The Heliomaster genus contains four species, two of which occur in Costa Rica, including the Long-billed Starthroat that can be spotted in the Caribbean and northern lowlands, as well as in the south Pacific. It also includes the Plain-capped Starthroat, which is mostly seen in the north Pacific, central valley and some valleys in the south Pacific. Both Starthroats have longer than average bills which are straight, although both species have similar bills. The main difference between the Long-billed and Plain-capped is that the former displays a colorful blue-green forecrown, while the latter lacks that crown. To aid in identification, it can be noted that the Long-billed has a postocular spot, while the Plain-capped has a postocular strip. Other than those two specific traits, the two species are very similar, with olive upperparts and gray to white underparts, and a magenta throat that is iridescent. The tips of the tail feathers are white, which can be seen the most dramatically during flight.
This small bird inhabits the highlands in Costa Rica. Its plumage is drab like most of the birds in its family, but its song is melodious, flute-like with a metallic quality. The belly and face are gray, with the upperparts being brown. While this colors are very similar to other birds in its family, it is identified by the black bill and the brown collar around the throat that separates the face from the belly. It perches in the understory of oak forest and can be found also hoping on the ground or through trails, in places where light is scarce. With enough patience, they will perch at eye level and remain motionless long enough for a good picture.
A fairly known species, even featured in Costa Rican tales. It is said that if you throw a rock to this bird using a slingshot, then the rubber band will immediately deteriorate, to the point it breaks apart. The bird is entirely black, and at a glance it may resemble a male Great-tailed Grackle, however that species has a blueish glow in direct sunlight, and the song has a metallic-like quality, while the Ani’s song gives the bird the local name, “Tee hoo”. The following pictures were taken in Fincas Bambuzal, Rio Frio. I approached the bird with my lens on the tripod and a huge umbrella on my hand to avoid any accidents with the rain. After the rain, the birds would extend their wings and tail, presumably to dry their feathers out.