Common Ground-Dove (Columbina passerina)

The Common Ground-Dove is very similar to related species Ruddy and Plain-breasted Ground-Doves, however the Common is lighter in coloration, with a pink bill that is diagnostic; it also shows a scaled pattern in the throat and neck, which is missing from the other ground doves. Also similar to these species is the Inca Dove, which even behaves similarly as it forages most of the time on the ground, however the scaled appearance in the whole body should preclude any confusion. The male is ligher than the female, which looks grayish. All ground doves feature dark spots in the tips of primaries and secondaries, which look like a curved line when the wings are closed, although the Common’s should area spots are more numerous and do not form a line.

A male Common Ground-Dove stands on a metal rod, with trees in the background becoming a dark green blotch of color.

Black-crowned Antshrike (Thamnophilus atrinucha)

There are six species of Antshrikes that occur in Costa Rica, some more elusive than others, but all having a common theme: Their songs is heard more often than they are seen. All of them sing using a pattern of repeating notes that build more speed slowly, abruptly ending in a single note that usually is different from all others. The song of the Black-crowned Antshrike is very similar in pitch to the Barred Antshrike’s, so it is easy to confuse them. The Black-crowned is bigger and does not have the bold markings that the Barred has, only displaying small white dots and stripes on the wings, along a black crown which is difficult to see, given that they are usually perched higher than eye level inside the dark forest.

As a bird photographer, I strive for great image quality, but also value unique moments with rare or elusive species. This sighting of the Black-crowned Antshrike is one such encounter, a bird that can be easily identified by the song, but that can be difficult to see as they live in the dense, dark forest. To see them in the trail is priceless.

Long-billed Starthroat (Heliomaster longirostris)

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.

Sometimes I feel like I am not close enough, but I still take the shot. This is one such scene. While not the close up portrait that I strive for, it has a beauty of its own, by including a little bit of the environment this hummingbird is in. This individual always returned to perch to the same leaf, for reasons that I could not determine. Most probably it was his / her territory.

Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus)

Purple Gallinules are some of the most brightly colored birds that you can see walking in Costa Rica. Indeed while they can also fly, they more commonly wade in shallow waters and in dense grass plains, looking for prey. I have seen them in Palo Verde in big numbers, and spotted individuals in Rio Frio, where they join chickens and forage in the backyards of houses; indeed I was able to see two adults rearing four young hatchlings, which were still covered in black fluffy hairs, getting along with the chickens just fine. The underside and head is entirely purple with a metallic look, showing a small light blue patch on the forehead. The beak is mostly bright red, with a yellow tip. The upperparts show blue to olive green hues, particularly on the wings. The yellow legs are long, letting them to wade in shallow edges of lagoons without having to swim.

This Gallinule is so accustomed to human visitors in Maquenque, that it let me take this picture with a 50mm lens. This implies I was crouching about half a meter away from the bird. Normally birds like this are very wary of people, so I would have struggled to get a similar portrait with a 600mm lens (think 12 times more zoom than the 50mm).
The same individual crouched as it waded into the shallow waters. The lagoon in which it was hunting was dry back on May, but in August due to the heavy rainfalls now covers a large extent of terrain.
Purple Gallinules are commonly seen foraging on the edge of rivers and small lagoons, where their long legs and feet let them stand on water lilies and similar broad-leaf aquatic plants.

Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher (Phainoptila melanoxantha)

The Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher is one of the four species in a unique family around the world, with the Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher being the only other species to be seen in Costa Rica. The male shows a combination of yellow rump, chest and undersides, with gray belly and vent; its throat and head it black, as well as it tail and wings. The Female has a gray throat with a black cap, olive chest, wings and tail. Their shape is similar to other Costa Rica thrushes, as they look rather plump when compared with the Long-tailed. Although Flycatchers by name, they prefer to eat fruits, specializing in berries that are abundant in the highlands; indeed their range is restricted to Guanacaste, Tilaran, Central and Talamanca Cordilleras. They are endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama, thanks to the fact that the Talamanca Cordillera stretches out into Panama.

This male stood on the branch without moving for quite a while, just like the lethargic state that hummingbirds enter in after vigorously feeding nectar on the flight.

