Easily Amused

Mario Cohn-Haft - Mid-August 1997

    When you’re stuck in town for a stretch, you have to be entertained by mundane things. Don’t think I’ve told you about my new neighbor. Two weeks ago I noticed that there was a Cacicus cela (Yellowo-rumped Cacique) hanging out in the tall avocado tree behind the house across the street. In the past I’d only seen them here as fly-bys. Simultaneously I began hearing a Piratic Flycatcher singing all the time, which I almost never used to hear from the house. When I began paying attention, the cacique was singing all day long from right next to a big, hanging wasp nest in the same tree, and he already had a female with him. In fact, it looked like she’d started constructing a nest just that day. What I don’t know is whether he arrived with her already, or if he’d been singing for some days before she joined him.

Caciques are pretty good mimics, and I’ve been fooled by them once or twice before, including one who did a beautiful (but too loud) Hemitriccus zosterops song, but in the wrong habitat. Drove me buggy before I figured it out. But normally I’m trying to survey the other birds, so I don’t pay any more attention to them than identifying some species-characteristic sounds and ignoring everything else they do subsequently. However, as I mentioned, here in town—right smack in the middle of a city of over 2 and a half million people (that’s my guess anyway, no recent census data)—a cacique is a moderately "good bird."

So, I’ve started listening to this guy mimic, and he’s doing pretty well for a city slicker. He must have had some exposure to reasonable woods (or he’s learned from his rural forefathers by the oral tradition). I’ve now recognized over 13 species in his repertoire!

I’m apparently not the only one around impressed by his singing. He’s now got 5 females hanging around and 5 nests in various stages of construction!

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