have been known to cause damage to maize and ripening bananas.

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Yum yum, flowers.

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Hey, new bird!

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I think it’s a Northern Jacana. Two were walking and wading around in a muddy pond just behind Playa Brasilito.

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The northern jacana or northern jaçana (Jacana spinosa) is a wader which is a resident breeder from coastal Mexico to western Panama, and on Cuba, Jamaica and Hispaniola. It sometimes breeds in Texas, United States, and has also been recorded on several occasions as a vagrant in Arizona. The jacanas are a group of wetland birds, which are identifiable by their huge feet and claws which enable them to walk on floating vegetation in the shallow lakes that are their preferred habitat. They are found worldwide within the tropical zone. In Jamaica this bird is also known as the ‘Jesus bird’, as it appears to walk on water.

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Bird #201 for me.

My 200th blogged bird

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In late afternoons and early evenings here in Tamarindo, strange birds with long forked tails come out to feed and play.

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These are the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. These photos make them my 200th bird!

The scissor-tailed flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus), also known as the Texas bird-of-paradise and swallow-tailed flycatcher, is a long-tailed bird of the genus Tyrannus, whose members are collectively referred to as kingbirds. The kingbirds are a group of large insectivorous (insect-eating) birds in the tyrant flycatcher (Tyrannidae) family. The scissor-tailed flycatcher is found in North and Central America.

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Adult birds have pale gray heads and upper parts, light underparts, salmon-pink flanks and undertail coverts, and dark gray wings. Axillars and patch on underwing coverts are red.[2] Their extremely long, forked tails, which are black on top and white on the underside, are characteristic and unmistakable.

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Marvelous!

More: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at Cornell Lab of Ornithology Neotropical Birds Online

Exploring a Costan Rican estuary by boat

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First bird on our estuary trip was a juvenile Little Blue Heron standing on a mangrove root.

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We took a boat tour up the river that flows into the ocean between Tamarindo and Playa Grande, Costa Rica. We walked to the boat launch from our condo.

The salt and brackish estuary is part of Las Baulas National Park. Our boat and guide were part of Discover Tamarindo tour company. The four of us paid $25 U.S. each for an afternoon tour that lasted a bit longer than the scheduled two hours and was educational, enlightening and relaxing too.

And I got some bird photos!

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Green Heron in the mangroves. They like to hide.

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Snowy Egret intent on something in the water below. Our guide Juan Carlos told us all about the mangrove trees (7 different kinds in Costa Rica, compared to our three kinds in Florida) and the estuary and its importance to fish and wildlife in the region.

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This is a Spotted Sandpiper.

Though you may think of the beach as the best place to see a sandpiper, look for Spotted Sandpipers alone or in pairs along the shores of lakes, rivers, and streams. Once in flight, watch for their stuttering wingbeats, or look for them teetering along rocky banks or logs.

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This Yellow-crowned Night Heron was sleepy that afternoon. Juan Carlos said he was sunbathing to heat his feathers and kill parasites – something many birds do.

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Awake now.

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We were very close to this bird and he didn’t care.

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Juan Carlos spotted an oriole in a tree on the riverbank. He was expert at whistling different bird calls and getting them to appear – what a skill!

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He identified it as a Streak-backed Oriole, definitely a new one for me and number 199 on my blog sidebar list of birds!

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There is the streaked back.

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Audubon Field Guide…

Dry tropical forests, from northwestern Mexico to Costa Rica, are the usual haunts of this colorful oriole. The bird is a rare stray into the Southwest, mostly southern Arizona and southern California.

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Icterus pustulatus is in the Blackbird and Oriole family.

Icterids make up a family (Icteridae) of small- to medium-sized, often colorful, New-World passerine birds. Most species have black as a predominant plumage color, often enlivened by yellow, orange or red. The species in the family vary widely in size, shape, behavior and coloration. The name, meaning “jaundiced ones” (from the prominent yellow feathers of many species) comes from the Ancient Greek ikteros via the Latin ictericus. This group includes the New World blackbirds, New World orioles, the bobolink, meadowlarks, grackles, cowbirds, oropendolas and caciques.

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Further up the estuary.