White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)

The White Ibis is, well… entirely white in plumage. When spotted from a distance it can resemble a Great Egret, Cattle Egret or Snowy Egret, however the pink legs and face, along with the long, skinny downcurved bill is diagnostic. The tips of the wings are black, although that is only visible during flight. The juvenile has brown upperparts, and the neck is striped in brown and white, with gray legs and a darker bill. It is found in ponds and marshes in Guanacaste and the northern area of the country; also along the pacific coast of Costa Rica. Given its habitat, they usually wade in the shallow waters and mudflats, where pick small crustaceans and fish, just like Egrets do.

The White Ibis has a very unusual look, with a long red bill that is downcurved. Its plumage is entirely white, and it is easy to confuse with a Egret from a distance. A group of five of these birds were perched on branches stemming above the mangrove forest. This one posed the nicest with the blue sky behind.
A White Ibis stands on the highest branch of a dead tree, on the pacific coast of Costa Rica

Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)

The Neotropic Cormorant is an aquatic bird, hence it is popularly known is Costa Rica as the “Pato de Agua” or water duck. It dives underwater in search of prey, which is mostly comprise of fish, but also includes amphibians. They can be found at the sea and in rivers, sometimes accompanied by Frigatebirds or any type of egret, like the Tricolored Heron seen in the picture below. They are mostly dark in colloration with a yellow bill, and their feet are webbed, just like a duck, which is a feature that help them propel themselves while underwater.

A Cormorant spreads its water while perched on a rock. Cormorants are expert divers and catch their food underwater, but since their feathers become soaked, they are frequently found assuming this posture to dry out their feathers.
Neotropic Cormorant - Phalacrocorax brasilianus - Cormorán Tropical, Pato Chancho, Pato de Agua, Bigua
We saw this group of Cormorants coming out of the water after a productive fishing time. A Tricolored Heron is also seen on the back.

Variable Seedeater (Sporophila corvina)

The Variable Seedeater is very common in Costa Rica, whenever there is grass either on lots or at the edge of roads. On the Caribbean side, the male is almost entirely black and looks pretty similar to the male Thick-billed Seed-Finch, but is smaller in size; on the pacific side, the male has white belly and rump. The female is drab brown, also very similar to the female Thick-billed Seed-Finch, but smaller and with duller colors. The juvenile has similar coloration to the female. In terms of behavior, it is common to see this species jumping into the air in an acrobatic fashion and then just fall in the same perch, which is part of the mating display of the male trying to attract nearby females.

A very common seedeater, found in areas covered by tall grasses. Small among the smallest birds.
Variable Seedeater, Male - Sporophila corvina - Espiguero Variable, Macho
A male perched on a small branch, pruning its feathers under the rain
Variable Seedeater, Male - Sporophila corvina - Espiguero Variable, Macho (2)
A Caribbean male perched on a fence wire while taking a shower under the rain
Variable Seedeater, Female - Sporophila corvina - Espiguero Variable, Hembra (2)
The female is brown and very drab in coloration. Note the bill, which is big to help in crushing small seeds

King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa)

The King Vulture is a really magnificent bird. The other three species are black in general, with different color of head and neck. The Black Vulture is commonly seen soaring around the country, but the King Vulture is not seen that often. However, when you see it, you are amazed. The juvenile is mostly black, with white underparts, while the adult is mostly white, with black wing secondaries and orange to red neck. Both have white irises, which contrasts nicely with the head colors.

