A First For Panama; Variegated Flycatcher

Variegated Flycatcher
February 27, 2011
I was organizing my photographs and sending them to my Picassa Web site when I came across the photo a bird I saw here a year ago: January 18, 2010.
When I saw this bird, we had not been in Panama long and most birds were still new to me. I was confused by the bird and finally thought it must be a Streaked Flycatcher, but an insolens race, because of the unmarked undertail coverts. Maybe, it was a young bird? I didn’t have illustrations or images that allowed me a positive ID. I looked in on that photo quite often for a few months afterward and remained confused.
A year later, I am more comfortable with the Flycatchers and when I went to transfer this photo, I realized that the bill was not big enough for a Streaked. I went back to my Ridgley’s but could not stretch the illustration for the Piratic Flycatcher (Legatus leucophalus) into my bird; maybe the illustration was a little off? I was thinking it was too bad my Sibley’s didn’t have an illustration of this bird for comparison and I suddenly remembered seeing a Piratic Flycatcher illustration in my National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. I dug it out. I was even more convinced my bird was not a Piratic. The Piratic's bill was too small and the wing coverts were not edged. However, the bird illustrated next to the Piratic sure looked like my bird: Variegated Flycatcher (Empidonomus varius). I found the ID to my bird serendipitously.  I got Ridgely out and looked in the index for both common and scientific names and it wasn’t there. I even looked in the ‘additional’ illustrations near the back for the fun of it.
I thought I must be wrong. The bird had to be a Piratic and I was just not seeing things right. I went on the net and searched. I read what I could find, and I looked at images. I read that the Variegated had a flesh colored base on the lower mandible, which my bird has, but I could not find text that told me the Piratic DIDN’T ever show that and I found images labeled as Piratic that did show a flesh color on the lower mandible. I know that images are often labeled wrong on the net and I wondered if what I saw in some instances of ‘Piratic’ were actually Variegated.
I have posted a few photos of my bird on Bird Forum for identification and am anxiously waiting for responses.

February 27, 2011  9:30 p.m.
The consensus on BirdForum is positive for a Variegated Flycatcher. I was advised to contact several Bird Organizations in Panama; which I did. I got a message back from one. The responder is passing my photos on to experts, but he did say that a Variegated Flycatcher has never been seen in Panama.  Woo-Hoo!
I have heard back from the records committee in Panama and they have accepted my bird as a Variegated Flycatcher and a first for Panama.

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