The Ornate Hawk-Eagle is one of the most sought-after birds in Costa Rica due to its elegant appearance and striking name. Juveniles are dull brown with white head and belly, while adults have a barred belly, black crest and chestnut sides of the face and throat. Its most flamboyant feature is the big crest that adults have. It also have feathered legs. Its preferred environment is the forest, where it catches a variety of prey, including big arboreal birds like the Great Currasow. It is most usually seen circling high on the sky, where it is difficult to identify in silhouette, however their vocalizations give them away easily.
Most Guans and Chachalacas are big arboreal birds, and can show great agility when jumping from branch to branch on the top of the canopy some 20 or 30 meters above the ground. They perch to eat fruits and also to roost in the night. Most species avoid the ground but come down sometimes in search of fruits and seeds. The Colombian Chahcalaca is found in the Andes Region, having brown coloration but with an scaled look thanks to gray tips of the feathers’ barbs. Their head and beak is gray, and it has a bright red dewlap that is folded and inconspicuous, although it can hang freely and thus be seen clearly when the bird is high in the trees. The legs are also red. While shy of people, this species will come to fruit feeders and stay there undisturbed unless you get too close.
Yellow-bellied Seedeater seems to be a bad name for a species that has a white belly. In a true seedeater fashion, it is found eating seeds from the grass. Its upperside is gray, with a darker head. Its pale bill is short but very strong, enabling it to crack bigger seeds. It shows some dark patches on the flanks and on the separation of throat and chest.
Five species of birds compose the Cinclus genus, all of which have a very unique characteristic: They dive underwater to catch small fish and invertebrates, along with their eggs and larvae. They are most commonly found along river banks and fast flowing streams. Being able to swim underwater, they bear adaptations for this purpose. For instance, their bones are solid to reduce buoyancy, while the feathers are dense and covered in oil that repels water, which has two effects: Maintaining the body dryers, and capturing a small layer of air around its body. The White-capped Dipper in particular is dark gray on the upper side, white on the underside and shows a white cap that goes well with its 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 Violet-bellied Hummingbird is another of the cute hummingbirds we saw in Colombia. Its name is pretty descriptive, since the belly is a deep iridescent purple tone that looks metallic on the right light; on the shadow it looks blue instead. The throat and face also glow in light green sometimes, other times it looks dark green along with the back of the head. It has a long and thin black bill that’s used like most hummingbird to extract nectar from the deep cavities of flowers in Colombia. I saw this individual while walking down from Doña Dora’s restaurant. It was doing its early morning stretching routine.
The Vermilion Flycatcher is very small when compared with most Flycatchers found in Costa Rica, however it might easily be the most beautiful. Its deep red body is refreshing to see, since Costa Rican species are mostly yellow instead. The body plan is pretty similar to a Great Kiskadee or Social Flycatcher, just a lot smaller and plumper body. The back is dark grey and the red crest is sometimes raised. They are relatively shy but very active, particularly in the morning where they ca be seen catching insects and returning to the same perch in a typical flycatcher fasion. This species is found in Mexico and southamerica, but there have been reports in Costa Rica’s frontier with Panama, meaning we could be seeing it close by in the next years.
The Torrent Duck is very special and one of the highlights of our trip to Colombia. They are only found living in the high courses of rapid flowing streams, with lots of rocks that serve as anchorage and resting places for them; most other ducks prefer calm waters and lakes to spend their time. This duck chooses a spot downstream for resting during the night, and at the morning it swims upstream against the strong current, until it finds a preferred feeding area. It then begins a cycle: Either the male or female mount guard from a comfortable rock, while the other feeds in a small pool or river region that has light current. When the food is gone, they both jump to the current and get dragged downstream until they reach the next feeding area, where again one of them mounts guard while the other one feeds. This is very unique behavior, one we could observe from very close at Yarumo Blanco SFF.
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.
The Slate-throated Whitestart is part of the Myioborus genus that includes also the Golden-fronted and Collared Whitestart or Redstart, as are called sometimes. It is a varied genus of warblers that are present in all of the American continent, in different species. In Costa Rica, the Slate-throated is also found along with the Collared species, although here they are called Redstarts instead. They forage very actively on the ground or low in the bushes, flashing their tail to frighten insects that are then caught in the air. Their upper parts and throat are dark grey, while their underparts are yellow in the south, and red on the northernmost part of their range. It also shows a dark red crown that’s difficult to see unless in good light.