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.
Like many members of the Flycatcher family, this species can be identified by its behavior: It leaps into the air from any kind of perch (including utility wires), catches an insect in an acrobatic maneuver, and then returns to the same perch to eat it. The Cinnamon Flycatcher is small among their family and has a fairly uniform body color, only broken down by the black bill and eyes. The wings have an olive-like coloration in the shoulder, together with black and cinnamon on the longer feathers.
The Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher is an elegant bird that can be found in the highlands in Costa Rica. It’s long black tail contrasts with the gray and yellow body, ending with a yellow crest that is normally seen protruding from the head. The male is more colorful than the female, but overall they look similar and might be indistinguishable on bad lighting. Along the Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher, this species is part of a four species family around the world, with only the Black-and-yellow and the Long-tailed being present in Costa Rica, endemic to our country and western Panama.
The Social Flycatcher is part of the family of “Pecho Amarillo” birds, as are locally known in Costa Rica. It is pretty difficult to identify since the birds all look alike, but they can be identified relying on size, song and head markings. My parents say that this species should be called “Shakira”, an onomatopoeic interpretation of their sound. They are almost identical in size and shape to the Gray-capped Flycatcher, however their song is very different, and the Gray-capped not just has the different head color, it also shows erect feathers which the Social does not.
The Tropical Kingbird is another common bird in all Costa Rica. It is pretty similar to the Western Kingbird, however the shape of the tale is distinctive. This bird perches on utility wires, jumping into the air to catch insects every few seconds, often making acrobatic movements in mid-air. They also perch on natural branches and even bamboo. Their yellow chest and belly with gray head and back can suggest other flycatchers, particularly the Great Kiskadee given its size, however the body shape is more streamline.
The Great Kiskadee is a very common bird in most of Costa Rica’s territory; many people can identify it based on its plumage or song, and indeed they can be very noisy. In particular, groups of up to five individuals may perch in branches while rapidly agitating their wings and calling each other with a high-pitched “Kiskadee” song, from where the English name is taken. My grandfather used to say that he would knew when I was coming, because this bird would start to call “Christopher, Christopher”. Of course I believed him, until I was old enough 🙂
Locally it is known as “Pecho Amarillo”, though some people call that name to the also common Tropical Kingbird. There are a few species that are very similar to the Great Kiskadee, like the Social Flycatcher and the Boat-billed Flycathcer, but they can be differentiated by size, song or range.