Variable Seedeater (Sporophila corvina)

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.

A very common seedeater, found in areas covered by tall grasses. Small among the smallest birds.
Variable Seedeater, Male - Sporophila corvina - Espiguero Variable, Macho
A male perched on a small branch, pruning its feathers under the rain
Variable Seedeater, Male - Sporophila corvina - Espiguero Variable, Macho (2)
A Caribbean male perched on a fence wire while taking a shower under the rain
Variable Seedeater, Female - Sporophila corvina - Espiguero Variable, Hembra (2)
The female is brown and very drab in coloration. Note the bill, which is big to help in crushing small seeds

Green Honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza)

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.

This female stood on a branch in Maquenque Lodge, just waiting for its turn at the feeder. The place was taken over by Red-legged Honeycreepers at the time.
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (1)
The male has a bright green body, with black half hood, red eye and yellow bill. What a combination!
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (4)
He is almost a model, gorgeous and looking in all directions. It moved very fast on the branch
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (5)
The rainfall would not step this little bird to put on a display of poses for us
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (6)
Looks like a curious bird, most probably watching over the banana nearby
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (7)
Now perched on a smaller branch. In this pose it looks fluffier
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (9)
This branch is probably a centimeter wide, so judge the birds size
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (11)
The male is rather a turquoise color, so it stands out even against a bright green background
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (13)
I love this bird’s color. It’s almost like Athabasca in Canada
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (15)
Looks like it is going to take off to the air
Green Honeycreeper, Adult Male - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Macho Adulto (18)
Rainfall started to pick up and with it light started to decline
Green Honeycreeper, Female - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Hembra (1)
The female is rather plain, but their green color is very bright
Green Honeycreeper, Female - Chlorophanes spiza - Mielero Verde, Hembra (2)
Same pose here, right by the Bromeliad. Note the size difference

Ruddy Ground-Dove (Columbina talpacoti)

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 female Ruddy Ground-Dove stood on a Yucca tree branch alongside a male individual that was close. Even if their name is ground doves, they frequently perch in low branches, specially when not foraging for food, which provides them a better view of the surroundings and potential predators.
This female stood on a very small branch, which was easily moved by the wind. A number of times it seemed like it would fall off, but she kept the balance nicely.
Ruddy Ground-Dove, Male - Columbina talpacoti - Tortolita Rojiza (Tortolita, Palomita Colorada), Macho
 Males of this species have a distinctive brown coloration, while the females are grayish.

Black-cheeked Woodpecker (Melanerpes pucherani)

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.

Woodpeckers like this Black-cheeked provide shelter for other bird species to rear they young. Many times the nests that they empty are reused by similarly sized birds to construct theirs, with Emerald Toucanets as one such example, but even some owls will make use of them.
A female Black-cheeked Woodpecker perches on a branch which has been colonized by epiphytes, which are plants that grow in trees instead of soil.
Capturing action and behavior is one of the objectives of a wildlife photographer, and in this case it was the turn of a male woodpecker dashing through the branch. What is not seen in the frame is the other birds that he is going to fight with for a piece of fruit.
Another female, now perched on a broader tree branch full of moss. Most of the time they would land on one side of the branch, then dash towards the fruit feeder in the center.
These woodpeckers are small when compared with Pale-billed Woodpeckers, even the epiphyte to the right-hand side looks higher than them.
A unusual sight is to have both a Great Kiskadee and a Black-cheeked Woodpecker perched on the exact same branch. Seems like a truce taking place before going back into battle for the fruit.
black-cheeked woodpecker, male - melanerpes pucherani - carpintero carinegro, macho
Woodpeckers perch upside down sometimes. In this occasion, a male perched below an inclined branch
Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Male - Melanerpes pucherani - Carpintero Carinegro, Macho (1)
This bird is bigger than most tanagers, which helps to get priority when feeding on fruit. They do not display aggressive behavior, like some others did
Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Male - Melanerpes pucherani - Carpintero Carinegro, Macho (2)
The male Black-cheeked Woodpecker is pretty in my opinion. A female was also hanging around, but I did not get a picture of her
Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Male - Melanerpes pucherani - Carpintero Carinegro, Macho (5)
When seen from the front, the red belly looks conspicuous, even under the shade. Also note the barred flanks with some yellowish on the belly and chest

Red-legged Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes Cyaneus)

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.

A male stood in a red flower in the forest and used its long bill to extract nectar. Non breeding males and immature individuals are green instead of the usual deep blue, but can be distinguished from females due to their black wings and bright red legs.
I never get tired of photographing honeycreepers, particularly the male red-legged which is very colorful.
red-legged honeycreeper, male - cyanerpes cyaneus - mielerito patirrojo, macho (2)
The legs look almost pink in this frame. Only males have bright red legs.
red-legged honeycreeper, male - cyanerpes cyaneus - mielerito patirrojo, macho (5)
The blue-purple color of the male stands out against light green and brown backgrounds in the forest.
red-legged honeycreeper, male - cyanerpes cyaneus - mielerito patirrojo, macho (6)
The light blue crown can be seen from the top on this picture.
red-legged honeycreeper, male - cyanerpes cyaneus - mielerito patirrojo, macho (10)
There is a lot of contrast with the bright red legs, deep blue body and black nape, mask and wings.
red-legged honeycreeper, male - cyanerpes cyaneus - mielerito patirrojo, macho (9)
Their bill is slightly downcurved and thin, helping them to grab nectar from suitable flowers, albeit not on the flight like hummingbirds do.
red-legged honeycreeper, male - cyanerpes cyaneus - mielerito patirrojo, macho (8)
In this pose the honeycreeper is ready to fly away.
Red-legged Honeycreeper, Male - Cyanerpes cyaneus - Mielerito Patirrojo, Macho (7)
The male Red-legged Honeycreeper colors always amaze me. It is one of the most beautiful small birds I have seen.