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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The Steely-vented Hummingbird belongs to the Amazilia genus, which contains a lot of similar hummingbird species like the Rufous-tailed and the Andean Emerald. They are all very similar in terms of body shape and size, but differ in their coloration and some of them in their habitat and behavior. It has a metallic green body with blue wings and tail, and shows yellow to magenta feathers on the rump. Their bill is thin and straight, and it has white feathers covering its legs. Like the Rufous-tailed, it is very aggressive and territorial.
Although it bears some similarity with the Golden-naped and the Black-capped Tanagers, we did not see many Scrub Tanagers during our visit to Finca Alejandría. I just saw this individual as it approached one of the feeders and stayed long enough at the perch for me to snap one picture. They have a gray body with blueish wings, a black mask and its rust colored cap. The species seems to be very shy of people, as the bird did not actually come to the feeder and stayed at a safe distance on the branch. This may be due to its preference to live in bushy areas.
Don’t get confused by the name, this is not the Scarlet Tanager, which incidentally has very bright red colors. The Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager is just unbelievably handsome. It has a dark body which can look blueish under the right light. The belly is a deep scarlet color, although some subspecies may show different shades of this red. It also has a red patch on the ear, and two blue patches, one in the shoulder and the other on the rump. Just as its name, it is a very elegant bird, specially when set against a contrasting green background. It shares the same genus with the Blue-winged and the Lachrymose Mountain-Tanagers, however I really find this species to be pinnacle of beauty. We saw them at about 3,000 meters above sea level, during our visit to Termales del Ruiz.
The Saffron-crowned Tanager is very confusing, since its plumage coloration can change a lot depending on the prevailing light. One thing that not changes and that really identifies this species is the yellow head with black mask. The body is either turquoise with green patches, or light green with turquoise patches. Whichever the color seen, it has a spotted appearance on the back and black wing feathers with turquoise/green linings. The belly and vent are white. In terms of body shape, it is very similar to the Gold Tanager, but with a very different coloration; this made them unmistakable even though they often shared the same feeder at Finca Alejandría.