The Northern Waterthrush is a member of the Warbler family with a body plan more similar to that of a thrush, albeit smaller. It is brown in the upperside, with brown streaks on a white belly. It has a white superciliary and flecking on the throat. The very similar Louisiana Waterthrush has a wider superciliary, with a white throat. Both species are terrestrial, with the Northern preferring slower moving streams and edges of ponds. Both species teeter their body as they move around. They are both migrants that occur in Costa Rica mainly from mid August to mid May, with the Northern being the most widespread and commonly seen in the territory.
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The Killdeer is a small bird similar to the Plover family. They are migrants that spend winter in Central and Southamerica, from late August to May. It is the only plover that shows two black bands on the chest, along with the orange edge of the eye. During the flight, they show mostly white on the underparts, brown on the upperside with tawny rump. They are noisy when flying, particularly if spooked, delivering a very high-pitched sound for which it receives its English common name.
The White-browed Spinetail was the only species of Spinetails we ever saw in Colombia. It inhabits the paramo at Nevado del Ruiz, at an altitude of 4,200 meters above sea level. Its body coloration is composed of brown back and head, gray belly, chest and throat, and a gray supercilliary on top of the black eye. With this colors, it might look very dull and uninteresting, however it is an amazing fact for this little bird to withstand the lack of oxygen and low temperatures of this elevation, specially during the night.
The Streaked Xenops is part of the woodcreeper family, better known for their characteristic behavior: Their perch on vertical branches or tree trunks, holding themselves tight with their claws, and then start to climb while going in circles around the branch, probing with their bill for worms and insects that may hide in their crevices. It has very dull coloration, showing dark brown upperparts and light brown underparts with buffy streaking in the chest and belly. The bill is short and slightly curved up, with the lower mandible being pale from the base to half its length.
The Harris’s Hawk is a medium-sized bird of prey that ranges from south United States all the way to Brazil and Argentina. Adults are very dark with chestnut on the shoulders, wings and legs, as well as some patches on the head. The juveniles are lighter in coloration overall, with wings underside being buff to white and having dark streaking. Their eyes are very big and situated all the way forward, allowing them for good tridimensional vision and distance judging, essential for spotting and catching prey. Due to their intelligence, they are sought after for falconry, particularly in some parts of Europe. In their natural environment, they are known for cooperating and hunting in groups up to seven individuals, with the mature female being the highest ranked individual.
Like many members of the Flycatcher family, this species can be identified by its behavior: It leaps into the air from any kind of perch (including utility wires), catches an insect in an acrobatic maneuver, and then returns to the same perch to eat it. The Cinnamon Flycatcher is small among their family and has a fairly uniform body color, only broken down by the black bill and eyes. The wings have an olive-like coloration in the shoulder, together with black and cinnamon on the longer feathers.
The Brown-banded is one of the Antpittas that can be seen at Rio Blanco Natural Reserve, in Manizales, Colombia. To see it, the guide takes a bucket with worms and places them at a specific spot just off a narrow trail at 7:00 am every day. He then starts imitating is song and sure enough after a few minutes, the bird responds with its characteristic call. It approaches the place and once sure that it is safe, it goes out and grabs some worms. It stays motionless for a few seconds, and then continues grabbing more food. All of a sudden it runs and disappears into the forest, and won’t respond to calls or food until the next day at the same time. Like most Antpittas, their body is plump with a short tail, and it has a brown coloration all over with gray legs. The black eyes are very big, most probably a feature to help it see well in the dark forest where it inhabits. It is a vulnerable species which inhabits a very limited range in Manizales.
The Brown Violetear is a medium-sized hummingbird which has a violet ear patch, not surprising given its name. The body is mostly brown in coloration, with darker wing and tail feathers. The feathers covering its vent are whitish, as well as some of the throat feathers surrounding a small colorful patch in the center. It possesses a patch of green to blue iridescent feathers in the throat, something the Lesser Violetear does not possess. The black bill is relatively short and straight, which it uses to sometimes catch small insects on the flight. It is found in mid to high altitudes, particularly in humid areas where Porter Weed flowers are plentiful. Their small size and light weight let them perch in delicate branches without breaking them.
The Great Curassow is a pretty unique bird among Costa Rica species. It shows marked sexual dymorphism, with the female being mostly brown on the most common morph, and the male being almost entirely black. The female has a feather crest that looks just like a Roman Soldier’s helmet and it is barred black and white. Their size is about a turkey’s, yet they have the agility to climb pretty high on trees, as they typically inhabit forested areas. There is also a “barred” morph in females, but it is not common to see in Costa Rica. As a matter of fact, the only barred individual I know of lived in Laguna del Lagarto Lodge, however a Ornate Hawk-Eagle snapped it from the place and ate it, to the astonishment of the photographers present at the day. Life always has a way to leave us in wonder.
The vertical picture was taken at Laguna del Lagarto Lodge, Boca Tapada during a birdwatching tour with Fundación Rapaces de Costa Rica, on November 25th and 26th, 2017. It is incredible that such a big bird is able to balance itself so well on perches that are pretty high above the ground. It was even able to incline the body to the front and feed while standing there. The horizontal picture was taken at Yatama Ecolodge, where a group of no less than 5 females and 2 males foraged close to the visitor rooms.
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.