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Juan Carlos nosed the boat onto a dirt bank and we walked a short way into the dry forest to see Howler Monkeys. They are the only type of monkey that can live in this region that is so dry half the year because they can use the water they get from the leaves they eat.

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This one was rubbing his chin on the tree… scratching an itch maybe?!

Here is a map of western Costa Rica showing the location of Tamarindo. We flew in to Liberia airport and rented a car. Our trip up the estuary was two days ago. Yesterday we explored, walked and swam on beaches north of Tamarindo – Playa Grande, Playa Brasilito, Playa Conchal. We drove through Playa Flamingo and up to Playa Catalinas before we turned to go back to our own vacation beach. Beautiful area.

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Boat launch area. We didn’t see crocodiles but they are there. They relocate the largest ones to another part of the park with fewer tourists and surfers!

There are numerous tour operators. We were very happy with Discover Tamarindo.

Tamarindo birds

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Parrots being adorable in trees near the beach, Tamarindo, Costa Rica.

I think these are Orange-fronted Parakeets.

The most numerous parrots on the Pacific Slope of Central America, the Orange-fronted Parakeet is found from Western Mexico south to Costa Rica. Primarily colored a dull green, the Orange-fronted Parakeet has an orange-peach forehead and lores, dull blue mid-crown, olive-brown throat and breast, yellow green belly and blue flight feathers. These parakeets inhabit a variety of habitats including forest edge, deciduous woodland, Pacific swamp forest, savanna, arid thorn scrub and even cow pastures and urban areas. These birds feed primarily on fruits and flowers, but outside of the breeding season, large flocks have been known to cause damage to maize and ripening bananas.

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A Hoffman’s Woodpecker being weird, on the fourth floor corner of our condo building. Maybe catching some rays? It was very hot in Tamarindo in the dry season of March.

A typical bar-backed Melanerpes, Hoffmann’s Woodpecker is largely creamy below and on the head, with a dark gray back and black wings, both heavily barred in white, while the nape is golden yellow; males also have a small red crown patch. Like many Melanerpes, this woodpecker has proved itself able to adapt to human-modified habitats. Indeed, it shuns dense forest, preferring semiopen wooded country, especially in xeric areas.

Birds around Arenal Volcano

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During our mid-March trip to Costa Rica we drove from Tamarindo to the Arenal area and spent a day and night at the Arenal Volcano Lodge (view from the balcony of our room), with a side visit to Arenal Observatory.

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The lodge lured birds with fruit and flowers and running water, to convenient viewing and photography distance. This is a Clay-colored Thrush, I believe.

The clay-colored thrush (Turdus grayi) is a common Middle American bird of the thrush family (Turdidae). It is the national bird of Costa Rica, where it is well known as the yigüirro. Other common names include clay-colored robin.

Someday I would love to write an article about vacation places with the best passive bird watching – like the rental house in Caye Caulker, Belize with a second-story balcony up in the trees… with me in a hammock with a rum drink!

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I think this is a Swallow-tailed Kite. We saw many of them but I didn’t get a great pic. Split tail, falcon-like head.

The swallow-tailed kite feeds on small reptiles, such as snakes and lizards. It may also feed on small amphibians such as frogs; large insects, such as grasshoppers, crickets; small birds and eggs; and small mammals including bats. It has been observed to regularly consume fruit in Central America. It drinks by skimming the surface and collecting water in its beak.

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We spotted this Crimson-collared Tanager at the Arenal Observatory, a great side trip with good lunch and many walking trails. LINK

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A pretty Blue-gray Tanager was waiting a turn at the feeders.

The Blue-gray Tanager is one of the most widespread, and ubiquitous, birds of the humid lowland neotropics. At almost any location between southeastern Mexico and central South America, it is a familiar presence at forest edge, in second-growth, along roads and rivers, in plantations, and even in urban parks and gardens.

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We saw a few coatis, or coatimundis,  charming furry raccoon-like mammal. This one was scouting for fallen fruit under the bird feeders.

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These birds were a real treat for me. We watched them while eating lunch at the observatory lodge.

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The Montezuma Oropendola is about the size of a crow and quite exotically beautiful. (This is one of my favorite photos from Costa Rica.)

