Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Thrilled about the Frilled Coquette

Female blue dacnis. I think she's more beautiful than her mate.

Itatiaia National Park in Brazil's Atlantic Forest is located in the southeastern part of the country. When the park was created in the late 1930s, it was thought that people should live inside of it, too. So there are a few private homes inside the park as well as a number of modest hotels and eco-lodges. We were spending a hour or so in the yard of one of these inside-the-park houses, owned by a bird lover named Norma.

Waiting in Norma's yard, our guide Paulo Boute told us about some of the park's history and gave us a bit more information about our quest bird, a Brazilian endemic: the frilled coquette.

Though the frilled coquette is not typically a feeder visitor, it regularly appeared at Norma's feeders. Our guess was that the thick cover nearby to her feeder set-up made the coquette feel safer here.
Bananaquits were regulars at Norma's feeders.

The definition of the word "coquette" is: A woman who makes teasing sexual or romantic overtures; a flirt.

This species had been sought by other bird watchers and photographers, right here in this very place. In some cases days had gone past with no sightings. Was this bird going to live up to its name and tease us by not appearing?

We had a few close calls. Five pairs of binocs would shoot up to five pairs of eyes when any small hummer flew into view. Each time we were disappointed. Then, like a microscopic apparition, the coquette was there, perching on a tiny vine near Norma's porch roof.
Frilled coquette male at the feeder.

Note the male's tiny red bill.

We all got great looks—and what a stunner! It was a glorious male and as he scanned the activity around the feeders and flowers, he inadvertently showed off his crest, bright throat, and his spectacular namesake neck feathers.
Flashing his frills.

I began snapping photos, but the bird was so tiny and the light was failing so quickly that I had a hard time finding the bird when it perched in a shaded spot. My companions helped me out by calling to me when the saw the bird teed up in a good spot. So I should share the credit for these images with Paulo, Chuck, Terry, Pete, Cesar, and Norma for their patience and spotting skills.

I'm fairly certain this is the smallest bird I've ever seen, at less than 3 inches long. The male frilled coquette has a tiny, straight, reddish bill and striking tones of white, green, and rufous. After visiting the feeders several times, our bird settled down for a rest. This was when I took most of my photographs, twiddling between camera settings trying to get sharp images. I think I got a few keepers.
The coquette could raise and lower its crest depending on the situation and its mood.

Finally darkness forced us to take our leave from Norma and her coquette. We walked down the road in the dusk, exclaiming about the birds we'd seen and telling horrible jokes (I may have started this unfortunate activity, I cannot remember). Ah! What a day it had been!
Rear view of the frilled coquette. The dorsal band is a good field mark for this species and the festive coquette.

Doesn't it look like this bird's head is on fire?

Little did we know, we had one more new bird yet to encounter...

I am a male but I can behave coquettishly, too!

Close-up of the head of the male frilled coquette. What a frill it was to see him!

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