Nicaragua’s Vulnerable Bird Species

Nicaragua is without a doubt a spectacular birding destination, but ongoing research has revealed that of the 676 species of birds to be found in Nicaragua, fifteen species are listed as ‘globally threatened’ by BirdLife International, as well as being listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List. Included in these lists is the yellow-naped Amazon (Amazona auropalliata), of which there are three recognized subspecies, with one being found only in eastern Honduras and northeastern Nicaragua – Amazona auropalliata parvipes. These lime green members of the parrot family are easily distinguished from other species by the bright yellow markings on the nape of the neck extending over the top of the head between the eyes. They have exceptional abilities to mimic a wide range of sounds, including human speech, and have mischievous, playful personalities, which makes them popular as pets. Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons their numbers in the wild are diminishing, as young birds are illegally captured for the exotic pet trade. Deforestation is another reason for the dwindling numbers of these attractive and intelligent birds.

Living in the forested wetlands of Nicaragua, the agami heron (Agamia agami) is a medium-sized heron featuring strikingly beautiful blue-purple plumage with chestnut coloring on its belly and parts of its deep green wings. To truly appreciate the spectacular coloring of the agami heron, it needs to be seen in the sunlight, but as they prefer remaining in the shade and under vegetation, this is a sight seldom seen. As sociable birds, they live in colonies, building their nests, consisting of sticks and twigs, in trees over water. They feed on fish which they patiently stalk in shallow water, pouncing with deadly accuracy when the time is right. They also eat small reptiles, frogs and snails when these are available. Habitat destruction is one of the factors behind the decline of agami heron populations.

The tawny-chested flycatcher (Aphanotriccus capitalis) is found primarily in forests with dense understory vegetation nearby streams. Most recorded sightings in Nicaragua have taken place near Lake Nicaragua, and it is also found in parts of neighboring Costa Rica. This small passerine bird is on average 12 cm long, weighing 7g. Its upperparts are olive-green, with dusky wings featuring blight ochre wing bars, matching the ochre edging on its secondary feathers. It has ochre-orange breast feathers blending into bright yellow on its belly. It feeds primarily on beetles and ants, which its snatches up from foliage while in flight. Habitat loss and resulting population fragmentation are the main reasons for the decline in tawny-chested flycatcher numbers. Fortunately, these little birds are known to build their nests in cavities in bamboo, and with the practice of planting bamboo to support banana trees on plantations that have been established in deforested areas, there is a possibility that the tawny-chested flycatcher will adapt to new habitat, but this remains to be seen. In the meantime, birders may still have the good fortune to spot these vulnerable bird species in Nicaragua.