Plate-billed mountain toucan - feeding, La Planada Nature Reserve, Colombia
Here it is, the treasure bird of La Planada Nature Reserve, the main reason for birders to visit, and thereby an important source of income.
Within Colombia, The plate-billed mountain toucan is only found in the extreme south, in a tiny range of very wet cloud forests.
On our last morning in La Planada Nature Reserve, we had our 3rd attempt of trying to find them. On the two days prior, we did hear them in the distance, but visibility was close to none. They are big, loud birds that move in pairs or even groups. So when in the right place, they aren't the hardest bird to discover. It is typical for them to attend the edge of a forest, moving to feed, and doing so loudly. Getting them in range, however, is harder, and was our main task ahead.
As luck would have it, something magical happened. The "viewpoint" cleared up. We hadn't seen any sign of the sun in days, only thick white mist, but there it was. What was once plain white now revealed a beautiful deep forested valley several miles across.
Now we could not only hear them, but also see them in the far distance, using binoculars. We counted six! The following hour was spent strategically luring them into our direction using well-timed playback. Sometimes they flew in the opposite direction, and we had to start all over again.
Once within the 50 metres range, we tried to be smart and strategically wait out fruit trees we figured might be popular. But the birds aren't that simple minded, it seems. They do as they please. We had a good exercise running up and down hills at length to find small gaps in the canopy giving somewhat of a view.
Ultimately, we captured 3 individuals, one of which is easy to recognize by its busted bill. Another interesting detail captured that is not always obvious from most photos is that plate-billed is to be taken literally. The "plate" really looks like somebody hammered a piece of wood to the side of the bill.
I'll be sharing shots generously, including some that are "light-challenged". Simply because they are awesome birds and its a species worth documenting. They are under pressure due to their tiny range being fragmented, another threat is the pet trade.
The plate-billed mountain toucan is a species of bird in the family Ramphastidae. It is native to the west slope of Ecuador and extreme southern Colombia, where it lives in the high-altitude humid montane forests of the Andes. It is also known as the laminated hill-toucan, laminated mountain-toucan, and plain-billed mountain-toucan.