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The Great Kiskadee
Last Updated on Thursday, 12 December 2013 20:05
The Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) is a passerine bird. In Costa rica often called "pecho amarillo" which means "yellow chest".
It breeds in open woodland with some tall trees, including cultivation and around human habitation, from the Lower Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas and northern Mexico south to Uruguay.
The Great Kiskadee is a common, noisy and conspicuous bird. It is almost omnivorous, and hunts like a shrike or flycatcher, waiting on an open perch high in a tree to sally out to catch insects in flight, or to pounce upon rodents and similar small vertebrates. It will also take prey and some fruit from vegetation by gleaning and jumping for it or ripping it off in mid-hover, and occasionally dives for fish or tadpoles in shallow water, making it one of the few fishing passerines. They like to hunt on their own or in pairs, and though they might be expected to make good use of prey flushed by but too large for the smaller birds of the understory, they do not seem to join mixed-species feeding flocks very often. When they do, they hunt in the familiar manner. Such opportunistic feeding behavior makes it one of the commonest birds in urban areas around Latin America; its flashy belly and its shrill call make it one of the most conspicuous.
The nest, built by both sexes in a tree or telephone pole, is a ball of sticks with a side entrance. The typical clutch is two or three cream eggs lightly blotched with reddish brown. They are incubated by the female.
This alert and aggressive bird has a strong and maneuverable flight, which it uses to good effect when it feels annoyed by raptors. Even much larger birds are attacked by the Great Kiskadee, usually by diving down or zooming straight at them while they are in mid-air. Harsh calls are also often given during these attacks, alerting all potential prey in the area of the predator's presence. If not very hungry, any raptor subject to a Great Kiskadee's mobbing behavior is likely to leave, as it is wellnigh impossible to make a good catch when subject to the tyrant flycatcher's unwelcome attention. In general, avian predators are liable to steer clear of an alert Great Kiskadee, lest their hunting success be spoiled, and will hunt the Great Kiskadee itself – though it is as meaty as a fat thrush – only opportunistically.
One of the diverse tyrant flycatchers resembling the Great Kiskadee in color is the aptly named Myiozetetes similis
To mammalian and squamate predators that can sneak up to nesting or sleeping birds, it is more vulnerable however. Even omnivorous mammals as small as the Common Marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) will try to plunder Great Kiskadee nests – at least during the dry season when fruits are scarce – despite the birds' attempts to defend their offspring.
The bright coloration of the Great Kiskadee makes it easy to recognize and as noted above, is shared by several other more or less closely related Tyrannidae. It is not known whether this apparent convergent evolution is a case of mimicry, and if so, whether the Great Kiskadee's pugnaciousness encourages some predators to leave birds with such colors well alone. Given that some Tyrannidae are alleged to taste bad, the color may also be an aposematic warning of noxious chemicals contained in the birds' meat. In a peculiar coincidence, the Foxface Rabbitfish (Siganus vulpinus) and related species have evolved a strikingly similar coloration and pattern; here it is almost certain that the colors are aposematic, as these fishes use a poisonous sting to defend themselves.
Not being appreciated as a songbird, the Great Kiskadee is not usually kept caged and therefore has escaped the depredations of poaching for the pet trade. Also, its feeding mostly on live prey makes it extremely difficult to keep in captivity. It is not considered threatened by the IUCN.
Last Updated on Thursday, 12 December 2013 20:05
I have been interested for some time in understanding the idea of eternity. Books have been my main source to polish this concept. I have come to the conclusion that the only thing we have in our hands is this moment.
The idea of eternal, everlasting time I have tossed out by the window. As a result of this I have come to pay more attention to what it is happening in the now. It is not easy to come to this understanding since I have been taught the ideas of creation and the passing of time since I was send to a boarding school at the tender age of six in Ecuador. We are so affected by our teachers, parents and whoever comes in contact with us at an early age.
To discard all these ideas takes effort and leaving these ideas behind is the first step to arrive to a new paradigm, a new way of living. I am fortunate that in Cahuita, the small town in the Caribbean where I live, fast food chains have not arrived. Nature surrounds us and I have in The Goddess Garden a small paradise where my eyes can rest on a butterfly, a sloth, a peacock or a frog at any moment. The colors of the jungle bring sparks of joy in my heart. If you ever come to Costa Rica I invite to visit us to feel the aliveness of the jungle. But the most important thing is that wherever you are, be in the moment and if you come across a flower, enjoy the perfume and the colors that come always free of charge, living in the jungle helps a lot.