The oropendola, or Montezuma bird as I heard one local call it, is an icterid, a member of the New World blackbird family (like my friends the grackles). It has a kind of crazy and beautiful song, which you can hear HERE.

This is a bird I will never forget.

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We found this bird near a trail. It seemed unconcerned by our presence. It is a Crested Guan, I think.

In protected areas where hunting is not allowed, the species can be quite approachable and even tame, but throughout much of its range Crested Guan is heavily hunted.

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A bit dinosaur-like, don’t you think?

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Very happy to capture this flitting jewel of a hummingbird. Not sure what kind it is.

(Update: later IDed via Facebook What’s This Bird as a Crowned Woodnymph.)

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From many places we could see the volcano. It has been dormant since 2010, which doesn’t seem like a very long time!

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On our little hike we came across some cattle and their bird pals the Cattle Egrets.

The short, thick-necked Cattle Egret spends most of its time in fields rather than streams. It forages at the feet of grazing cattle, head bobbing with each step, or rides on their backs to pick at ticks. This stocky white heron has yellow plumes on its head and neck during breeding season. Originally from Africa, it found its way to North America in 1953 and quickly spread across the continent. Elsewhere in the world, it forages alongside camels, ostriches, rhinos, and tortoises—as well as farmers’ tractors.

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Hunting cattle egret.

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In the woods we saw a Chestnut-mandibled Toucan.

It is one of the larger, more conspicuous species of toucan, and is often noted for its yelping, far-carrying vocalization (described by locals as “Díos te dé!”). It is largely frugivorous, but like other toucans it occasionally feeds on insects, lizards, and the eggs of other birds.

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Next morning at the lodge I saw this neat medium-sized bird, a Smooth-billed Ani.

A bird of tropical savannahs in the Caribbean and South America, the Smooth-billed Ani reaches the United States only in southern Florida.

Some birds of Pacific coast Costa Rica

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The first bird I saw in Costa Rica was… a grackle! Great-tailed Grackles were zooming around just outside the airport in Liberia, C.R.

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At our condo in Tamarindo, a White-winged Dove was nesting on the fourth-floor balcony.

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And howler monkeys were hanging around in the trees just outside.IMG_9951

Pacific Ocean and beach across the street.

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Magnificent Frigatebird above.

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Great Kiskadees were nesting on the rooftops of the condo.

We saw a lot of them in Costa Rica. They live as far north as south Texas.

These are bold, loud birds that quickly make their presence known. They sit on exposed branches near the tops of trees, often above water, where they give a piercing kis-ka-dee call and dart out to catch flying insects or pluck food—often small fish—from the water. They also eat fruit and sometimes come to feeders.

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I took a walk in the morning and found Black Vultures lurking.

These birds are uniform black except for white patches or “stars” on the underside of their wingtips (this can be hard to see in strong light or from far away). The bare skin of the head is black.

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Their strong beaks made it easy to rip into garbage bags.

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I never did figure out what this little bird was, hopping around like a sparrow in the underbrush.

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And I think, but I’m not sure, that this flycatcher is a Tropical Kingbird.

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Probably Brown Pelicans.

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Good morning, Sanderlings.

Sanderlings breed on the High Arctic tundra and migrate south in fall to become one of the most common birds along beaches. They gather in loose flocks to probe the sand of wave-washed beaches for marine invertebrates, running back and forth in a perpetual “wave chase.”

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Grackle time.

The jay with the jaunty plume

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The White-throated Magpie-Jay does not live in New Hampshire. We saw this one in Tamarindo, at the edge of the beach.

My husband and I joined friends in Costa Rica for a week. Home tomorrow and I will share more bird photos.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology Neotropical Birds: Calocitta formosa

In northwestern Costa Rica and southwestern Nicaragua, the magpie-jay prefers deciduous tropical dry forest. An edge specialist, it thrives in cattle ranches and at the edges of towns where isolated nesting trees can be found. However, optimal habitat seems to be a combination of open land for nesting and dry forest for feeding. Magpie-jays may be particularly dependent on ant-acacias for dry-season forage: territories with acacia stands are more productive.

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