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.

Agami Heron (Agamia agami)

The Agami Heron is simply the most beautiful heron species to be seen in Costa Rica. It is also one of the most secretive heron species in Costa Rica, rarely seen in its territory. Luckily, a colony of up to 100 pairs are nesting each year in the Pacuare Reserve, Limon, which is dedicated to marine turtle conservation and research. The nesting spot is located in a small terrain surrounded by a lagoon that is full of crocodiles, which prevents other natural predators from eating their eggs or chicks, and the eggs are laid up in the trees, out of reach for crocs.

The throat is red with small light blue feathers that cover it forming a pattern. The head is blue with a light blue cap, which looks ike hair styled to the back. The bill is very long, with the upper mandible being black and the lower yellow. The upper parts are blue, with a few light blue feathers, while the feathers on the body are chestnut. The Juvenile is almost entirely brown.

Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, (Eupherusa eximia)

Stripe-tailed Hummingbirds are distinguished from other hummingbirds by its rufous wing patch, although that characteristic is shared with the Blue-tailed (rare in Costa Rica) and Black-bellied Hummingbirds. It has a white vent and tail underside, along with the outer two feathers of the tail being white on the upperside. The male shows a dark blue patch on the throat which continues until the chest. During flight, the wings look almost entirely rufous, with only a lining of green feathers on the shoulders. The female has a white throat and chest. Both sexes resemble the Coppery-headed Emerald, although the latter is smaller.

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.

Strawberry Poison Dart Frog (Oophaga pumilio)

The Strawberry Poison Dart Frog, along the Green and Black Poison Dart Frog, are one of the common diurnal species that can be found in tropical rain forests in Costa Rica, particularly at the Caribbean side. It is common to go hiking and see these bright red and blue frogs suddenly jump from the trail. Due to the color of their legs, they are also called the “Blue Jeans”, although in Costa Rica some individuals are found that have red legs and arms, and in other countries like Panama there are many more morphs with entirely different color patterns. Regardless of the specific colors, they are very conspicuous and do not camouflage well on the leaf litter that tends to be brown to black. They are tiny when compared with many Tree Frogs.

As with the Green and Black Poison Dart Frog, caution must be taken not to touch these frogs when photographing them with macro lenses, as their skin is poisonous and any contact of their secretions with our eyes, nose or mouth can cause much discomfort. While handling them does not produce any symptons, if one is careless, then it is possible to touch one´s sensible organs with the hands and experience significant effects, up to partial blindness.

Blue-and-white Swallow (Pygochelidon cyanoleuca)

The Blue-and-white Swallow is very similar to the Mangrove Swallow, given that the Mangrove’s upperparts are green but may look blueish under certain lighting conditions, and they share the white underparts and long black wings and tail. It is distinguished by having black undertail coverts, and the fact that Mangrove Swallows are for the most part encountered in coastal areas, while the Blue-and-White can be found almost anywhere in the country. Like other swallows, they readily perch in cables to rest. They also like to construct their nests in human made structures like roofs.

Elegant Euphonia (Euphonia elegantissima)

This probably is the best named species of euphonia in Costa Rica. Just as the Olive-backed Euphonia, the Elegant Euphonia is very peculiar since it is not blue and yellow like most other euphonias. Instead, the male has a deep orange belly with blue back and wings, dark blue throat and light blue hood, and a very small orange patch on the front of the head, which the female also shares. The female is green overall, but with the light blue hood. Both male and female are gorgeous, a great sight for any birdwatcher.

Crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica)

The Crowned Woodnymph is a medium sized hummingbird with a violet belly and glittering green throat, along with different shades of blue and green on the back. The female has white underparts and throat instead, with golden patches along the neck and head; the rest of the body is green like the male. They are mid sized among Costa Rican hummingbirds and might resemble a little bit the Violet-bellied Hummingbird that is found in Colombia. They inhabit low tropical rain forest locations like Braulio Carrillo and Bosque Eterno de los Niños, where they feed from the nectar of a variety of flowers, including Porter Weed.

Velvet-fronted Euphonia (Euphonia concinna)

Euphonias are among the most difficult species to identify, particularly the females since most of them are equally alike with olive coloration and not a single field mark. When they travel in pairs it is easier, since once the male is identified, one can assume the species of the female relatively safely. In this species, the male is identified by having a yellow forehead that extends back to the nape, and showing a blue/black mask and throat. The upperparts are also blue-black depending on the light, while the chest and belly are bright yellow.

Black-capped Tanager (Tangara heinei)

The Black-capped Tanager is a member of the Tangara genus, and as such it is pretty similar in size and shape to other members of this genus that we spotted in Colombia, like the Golden Tanager and the Saffron-crowned Tanager. The adult male has a distinctive blueish plumage, darker on the wings, with a black cap and turquoise throat; the juvenile is similar but with overall duller colors and the head and throat colors not well defined. The female has greenish plumage instead and lacks the black cap. For all the Tangara species we saw at Finca Alejandría, this and the Scrub Tanager were the rarest ones.