monaco eye birds
Brood Parasites

Village Indigobird

Village Indigobird - Vidua chalybeata
© GW - monacoeye • all rights reserved • Gambia, Feb 2013

Bird name: Village Indigobird
Latin: Vidua chalybeata
Family: ViduidaeWhydahs, Indigobirds
Range: W, C, SE Africa

The guide pointed out this Village Indigobird in non-breeding plumage (end Feb). There are several small brown birds in the Gambia in non-breeding season, so ID should be treated with caution. In breeding season this indigobird has all black plumage with light bill and reddish legs. Juveniles are plain brown.

Village Indigobirds were frequently pointed out by the guides - especially up-river. They are a brood parasite of Red-billed Firefinch, but do not destroy host offspring, in whose company they were usually seen.

Exclamatory Paradise Whydah

Exclamatory Paradise Whydah - Vidua interjecta
© GW - monacoeye • all rights reserved • Gambia, Feb 2013

Bird name: Exclamatory Paradise Whydah
Latin: Vidua interjecta
Family: ViduidaeWhydahs
Range: W, C Africa

In the photo of a mixed flock above there are transitional Exclamatory Paradise Whydahs on the far left, far right, bottom centre, plus one or two others. The other birds are Namaqua Dove, Cut-throat Finch and Red-throated Bee-eater.

We saw these Whydahs up-river in the Gambia at the end of February. In breeding plumage (Nov - Jan) they have very long, spectacular black tail streamers, black back and wings, and chestnut neck and chest.

As all birds in the Viduidae family, the Exclamatory Paradise Whydah is a brood parasite, but does not destroy the host’s offspring. The host is named as Red-winged Pytilia in various sources but we didn’t see any nearby. I wonder if it’s possible that Cut-throat Finches were hosts in this instance?More photos...

Striped Cuckoo

Striped Cuckoo - Tapera naevia
© monacoeye • All rights reserved • El Valle, Panama, 3 May 2010

Bird name: Striped Cuckoo
Latin: Tapera naevia
Other: Saci (Br), Crespín, cuco rayado, trespiés (Es), Géocoucou tacheté (Fr), Tapera (Nl)
Family: Cuculidae - Cuckoos
Range: Mexico to Argentina

The Striped Cuckoo is a brownish bird, light underneath, with white stripe running above eye, rufous crest sometimes raised and long tail.

This individual was attracted by a call, and perched nearby in the open, in El Valle, central Panama.More photos...

Pheasant Cuckoo

Pheasant Cuckoo - Dromococcyx phasianellus
© monacoeye • All rights reserved • Pipeline Road, Panama, 24 April 2010

Bird name: Pheasant Cuckoo
Latin: Dromococcyx phasianellus
Other: Géocoucou faisan (Fr), Saci-faisão (Br), Cuco faisán (Es),
Family: Cuculidae - Cuckoos
Range: Mexico to Brazil, Argentina

Record shots of the hard-to-see Pheasant Cuckoo, which was calling in very dark forest undergrowth, near the Pipeline Road, in central Panama. Then again very responsive to calls at one location at forest edge, Chapada das Guimarães, Brazil.

The Pheasant Cuckoo has a white line above the eye, a pronounced rufous crest, and voluminous fanned tail.

Below, Pheasant Cuckoo, Chapada das Guimarães, Brazil
Pheasant Cuckoo - Dromococcyx phasianellusMore photos...

Common Cuckoo

Common Cuckoo - Cuculus canorus
© monacoeye • Danube Delta, Romania • May 2009 • All rights reserved

Bird name: Common Cuckoo
Latin: Cuculus canorus
Other: Cuckoo (UK) • Coucou gris (Fr) • Kuckuck (De) • cuco común (Es) • cuculo (It) • koekoek (Nl) • Gök (Sv) • cuco-canoro (Pt)
Family: Cuculidae - Cuckoos
Range: Widespread Europe summer migrant from Sub-saharan Africa; widespread Asia.
Similar: Hawk colouring

The brown cuckoos are female and the grey ones here are probably male, although there is both a brown and a grey female form.

