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Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

The Brown Pelican is pretty much the only pelican commonly seen in Costa Rica, since the other species that occur (American White Pelican) is just a casual migrant. I have seen this pelican in the beaches of the Pacific Coast; they do the signature dive flight, going at high speed and streamlining their bodies in mid-air to catch fish near the sea surface. They also aggregate in high numbers around boats, probably catching fish that the fishermen let loose.

Brown Pelican - Pelecanus occidentalis - Pelícano Pardo
This pelican came flying and perched on a nearby mangrove branch
Brown Pelican - Pelecanus occidentalis - Pelícano Pardo (Buchón, Pelícano, Alcatraz)
This juvenile pelican flew over a large saline pond. Their wings move relatively slowly due to its size

Willet (Tringa semipalmata)

This bird inhabits wetlands, and feeds by walking through shallow waters, picking up crustaceans and small fish. They can be found in beaches in the Pacific Coast, particularly during the migration period. Their body is mostly gray on the upperside, white on the underside, with long yellow legs and a long, dark bill.

Willet, Non-breeding Plumage - Tringa semipalmata - Pigüilo, Plumaje No Reproductivo
A Willet wades through shallow waters at Playa Blanca

Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway)

The Caracara is a bird of prey that is becoming increasingly common in the Central Valley. It is most likely to be seen in the western side of the country, but its range is spreading every year. I have seen it in Belen, San Jose, La Guacima, Playa Tambor and even now in Rio Frio. As a matter of fact, a pair of these are nesting in the very same building my office is located.

I saw this bird when going to Playa Tambor; it was walking right by the road, and when it stopped, it just crossed the road to the other side. I was able to take this picture of the bird by lowering the window and shooting from inside the car, and the bird was not scared away. The picture was taken on November 12th, 2016.


The individual below was seen in Fincas Bambuzal, Rio Frío on August 14th, 2017. Neighbors were preparing their terrain with a Back Hoe, removing bamboo roots and leveling it to be able to construct their house. Suddenly, this enormous black and white bird takes off from the ground and perches on a nearby tree. It most probably was looking for rodents and lizards that were left uncovered on the ground.


Common Tody-Flycatcher (Todirostrum cinereum)

Even though its name includes the word “Common”, November 6th, 2016 it was the first time I saw this bird, which was in Fincas Bambuzal, Rio Frio at my parent’s home. It was foraging low in the bushes, near a nest that’s was build hanging from a delicate branch. Sadly that same day, the owner of the terrain was cutting all vegetation, most probably to prepare for agriculture. I suppose the chicks did not survive.

Common Tody-Flycatcher - Todirostrum cinereum - Espatulilla Común (Espatulilla, Mantequillilla)
This small bird is not quite as active as a warbler, but they do not stay still for long. You need to be quick to take a picture of them

Tufted Flycatcher (Mitrephanes phaeocercus)

I saw this little bird at the reserve called “Locos por el bosque”, which translates to “Crazy for the forest”, located in Coronado, San José. It likes to perch in small twigs high up in the trees, so it gets very difficult to photograph. I was lucky as a few individuals were foraging on the main trail.


Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)

This is the pigeon commonly found in cities, where it is commensal with humans, though feral individuals roost and nest in buildings throught San Jose. Their interactions with humans can become very funny indeed. They also make great practice subjects for bird-in-flight photography.

Spread wings to regain balance and avoid falling

Emerald Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus prasinus)

The Emerald Toucanet is very similar in body form to the Groove-billed Toucanet, however there are key differences in their coloration. The beak of the Emerald is black with a yellow portion in the upper mandible, with a white patch on the very base of the bill. It has the big purple patch of feathers on the face and throat, and a purple eye ring. The underparts are lighter green than the upper parts, and it lacks the turquoise patches that the Groove-billed has on the belly. Like most toucans, their presence signals other species that is time to leave, as they will readily predate eggs and hatchlings. Also in true toucan fashion, their overall movement are slow, with spurts of fast activity.

Close up detail of the beak