This is a rather large bird for a Tanager, but its colors are very contrasty against the dark green background. It has a yellow throat, chest and belly, with black mask and back, a blue patch on the shoulder, and blue wings and tail. They readily come in groups to fruit feeders, sharing space with other tanagers and honeycreepers. It bears some resemblance to the Lachrymose Mountain Tanager. At first sight might resemble a flycatcher due to the yellow belly, but its behavior is nothing similar. Interestingly enough, this bird would perch on the branch before going down to the fruit feeder, but would not perch back when leaving the feeder. There is only one opportunity each time to snap a picture.
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The Blue-headed Sapphire is a very conspicuous hummingbird. It has an iridescent green body with brown wings and white feathers on its legs, sharing this combination of colors with many hummingbirds. However, its head is a deep blue, almost violet coloration, and it has a dark pink bill with a black tip, which makes it stand out of the crowd. It is shy in comparison with other birds that approached the feeders at Finca Alejandria, and when I first saw, it was on feeders inside the forest, in a very dark environment. It did came to a feather in the outside and perched long enough to get a good picture of it.
Just like the Red-legged Honeycreeper, which I soon learnt to love too much, the Shining Honeycreeper is a gorgeous species. It seems that all birds bearing the Honeycreeper name are incredibly colorful, with the Green Honeycreeper sharing an space with these beauties. In all three species, dymorphism marks great differences between genders, with the males having the most conspicuous colors for attracting females. The female has a green back, light blue chest with streaking and yellowish legs, although not as bright as the male’s. The female seems to be fluffier than the male, which is more streamlined than the corresponding male of the Red-legged species. They can get quite aggressive against Red-legged Honeycreepers when they coincide at the same site.
The White-necked Jacobin is a pretty big hummingbird, that likes to move pretty fast around feeders and flowers, making it difficult to follow for in-flight pictures. Its color pattern is unmistakable among Costa Rica hummingbirds and glows in good light. The belly is white, while the head is metallic blue and the rest of the body is green; if seen from behind, the white patch on the neck can be spotted. They are territorial and won’t be afraid of putting a fight with other hummingbirds that approach the feeder they are visiting. The female is not nearly as colorful, but it is beautiful as well.
Even though the Great-tailed Grackle has become unpopular for most people due to their feeding habits, the male is a beautiful black bird that shines in blue when exposed to sunlight. Granted they cause trouble to other birds, as they will readily raid nests with eggs and hatchlings, but in some sense that’s really their role in the ecosystem, as with their predatory behavior they prevent some species to grow out of control. Males are very noisy and display as they sing their metallic tones into the air; their tails have a v-shape as they are wider in the end that in the base. The females are entirely drab brown with a yellow iris. They thrive near human settlements, eating insects, but also a variety of plants, including fruits, which has gained them the reputation of pests in many areas.
Mangrove swallows are interesting in that they are not only found inside the mangrove forest, but in the whole river ecosystem. We did see a few of these birds inside the mangrove. They were flying by the boat very rapidly like most other swallows, which made in-flight pictures very difficult. Still pictures were better, as the birds perched in huge numbers on dead trees. They are distinguished from other swallows by their white underparts (up to the throat) and metallic green upperparts, only similar to the Blue-and-white Swallow, however the latter species is found throughout the country and not just on the coast; also it has blue upperparts instead of green.
The Talamanca Hummingbird is pretty similar to the Fiery-throated Hummingbird and both inhabits similar environments, in the highlands of Costa Rica. The female has gray underparts, which makes it easier to identify against the Fiery-throated. The male is glittering green in the upperside, with iridescent throat and head that look black most of the time, but in certain angles reveal a deep turquoise-blue metallic color in the throat, and purplish-blue on the head.
As is usual in Hummingbirds, the Fiery-throated Hummingbird shows iridescence in its plumage, by refracting light that hits in different angles and intensities. The result is a colorful plumage that changes with every so slight movement, and in the case of the Fiery-throated, it transforms into a rainbow of color. The challenge for any photographer is to obtain a picture of this active bird with the glowing yellow-red throat and blue chest. Getting that in-flight with natural light as the hummer approaches a flower with acrobatic movements is a matter of luck. To beat the odds, it is recommended to visit places like Paraiso Quetzal Lodge in Cerro de la Muerte, where these hummingbirds are abundant and have become used to people being around with their cameras. At times you can see tens of these birds in garden; they will often fight with one another and pass over your head at high speed. Other times they will perch in an almost catatonic state, ideal for classic portrait pictures.
The Great Blue Heron is one of the largest birds that occur naturally in Costa Rica. They can be found in watery environments like rivers and ponds, even artificial ones like the one in Concasa, which has been visited by a juvenile bird almost every morning from January 2018 to March of the same year. The name is misleading though, as the blue is color is rather dull on this bird. The juvenile is mostly grayish, with a darker cap, yellow eye and lower mandible, and black upper mandible. The adult shows a light dull blue on the back and wings, with brownish neck and white cheeks, maintaining the dark cap and yellow eye, but the upper mandible changes to yellow. They stalk prey from the edge of water ponds and lakes, and launch a forceful attack as fish pass by, able to snatch fish of considerable size and swallow them in one go.
This bird feels exotic in every way. The long tail ends in two small buds; when perched it sometimes moves the tail in a pendulum fashion. The bird call is a deep, guttural “Hoop-Hoop”, which repeats itself at infinitum, though some birds will variate the sound. It will stay motionless on its perch, either in complete silence, or performing its call. When there are various individuals in the area, it seems like one bird’s call is responded by another’s, resembling a conversation between birds at a distance. The bird is nervous, but can be approached to a distance of 3 meters or less; I have successfully taken pictures of it at such a close distance, even using the flash, and the bird does not fly away.