Sunday, April 19, 1998

Yellow-billed Tern at El Agallito

A Yellow-billed Tern was seen in a flock of a hundred Least Terns at El Agallito, Chitré.

    A Yellow-billed Tern was seen in a flock of a hundred Least Terns at El Agallito Beach, Chitré, on Sunday, April 19th, by Delicia, Darién and Camilo Montañez and Zeke Jakub, a young ornithologist from Massachusetts. The bird was observed for two to three minutes from a distance of about five meters. It was standing in the mud in front of the group, so it was easy to pick out among the other terns. Its bill was noticeably longer and stouter at the base than that of the Least Terns, and its color was brighter and slightly paler, with no hint of dark near the tip. Since it was standing right next to a hundred Least Terns these differences were even more striking. It had an all-black crown and nape, and the white on its forehead extended back over the eyes forming a thin supercilium, which was absent from the rest of the terns in the group, even those in full breeding plumage. It also seemed to be darker in the back than the others, and was slightly larger overall. When we tried to get closer the whole group took flight and we lost it among the others. The flock resettled in various smaller groups, but the Yellow-billed tern was not found again.
    Another interesting sighting from the same trip was an young male Snail Kite seen in a small grassy marsh near Ciénaga Las Macanas on Saturday, April 18th. It was slaty gray all over, but with hints of dusky on the wings and tail, especially near its rump. It was seen both perched and in flight and all the fieldmarks were seen well, even its piercing red eyes.

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