Another bird post? You betcha. Apologies for the taxonomic bias, but when in the Tandayapa Bird Valley, one must make allowances. I recently watched the Andes episode of the NHU’s Mountains series (should still be on iPlayer), which spent a few minutes with the hummingbirds I talked about in the last post. They were utterly resplendent- but they’re pipped to the title of ‘Ciara’s favourite cloud forest bird’ by this- the masked trogon.
One of the major perks of staying in a lodge such as Bellavista is that the night lights act like miniature moth traps, attracting lots of fat juicy inverts for the birds to hoover up in the morning. The trogons are big fans, and reward getting up early with good views as they sweep up and down the light fittings.
Why are they my favourites? Their plumage certainly plays a part. The females are a mixture of black, white, chestnut and bright red; whereas the males swap the female’s brown for a dark green, resulting in a sort of winged-watermelon effect. If you catch them in the right light, their feathers lend them metallic sheen that picks up hundreds of different greens, browns and yellows- and, like most trogons, they have very dapper monochrome tails, which are thinly striped with six big white polka dots.
Splendid as they are, however, the main reason I love them isn’t so much their looks, but their behaviour. Trogons will sit on perches, and slowly pivot their head round in what would be a spectacularly creepy fashion were it not coming from such a cute bird. Why they do this I have no idea- maybe it helps them survey the area for potential prey- but it’s a really distinctive way of doing things that I haven’t seen in any other species. We once had a female slowly turn to look at us at eye level when we were up in the roof of the reserve’s dome, eyes popping and beak slightly agape. She looked like a confident but slightly crazed owl, and I immediately knew that nothing would ever pip them.