Bellbirds are very unique birds, not easily confused with any other bird species in Costa Rica. As the name implies, the male has three protuberances on the faced called “wattles”, which by itself puts them in a category of their own. The head and throat are white, with a chestnut body, a color combination that is unlike every other bird in the country. The female is olive, with yellowish underparts that have red stripes; it could be confused with a Flycatcher, however it is a log bigger in size than the Boat-billed Flycatcher. Bellbirds in Costa Rica display altitudinal migration patterns and hence can be seen in coastal areas like Golfito, and mountainous areas like San Ramon. Males are found actively calling during the breeding season, which starts on March and ends by July. Juveniles resemble the females, but would try to sing with varied degrees of success, as they learn from their parents the delicate art.
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The Pale-vented Pigeon is relatively large sized, only falling short to the Scaled and Band-tailed Pigeons. Unlike the Band-tailed, which is found in the higher elevations of Costa Rica, it inhabits the lowlands on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, along the northern region up to the border with Nicaragua, a range that is almost entirely shared with the Scaled Pigeon. In terms of appearance, it resembles a Red-billed Pigeon, but with a gray head, black bill and white belly and vent; also the wing has more red on the shoulder region than a Red-billed Pigeon. Like the other mentioned species, they are mostly arboreal, although when living within human settlements they can be found perched on man-made structures or walking in the ground as they grab food leftovers.
The Northern Scrub-Flycatcher is a resident species, similar to the members of the Myiarchus family, which is notably difficult to identify at a species level. Like its name might imply, this small bird prefers scrub habitat, which is composed of small trees and tall grass. We found an individual at Tárcoles River, in the swampy area that surrounds the river. It was full of mosquitoes, which is probably the reason species like this one like the area. It was interesting to see this individual raising its crest, most probably a display to let us know we were in his/her territory.
The Nicaraguan Seed-Finch is one of Costa Rica’s biggest finches species, only surpassed by the Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, which is even rarer and has a longer tail. It looks similar to the Thick-billed Seed-Finch, with the male being uniformly black and the female uniformly brown, albeit with a bigger size. Their bills are undoubtedly specialized for breaking down seeds and the male’s bill is particularly conspicuous, given its pink coloration. In Costa Rica, it can be found in lowland areas of the northern area, near the border with Nicaragua, and in a thin strip along the eastern coast of the Caribbean.
The Olivaceous Piculet is the smallest bird species in the Woodpecker family. Its sound as it pecks on vines resembles that of the Telegraph, hence its common Spanish name, “Telegrafista”. Both male and female show very small white dots all over the crown, with the male also sporting bright orange feathers on the front of the head. The flanks of both sexes look faintly streaked in light brown and white, while the upperparts are dark brown. The center feathers that cover the tail’s upper side are white. Its range is restricted to two main zones, one in the northern part of Costa Rica up to San Juan river, and another in the southern region, from Quepos down to Ciudad Neily and Rio Jimenez.
A recent split from the Plain Wren, all three species held this name because of the lack of most field marks when compared with most other wrens. Along the Cabanis’s which can be found in the northwest region of Costa Rica, the Canebrake Wren occupies the Eastern portion (Caribbean), and the Isthmian Wren is found in southern region of the country. These small birds have a brown eye with white supercilliary, brown upperparts with the tail showing black stripes. The underparts are grayish to white. Like most wrens, the Cabanis’s is an avid songbird. Its song is complex, consisting of a variety of high notes and chirps that give away their presence. Even so, they are difficult to locate as their main habitat is dense forest edges, where they jump from branch to branch, camouflaged by the leafs and branches of bushes and trees.
The White-collared Seedeater is very similar in shape to the common Variable Seedeater, and the male particularly resembles the Pacific race of the latter species. As with most seedeaters, the female is brown, but with a lighter color than other species. The male has a wide white collar around the neck, while the Pacific race of the Variable Seedeater has a thin line that does not join in the back of the neck and shows a black throat. The White-collared has wing bars, which no other seedeater in Costa Rica posses. Both species can be readily found in open pastures, where they share their main habitat and compete for food, specially grass seeds. Seedeaters tend to not gain the attention of most birders, but I believe this is the most beautiful seedeater species that we can see in Costa Rica. This individual stood on the fence wire as we drove through Boca Tapada; the picture was taken from the car window.
The Tropical Pewee is very similar to the Wood-Pewees (Eastern and Western), however the Wood-Pewees are migratory birds, found in Costa Rica only during two periods, August to November when they pass through in their journey to South America, and March to May when they return to the Northern hemisphere. They are difficult to differentiate, as their appeareance is very similar, however the Tropical is slighly smaller and has a yellowish belly, while the Wood-Pewees have a gray to white belly. Both Eastern Wood-Pewee and Tropical Pewee have a yellow lower mandible with dark tip, while the Western Wood-Pewee only has a small portion of the lower mandible being yellow. The Tropical Pewee has a darker crest than the Wood-Pewees as well.
The Buff-throated Saltator has a grey belly, black and whitish throat, white supercilliary and olive upperparts. It can be confused with the Black-headed Saltator, however the Black-headed is bigger, does have a black nape and white throat, which is very distinctive, and their song is a lot different and noisier. This species is very wary of humans, and although they approach fruit feeders, they make it hesitantly. At the first sign of human presence, they will fly away. A combination of camouflage and patience goes a long way towards getting close to them.
Most Guans and Chachalacas are big arboreal birds, and can show great agility when jumping from branch to branch on the top of the canopy some 20 or 30 meters above the ground. They perch to eat fruits and also to roost in the night. Most species avoid the ground but come down sometimes in search of fruits and seeds. The Colombian Chahcalaca is found in the Andes Region, having brown coloration but with an scaled look thanks to gray tips of the feathers’ barbs. Their head and beak is gray, and it has a bright red dewlap that is folded and inconspicuous, although it can hang freely and thus be seen clearly when the bird is high in the trees. The legs are also red. While shy of people, this species will come to fruit feeders and stay there undisturbed unless you get too close.