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Return of Bird of the Week: White-fronted Nunbird

There are whole families of birds that are only found in the Neotropics – Central and South America – that are almost unknown to all but hard core birders. One of those families of birds is the Bucconidae, the Puffbirds. They take their English name from their somewhat puffy appearance. It’s called “lax plumage” and gives the birds a disheveled, puffy look. There are 36 species of Puffbirds. WC has only seen and photographed a few of them.

White-fronted Puffbird, Ecuador

White-fronted Puffbird, Ecuador

One of them is the White-fronted Nunbird. Nunbirds take their name from their mostly black feathering which looks vaguely like a nun’s habit. Puffbirds, including this species, prefer the mid-level of mature jungle. For a photographer, that means they are almost always overhead, and you are shooting up at them. Any sunlight breaking through the jungle canopy creates the kind of bright spots seen in this photo.

White-fronted Puffbird, Ecuador

White-fronted Puffbird, Ecuador

White-fronted Nunbirds are patient, sit-and-wait predators, hunting mostly large invertebrates and small vertebrates. They are found from Costa Rica south to coastal Brazil, in four separate populations, giving rise to four subspecies. There’s some variation in field marks across the subspecies; in the Costa Rican subspecies, for example, the chin, as well as the forehead, is white. But generally this is an easy species to identify in the field.

This species has a wide range of calls and songs; it’s loud, mournful “how-how-how” call is, for WC, one of the signature sounds of the Neotropic jungle.

Because of its extensive range, generalist diet and tolerance of human activity, this species is not believed to be globally threatened.

For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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