When the dry season arrives, I start listening for what I call the Jump Up and Down Bird. The bird’s call is a quick wheeze, repeated over and over, described in Birds of Panama* as an “…explosive buzzy dzee-eq.”
Once I hear the bird I drop everything, if I can, and rush toward the trees where it is likely to be found. Then I stand still, listen, and follow the sound with my eyes until I can see the bird. It’s not long, then, before I see the display.
This bird jumps straight up into the air and then lands back on the branch where it started.
You can watch many more videos at the Internet Bird Collection.
Although its appearance is not as spectacular as many of the exotic tropical birds around here, the habitat and behavior make it easy to identify. It’s the Blue-black Grassquit, Volatinia jacarina. In Panama, it is common in grassy areas in the lowlands and ranges up to 1500 m. Birds of Panama* notes:
One of the most frequently observed birds in open areas in the lowlands. Males often perch on top of a bush or grass stem and repeatedly come out with an explosive buzzy dzee-eq, at the same time jumping a foot or so into the air (sometimes almost seeming to somersault), then dropping back to its original perch. They sometimes call without jumping.
The Volatinia jacarina is a tanager and is the only member of its genus. It breeds from Mexico through most of South America.
This little bird is one of my favorite sights on the savanna. For the past week, I’ve been dropping everything and listening and watching for as long as it chooses to entertain me.
*Ridgely, R.S. and J.A. Gwynne, Jr. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Panama with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. 2nd edition. Princeton University Press