It is not every day that you can see a Vulture turning into a King! This immature individual still retains black feathers from its juvenile plumage on the wings and back, however it looks as an adult for the most part.
It is said that to achieve compelling images of wildlife, one needs to take pictures at eye-level. The way the hide at Mirador El Pizote is positioned makes possible such images.
It is exciting to have the King Vulture so close, sometimes looking directly at your eyes (or your lens for that matter).
An adult also made its appearance and stood on the branch for a few minutes, all while the Black Vultures where busy eating from the carcass on the ground.
Another shot of the King at the branch, this time in horizontal framing. Its feathers look all fluffy from the wind that helped cool the ambient a bit.
A shot from the hide at Mirador El Pizote shows the King Vulture calmly walking through the grass.
Another shot from the hide at Mirador El Pizote, here most of the body is hidden from view due to the low angle.
The King Vulture sharing a carcass with one Black Vulture, surrounded by the green vegetation of the forest.
A fast action shot where the King Vulture had just taken off the branch in which it was perched seconds before.
The King posing proudly on top of a branch. It was already full after at least two hours of feasting on a carcass.
I call this picture “The King Vulture Ballet”. I leave it to the masters of the discipline to say if the posture is right, but to me it still looks graceful.
King Vulture, Adult - Sarcoramphus papa - Zopilote Rey, Rey Gallinazo, Adulto (1)
The King just made its flashy appearance. Its attire is elegant, even gorgeous.
King Vulture, Adult - Sarcoramphus papa - Zopilote Rey, Rey Gallinazo, Adulto (2)
A balancing act on a tree trunk, although vultures are very skilled at it.
King Vulture, Adult - Sarcoramphus papa - Zopilote Rey, Rey Gallinazo, Adulto (3)
This adult spread its wings slightly when changing position at the tree.
King Vulture, Adult - Sarcoramphus papa - Zopilote Rey, Rey Gallinazo, Adulto (5)
The body is essentially black and white, yet the head is very colorful.
King Vulture, Adult - Sarcoramphus papa - Zopilote Rey, Rey Gallinazo, Adulto (8)
The maw protrudes from the chest’s feathers and is very conspicuous.
King Vulture, Adult - Sarcoramphus papa - Zopilote Rey, Rey Gallinazo, Adulto (11)
The maw is concealed most of the time, but I am supposing that during hot days it helps to cool off by having it outside of the feathers.
King Vulture, Adult - Sarcoramphus papa - Zopilote Rey, Rey Gallinazo, Adulto (12)
The gaze of this magnificent bird is very determined.
King Vulture, Adult - Sarcoramphus papa - Zopilote Rey, Rey Gallinazo, Adulto (14)
Close up portrait of the head and neck.
King Vulture, Adult - Sarcoramphus papa - Zopilote Rey, Rey Gallinazo, Adulto (15)
The maw is a zone in the chest of the bird that also lacks feathers, where the skin is pink.
King Vulture, Adult - Sarcoramphus papa - Zopilote Rey, Rey Gallinazo, Adulto (16)
A close up portrait reveals the skin that folds around much of the face, neck and even covers the nostrils.
King Vulture, Adult - Sarcoramphus papa - Zopilote Rey, Rey Gallinazo, Adulto
As a scavenger, this vulture normally gets its meals from dead animals found anywhere.
King Vulture, Juvenile - Sarcoramphus papa - Zopilote Rey, Rey Gallinazo, Juvenil (4)
Juvenile and adult stand together in the sun. They really look magnificent.
King Vulture, Juvenile - Sarcoramphus papa - Zopilote Rey, Rey Gallinazo, Juvenil (5)
The poise of this juvenile while walking is incredible.

Green Honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza)

Ever since I first see the Red-legged Honeycreeper, I inmediately knew I was seeing one of the most gorgeous species Costa Rica has. Then I met the Green Honeycreeper, and I stood delighted. The male has a striking combination of dark green body, deep black hood, bright yellow bill and dark red iris, which just looks amazing, even when wet. In fact, I would say a wet male screams Rain forest, that’s enough to love it. The female is not as exotic, however the green color of their feathers is so bright as to defy belief.

This female stood on a branch in Maquenque Lodge, just waiting for its turn at the feeder. The place was taken over by Red-legged Honeycreepers at the time.
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (1)
The male has a bright green body, with black half hood, red eye and yellow bill. What a combination!
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (4)
He is almost a model, gorgeous and looking in all directions. It moved very fast on the branch
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (5)
The rainfall would not step this little bird to put on a display of poses for us
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (6)
Looks like a curious bird, most probably watching over the banana nearby
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (7)
Now perched on a smaller branch. In this pose it looks fluffier
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (9)
This branch is probably a centimeter wide, so judge the birds size
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (11)
The male is rather a turquoise color, so it stands out even against a bright green background
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (13)
I love this bird’s color. It’s almost like Athabasca in Canada
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (15)
Looks like it is going to take off to the air
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (18)
Rainfall started to pick up and with it light started to decline
Green Honeycreeper, Female - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Hembra (1)
The female is rather plain, but their green color is very bright
Green Honeycreeper, Female - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Hembra (2)
Same pose here, right by the Bromeliad. Note the size difference