The juvenile cuckoo, which we saw above 2000m in the Mercantour (photo further below), is identifiable by the small white patch on back of head, and some white streaks to upperside.

In the Danube Delta in May, you are never out of earshot of a cuckoo, and they are a fairly common sight, flying over the reedbeds and settling in trees.

Below, probably male cuckoo, Danube Delta.
Common Cuckoo - Cuculus canorus

Common Cuckoo - Cuculus canorusMore photos...

Lesser Honeyguide

Lesser Honeyguide - Indicator minor
© GW - monacoeye • Marakissa, Gambia, Feb 2013 - All rights reserved

Bird name: Lesser Honeyguide
Latin: Indicator minor
Other: Indicateur tacheté (Fr), Fläckhonungsgök (Sv)
Family: Indicatoridae - Honeyguides
Range: C and W Africa incl Gambia

This Lesser Honeyguide is also quite a difficult bird to see in the Gambia. This one came to drink at the water pots at Marakissa River Lodge on the afternoon that I was there. Another seen upriver near Georgetown.

Below, Lesser Honeyguide Georgetown, Gambia, Mar 2013
Lesser Honeyguide - Indicator minor

Spotted Honeyguide

© GW - monacoeye • Marakissa, Gambia - All rights reserved

Bird name: Spotted Honeyguide
Latin: Indicator maculatus
Other: Indicateur tacheté (Fr), Fläckhonungsgök (Sv)
Family: Indicatoridae - Honeyguides
Range: C and W Africa incl Gambia

This Spotted Honeyguide also visited the water pots at Marakissa River Lodge on the afternoon that I was there. Definitely one of the best places in the Gambia to see this bird. Marakissa is in the south, just across the border from Senegal.

Below, Greater Honeyguide drinking at Marakissa River Lodge, Gambia, Feb 2013
indicator_maculatus_spotted_honeyguide_02More photos...

Greater Honeyguide

Greater Honeyguide - Indicator indicator
© GW - monacoeye • Marakissa, Gambia - All rights reserved

Bird name: Greater Honeyguide
Latin: Indicator indicator
Other: Grand Indicateur (Fr), indicador grande (Es), grote honingspeurder (Nl), Indicatore golanera (It)
Family: Indicatoridae - Honeyguides
Range: Africa, incl Gambia

First photos from the honeyguide family on the site!

The honeyguides are so named because they can lead men (and supposedly honey badgers) to hives. In fact they are still used today by some tribes in east Africa.

These were seen at the excellent Marakissa River Lodge, whose water pots attracted all three local honeyguides while I was there.

The Greater Honeyguide is also a brood parasite (like the cuckoo) of other birds’ nests, including that of the Green Wood-hoopoe.

Below, Greater Honeyguide drinking at Marakissa River Lodge, Gambia, Feb 2013
Greater Honeyguide - Indicator indicatorMore photos...

Shiny Cowbird

Shiny Cowbird - Molothrus bonariensis
Copyright monacoeye • Itatiaia November 2009

Bird name: Shiny Cowbird
Latin: Molothrus bonariensis
Other: Vira-bosta (Br) • Tordo (Es), Tordo común, Tordo renegrido
Family: IcteridaeCowbirds
Range: SE USA though C South America, Brazil etc
Similar: Bronzed Cowbird, Screaming Cowbird, Chopi Blackbird

The Shiny Cowbird is one of a few entirely black birds to be found in Brazil. The photo above is a presumed female - the adult male (below) is deep blue-black and shiny.

The Shiny Cowbird’s range covers much of Latin America and has recently extended into Chile and Florida.

It’s usually seen in groups but not always. It tends to walk around on the ground and looks more relaxed than the male Ruby-crowned Tanager. The Chopi Blackbird has a more peaked head and has a grooved bill.

