Canopy Family Panama

Black-breasted Puffbird

by Carlos Bethancourt
by Carlos Bethancourt

"What a smart bird!"  That is the response you often hear when a birder sees this handsome fellow the first time!  This large-headed, eight-inch beauty is an oily blue-black above, with a broad black chest band and with a conspicuous white ear patch, a white throat and a narrow white collar; the underparts are white as well, with blackish barring on the sides.  The overall impression is that this Black-breasted Puffbird (Notharchus pectoralis) is attired for a formal dinner!  It ranges from central Panama to NW Ecuador.

While many puffbird species are rather quiet and reserved, the Black-breasted Puffbird, though at times difficult to spot in concealing foliage, makes his presence known with a series of 10 or more wheeel whistles, followed by 3 or so wheew notes at a lower pitch before ending with a few wheet-whew couplets gradually fading away.  In territorial disputes, a rasping chah-chah-chah-chah is heard (Willis, 1979).  Black-breasted Puffbirds are quite common in the treetops and forest midlevels and, interestingly, are known to follow army ants.  Typical of the puffbirds, Black-breasteds dig out their breeding cavity in termite nests.  Nests are begun in March, with incubating & feeding of young continuing as late as July (Willis, 1969).

This striking bird may be seen from the Canopy Tower observation deck, Semaphore Hill, Pipeline Road and Plantation Trail.  Central Panama is the northern-most range for this bird, so we invite you to come to see it for yourself!

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