James and I first heard a Laughing Falcon from Xandari property on the 6th of July last year, according to our eBird records. Since then I’ve heard the raucous call plenty of times but never actually got a glimpse of the bird until last month, when one individual happened to perch in the same area of the orchards two mornings in a row.
The Laughing Falcon primarily feeds on snakes, including venomous species, as well as lizards and other prey if necessary. The genus portion of its scientific name, Herpetotheres, refers to this dietary preference: the ‘herpeto’ part relates to herpetology, the study of reptiles and amphibians, and ‘theres’ is adapted from the Greek word meaning “to reap.” Add the species half of the scientific name, cachinnans, and you have the Latin for “cackling.” So as one would hope, the Laughing Falcon, or the Cackling Reptile-reaper, is appropriately named. In Costa Rica and some other Spanish-speaking countries it is known as ‘guaco,’ which is an onomatopoeic moniker based on the bird’s dusk call, often given in duet (and linked to above): “gwa-coh, gwa-coh!”
I’m glad the Laughing Falcon living near Xandari has finally decided to show its face, with the beautiful bandit mask, powerful beak, and fancy striping on the tail and wings. It must be responsible for the fact that I’ve only ever seen one snake on property!