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April 13, 2024

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Friday, January 28, 2022

Return of Bird of the Week: Gray-cheeked Nunlet

Gray-cheeked Nunlet, Darién Province, Panama

Gray-cheeked Nunlet, Darién Province, Panama

If there are puffbirds called “Monklets” you should have known there would be puffbirds called “Nunlets.” In fact, there is a whole genus of them, Nonnula, in which there are at least six species. The Gray-cheeked Nunlet is the only one of the six which WC has been able to photograph to date. It’s a pretty easy species to recognize: the reddish eye ring, cinnamon breast and brownish cap are distinctive. Ironically, the Gray-cheeked Nunlet is possibly the rarest of the six.

This is a lowland species found in western Panama and eastern Columbia. Like all of the puffbirds, it’s an ambush hunter, sitting patiently on a branch, waiting for prey to appear. That prey is largely insects. This is an understory specialist, rarely found much higher up in the canopy. Rarely found, period.

Almost nothing is known about Gray-cheeked Monklets. Among other gaps, no nest of this species has ever been found by ornithologists. eBird reports just 821 sightings of this species, almost all of them in Darién.[^1] WC would bet good money that nests have been found by the indigenous peoples, but they are not recorded.

Gray-cheeked Nunlet, Darién Province, Panama

Gray-cheeked Nunlet, Darién Province, Panama

Despite ornithology’s ignorance of most everything about the species, its uncommon to rare status and its relatively restricted range, it is deemed a species Least Concern. But, seriously, that’s a wild ass, arrogant guess.

For more bird photographs, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

 

[^1]: By contrast, eBird reports some 1,358 sightings of its uncommon to rare cousin, the Lanceolated Monklet.

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