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.
Ever since I first see the Red-legged Honeycreeper, I inmediately knew I was seeing one of the most gorgeous species Costa Rica has. Then I met the Green Honeycreeper, and I stood delighted. The male has a striking combination of dark green body, deep black hood, bright yellow bill and dark red iris, which just looks amazing, even when wet. In fact, I would say a wet male screams Rain forest, that’s enough to love it. The female is not as exotic, however the green color of their feathers is so bright as to defy belief.
The Ruddy Ground-Dove is a small dove that as implied by the name, forages primarily in the ground, and uses perches when startled or to roost. It is found almost all around the country. The male is distinctive with its reddish color, while the female is a lot duller, nearly gray in coloration. They are very wary of people and will start walking hurriedly if one approaches, then fly away very fast if one is getting too close to be comfortable.
This is medium sized woodpecker that can be found in the Caribbean and northern part of the country. The male has red back and top of the head, with a yellow patch in the front, while the female has whitish top of the head (nape). Both have black cheeks, which give this species its name. Other notable features are its black wings with white dots, black back with white barring, yellowish flanks with black barring and red belly, which gives the bird a very contrasty look. It’s call is a piercing chirrr, chirrr, chirrr that can be heard from afar and make identification of the species easier.
Like most woodpeckers, they make holes in trees for nesting, which are then reused by other species, hence their success can indirectly impact population sizes for other species. It’s not uncommon to see either the male or female inside the hole, with just the head out, watching out for potential predators as they keep their eggs or chicks safe inside. Something more peculiar is seeing these birds pecking at public lampposts made out of concrete, I have not yet deciphered why would they do that. On feeders, they like to eat papaya, but they will also catch small insects for food.
The moment I saw this bird for the first time, I knew it would become my favorite. It is fairly small, yet the blue body and red legs of the male just pop out in their normal habitat, which is fairly green. The female is more difficult to spot, since most of the body is dark green, and the legs are dull red, even brownish. And there is more, because the juvenile male starts with the same green color as the female, however as it matures it gets the blue body and bright red legs. After the breeding season, the male again turns green, but keeps the red legs. This means that males can also be seen in various molting stages, with patches of green, blue and black all over the body.
Note that while the Red-legged Honeycreeper is in the Tanager family, its body shape is slimmer and is in general smaller than the Tanagers. The closest one in size is the Plain-colored Tanager, however the body shape is entirely different, with shorter bill and fluffier plumage. In Costa Rica, there are two other Honeycreeper species, the Shining Honeycreeper (which belongs to the same Cyanerpes genus) with its yellow legs, and the Green Honeycreeper (which belongs to the Chlorosphanes genus), with a green body.