The Keel-billed Toucan is the one bird we all know about. It is featured in all brochures and advertising around tourism in Costa Rica. It’s colorful beak is amazing. As with all Toucans species though, this bird will raid other species’ nests, so it is common to see that other birds harass them, trying to scare them away. In particular, I have seen Great Kiskadees acting aggressively towards them in an effort to divert them from their nest. They are smaller than the Yellow-throated Toucan, which has a duller beak than the Keel-billed. Both species are very common in the Caribbean lowlands, and both like to eat a variety of fruits, readily coming to fruit feeders. One of the most interesting traits of this bird is its song, which resembles the croaking of a frog. They move their heads very slowly from one side to the other, then remains motionless for a few seconds, and suddenly jumps and turns around 180 degrees before falling in the same branch, an entire spectacle.
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The Golden-hooded Tanager, known as “Seven Colors” (direct translation from Spanish) in Costa Rica, is indeed a colorful bird, in my opinion one of the prettiest. In direct sunlight, the contrast of the deep black with the different shades of blue, white underparts and golden hood just looks amazing, like a very saturated painting, but it is real. They are small birds, similar in size to the Honeycreepers, and belong to the Tanager family. Juvenile birds lack the golden hood, but are just as colorful as the adults. Golden-hooded Tanagers do come to fruit feeders, but they prefer to stay on seed-bearing plants.
The Bat Falcon is colorful, combining orange underpants, white neck, and blue/grayish head and wings. In juveniles, the throat is buffy instead of white. Like its names implies, it mostly hunts bats, which forces them to be crepuscular in nature; it can also be seeing hunting small tanagers and swallows. As many other Bird of Prey, the female is a lot bigger than the male. It is among the smallest bird of prey in the world. It likes to perch in exposed branches in open spaces like in the picture below.
The Collared Aracari is very similar to the Fiery-billed Aracari, but the upper part of the beak does not have the green-yellow-red coloration found on the Fiery-billed, and the ring around the belly is darker; also the ranges do not overlap, with the Fiery-billed Aracari seen in the Central and South Pacific, and the Collared Aracari seen in the Caribbean and the Northern Pacific. Both the Fiery and Collared Aracaris have a bright red rump, which differentiates them to the Yellow-throated and Keel-billed Toucans, which have white rumps. The juveniles have a very similar coloration, however their beaks and chest are duller in appearance, and overall the plumage is fluffier. The Collared Aracari is known in Costa Rica as the Gangster, as they always come in groups, bullying other birds that may be at food sources.
The Yellow-throated Toucan is the bird most people think of when we say toucan. It is one of the species that appears on books and tourism guides, the other one being the Keel-billed Toucan, which is smaller. I had heard the calls of these birds, but I did not know it was this toucan until I got close enough to see the birds. All Toucans have a feature in common: While they like to eat fruit and small amphibians, they also predate nests, either for eggs or hatchlings. Most other bird species in Costa Rica are fearful of any kind of toucan, and some of them react violently to their presence, in an effort to steer them away from their nests. Only big predator birds (like the Crested Hawk-Eagle) are known to predate on them.
I have observed an interesting behavior many times: Tanagers, Orioles and Honeycreepers were feeding peacefully on the feeder, but whenever a Toucan closed in, all the other birds flew away and stayed in a nearby tree, calling and calling loudly. As soon as the Toucan left, all birds returned to the feeder in frenetic mode, like food was going to end soon.
The Blue-gray Tanager has mostly light-blue body and metallic blue wings, which can glow strongly under flash. It can be found almost throughout the entire country, specially in the lowlands, accompanied by Scarlet-rumped and Palm Tanagers, which have a very similar body shape, but very different colors. All three species will readily come to fruit feeders. It’s local name is “Viudita”, which literally means “Little Widow”. A bird species does not have to be rare to be a beauty, and the proof is in Blue-gray Tanagers. We see them daily at our gardens in Costa Rica, yet their metallic blue wings are a wonder to watch.