Oilbird (Steatornis caripensis)

Asa Wright Nature Centre, Trinidad

June 20, 2012


Nancy took this image while on a trip led by Brian Rapoza for the Tropical Audubon Society to Trinidad and Tobago.

This is a large bird (16 to 18") with a wingspan of 37 inches. Adults weigh up to 16 ounces, but chicks can weigh up to 21 ounces. The scientific genus name, steatornis, (of which this is the only species) means "fat bird", referring to the chicks. It got its common name (outside of its range, where locals call it Guacharo) because those fat chicks were captured and boiled down to make oil. It is found in northern South America, including Trinidad.

Oilbirds nest in large colonies in caves. They are the only nocturnal flying, fruit-eating bird in the world, eating the fruit of oil palms and tropical laurels. They are also one of the few birds that echolocate. Their 2-kHz clicking sound is audible to humans.

Photographic details: Canon EOS 7D camera w/ EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens set at 380mm. Off-camera flash was used. Camera was on f/5.6 for 1/500 second at ISO 800. Exposure was increased one stop in post-processing.

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  Canvas N/A 27" x 401/2"

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