The Shiny Cowbird, not beloved by many birders, is a brood parasite, like the European Cuckoo, laying its eggs in the nests of other birds, and in some cases endangering host species survival.

Below, the bird on the right looks like a male Shiny Cowbird, Pantanal, Aug 2011
Shiny Cowbird - Molothrus bonariensisMore photos...

Giant Cowbird

Giant Cowbird - Molothrus oryzivorus
Copyright monacoeye • Iguaçu, Brazil 2006

Bird name: Giant Cowbird
Latin: Molothrus oryzivorus
Other: Iraúna-grande (Br) • Tordo Gigante (Es)
Family: IcteridaeCowbirds
Range: S Mexico through N South America
Similar: Great Tailed Grackle

The Giant Cowbird is a brood parasitic icterid, laying its eggs in the nests of oropendolas, caciques and some other birds such as jays. It is found from Central America to the northwestern half of South America and to a lesser extent the southern part of Brazil.

The Giant Cowbird is a large bird (40 cm) - it looks a bit similar to the Great-tailed Grackle in Panama, but the latter has a thinner bill. The adult male is larger and shiny blue-black, the female browner and smaller. Irises can be red or yellow, depending on regional differences, also in some regions males tend to have red irises and females yellow irises.

Below, a Giant Cowbird with red eye in the Canal zone of Central Panama, 2010
Giant Cowbird - Molothrus oryzivorusMore photos...

Bronzed Cowbird

Bronzed Cowbird - Molothrus aeneus
Copyright: monacoeye • Do not copy without permission • Panama, May 2010

Bird name: Bronzed Cowbird
Latin: Molothrus aeneus
Other: Vaquero de ojos rojos (Es)
Family: IcteridaeCowbirds
Range: SW USA to Panama
Similar: Shiny Cowbird

The male Bronzed Cowbird is dark with a big ruff, the female is lighter.

Bronzed Cowbirds should have bright red irises - none of these photo show this feature which makes me think they may not be Bronzed Cowbirds!

Bronzed Cowbird - Molothrus aeneusMore photos...

Piratic Flycatcher

Piratic Flycatcher - Mitrephanes phaeocercus
Copyright: monacoeye • Do not copy without permission • Chiriqui & El Valle May 2010

Bird name: Piratic Flycatcher
Latin: Mitrephanes phaeocercus
Family: Tyrannidae • Tyrant Flycatchers
Range: Mexico to Argentina, Brazil

We saw Piratic Flycatchers fairly often in Panama, but they were often in tall trees and moved off fairly quickly. They have streaked chests, and dark mask, but are much smaller than the Streaked Flycatcher, with short bills.

They take the nests of Orependolas, Caciques, Panamanian Flycatchers etc. driving away the original inhabitants.More photos...

Pin Tailed Whydah

Pin Tailed Whydah - Vidua macroura
© AW/monacoeye • all rights reserved • Kinshasa • Dec 2010

Bird name: Pin Tailed Whydah
Latin: Vidua macroura
Family: ViduidaeWhydahs
Range: Tropical Africa, Angola to Tanzania

The above photo is probably a transitional Pin-Tailed Whydah, but the adult plumage is quite different. Seen in Kinshasa in the DRC.

Rufous Vented Ground Cuckoo

Pipeline Road Panama, 24 April 2010

Bird name: Rufous Vented Ground Cuckoo
Latin: Neomorphus geoffroyi
Other: Jacu-estalo (Br)
Family: Cuculidae - Cuckoos
Range: Nicaragua to Brazil

Since the Rufous-Vented Ground-Cuckoo is such a rarely seen bird, I’ll break my rule and add an entry even though I don’t have a photo (if anyone out there has one I’d love to post one here - send to

We were lucky enough to encounter a pair calling across the Pipeline Road in central Panama. With complete beginner’s luck, I called out the female inadvertently by clapping my hands, thinking I had heard a manakin! I got a very brief glimpse of the bird before it retreated into the undergrowth, but didn’t take a photo…