This little pretty bird is sought after by many birders in Costa Rica, myself included. Like the White-collared Manakin, it is found in the Caribbean lowlands and foothills, but given that its preferred habitat is dense rain forest undergrowth, it is difficult to find and even more difficult to photograph. But then one can be lucky, and for me that means finding one male whose home habitat was very close to a fruiting tree, located right by the window of my room at Yatama Ecolodge; it actually came every single day to feed on the little purple fruits, sometimes having fights with a female Violet-headed Hummingbird which came to drink nectar from the tree’s white flowers. What’s even better, a female also visited a few times. We also heard other individuals as we hiked through the trails, although spotting them there is a lot more work.
The Gartered Trogon is another relative of the Resplendent Quetzal, being part of this conspicuous family. To distinguish from other similar yellow-bellied trogon species occurring in the country (Black-throated and Black-headed), look for the yellow orbital skin in the male and fine barring on the wings in the female. The blue throat of the male can look deceivingly black inside the forest, and in juveniles might not be bright enough yet to be noticeable. Also the Black-headed is bigger to the Gartered, while the Black-throated is the same size. The pattern on the underside of the tail, likely to be seen as the birds perch relatively high, can also be a telltale sign, with the Black-headed lacking any barring on the undertail. A metallic green back completes the look of the male, while the female is duller, with gray head and back.
Stripe-tailed Hummingbirds are distinguished from other hummingbirds by its rufous wing patch, although that characteristic is shared with the Blue-tailed (rare in Costa Rica) and Black-bellied Hummingbirds. It has a white vent and tail underside, along with the outer two feathers of the tail being white on the upperside. The male shows a dark blue patch on the throat which continues until the chest. During flight, the wings look almost entirely rufous, with only a lining of green feathers on the shoulders. The female has a white throat and chest. Both sexes resemble the Coppery-headed Emerald, although the latter is smaller.
Bellbirds are very unique birds, not easily confused with any other bird species in Costa Rica. As the name implies, the male has three protuberances on the faced called “wattles”, which by itself puts them in a category of their own. The head and throat are white, with a chestnut body, a color combination that is unlike every other bird in the country. The female is olive, with yellowish underparts that have red stripes; it could be confused with a Flycatcher, however it is a log bigger in size than the Boat-billed Flycatcher. Bellbirds in Costa Rica display altitudinal migration patterns and hence can be seen in coastal areas like Golfito, and mountainous areas like San Ramon. Males are found actively calling during the breeding season, which starts on March and ends by July. Juveniles resemble the females, but would try to sing with varied degrees of success, as they learn from their parents the delicate art.
The White-line Tanager has strong dymorphism, with the male being black with a small white line on the shoulder, and the female being entirely rufous. They normally forage in pairs, which helps in identifying them. Males can look very much like Scarlet-rumped Tanagers when the rump is not visible, but the bill is gray instead of blueish. The female is also similar to the Scarlet-rumped, however it has no marks and a black bill. They also approach fruit feeders but are more wary than Scarlet-rumped preferring to forage in the dense vegetation.
The Coppery-headed Emerald is one of the few species of birds that are true endemics of Costa Rica, meaning only found in this country. The male is mostly green, with the copper hues on the head that can only be seen in the appropriate light and angle. The female has grey underparts and lacks the copper colors on the head. Both have a black downcurved bill, which help with identification versus similar species like the Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, with which it shares the brownish-red rump. They are one of the tiniest species of hummingbirds in Costa Rica. They are seen in the mid to high elevations, in places where there is high humidity, but specially in the Cinchona and Vara Blanca zone.
The Crowned Woodnymph is a medium sized hummingbird with a violet belly and glittering green throat, along with different shades of blue and green on the back. The female has white underparts and throat instead, with golden patches along the neck and head; the rest of the body is green like the male. They are mid sized among Costa Rican hummingbirds and might resemble a little bit the Violet-bellied Hummingbird that is found in Colombia. They inhabit low tropical rain forest locations like Braulio Carrillo and Bosque Eterno de los Niños, where they feed from the nectar of a variety of flowers, including Porter Weed.
The Violet Sabrewing is one of the largest hummingbirds to be seen in Costa Rica; whenever these hummingbirds perched on the delicate branches, their weight and speed would made them swing very fast. This species has a fairly down curved bill. Most of the male’s body is deep, glittering violet, although some parts have a bluer hue. The underside of the tail feathers is white, while the wings are brown, with green-blue feathers on the shoulder. The female is drab in coloration, with gray underparts showing green and yellow sports, and green-yellow iridescence on the back of the head.
The Green-crowned Brilliant is a relatively large hummingbird of the Heliodoxa family, which contains nine species, but the jacula is the only species to inhabit Costa Rica. It has a weird face, resulting from the elongated form towards the long and thin bill. The male is mostly green with glittering metallic-green crown as the name suggests, which becomes visible only with some angles due to the iridescence phenomenon that the bird displays; it also has a small purple patch on the throat. The female is similar, but has a white belly with scaling pattern in the throat and the flanks.
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.