Southern Martin at Pañacocha

On 16 August 2012 we visited Pañacocha lake as a daytrip from Sani lodge. The lake is located a few kilometers north of the Río Napo (0°23’49S, 76°07’'47W), prov. Sucumbíos, and a few hours downstream by motorized canoe from Coca. At around 14:00 a flock of c. 30 Grey-breasted Martins Progne chalybea was perched in a tree at the edge of the lake and after a quick scan we detected a somewhat different looking individual. The bird was slightly larger and darker overall. It stood out against the other martins primarily because of its marked (not pure white) underparts. At closer range the scaly pattern on the belly and vent was obvious. We had no literature at hand but we were pretty sure that the bird had to be a Southern Martin Progne elegans. We were able to get some photographs of the bird just before a rainstorm came up. Back at Sani lodge we confirmed its identification with the field guide as Southern Martin, a pale-type plumaged female.


The Southern Martin is an austral migrant that winters in large numbers near Iquitos, eastern Loreto, Peru. Surprisingly there is only one confirmed record of the species in Ecuador: three individuals (a male and two females) seen on 1-2 April 1991 at Imuyacocha by R. Ridgely and J. Gerwin. Two male martins, most likely of this species (but very difficult to exclude Purple Martin), were observed at Jatun Sacha on 13 April 1992 by B. Bochan. As far as we know there have been no new sightings in Ecuador but the species might well be overlooked. Our record is the first documented Southern Martin for Ecuador.

Dušan Brinkhuizen, Bert de Bruin and Domingo Gualinga

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Aves Ecuador by Dušan M. Brinkhuizen