Gray-headed Chachalaca (Ortalis cinereiceps)

The Gray-headed Chachalaca is a relatively big arboreal bird with mostly a brown body and gray head. Their diet consists mainly of fruits. At my parents´ home, up to ten arrive at the feeders where my parents place the papaya. Due to their size, they throw the papaya to the ground while eating, which does not help the toucans when they arrive. They are very loud, particularly when spooked by predators or humans, although not as loud as Brown Jays. They can be seen gliding from tall trees, one after another in rapid succession, relying on the uplift from air currents to avoid expending energy on batting their wings.

Mesoamerican Boa Constrictor (Boa imperator)

Boas are not venomous snakes, instead they are constrictors as their name implies, which means that they use their powerful muscles to wrap itself around their prey and asphyxiate them. It combines gray skin with big red blobs and yellow-black lines that form a distinctive pattern; its skin is somewhat iridescent though, showing some blue and green hues sometimes. Since the red blobs are bigger towards the tail, it is sometimes called “Red-tailed Boa”. The eye is black, with the typical vertical pupils of most snakes. They inhabit rain forests, due to their preference to stay in warm, wet places with plenty of potential prey, which includes mice, birds and amphibians. Their preferred hunting technique is the ambush, waiting for prey to get close enough before launching an attack.

As for the images taken during sunset, there is a back story. The guide at Mirador El Pizote told me that he envisioned a picture with a Boa and San Carlos river. Initially, I did not think it was a good idea. During the afternoon, I was just sitting on a bench, when I saw the raging sunset colors over the river, and then the idea made a lot of sense. It was a humbling experience to see how other people’s ideas about photography can be really wonderful and I learned not to dismiss any ideas without at least trying.

Black-capped Tanager (Tangara heinei)

The Black-capped Tanager is a member of the Tangara genus, and as such it is pretty similar in size and shape to other members of this genus that we spotted in Colombia, like the Golden Tanager and the Saffron-crowned Tanager. The adult male has a distinctive blueish plumage, darker on the wings, with a black cap and turquoise throat; the juvenile is similar but with overall duller colors and the head and throat colors not well defined. The female has greenish plumage instead and lacks the black cap. For all the Tangara species we saw at Finca Alejandría, this and the Scrub Tanager were the rarest ones.

Scrub Tanager (Tangara vitriolina)

Although it bears some similarity with the Golden-naped and the Black-capped Tanagers, we did not see many Scrub Tanagers during our visit to Finca Alejandría. I just saw this individual as it approached one of the feeders and stayed long enough at the perch for me to snap one picture. They have a gray body with blueish wings, a black mask and its rust colored cap. The species seems to be very shy of people, as the bird did not actually come to the feeder and stayed at a safe distance on the branch. This may be due to its preference to live in bushy areas.

Plumbeous Sierra-Finch (Phrygilus unicolor)

Sierra-Finch is an appropriate name for this species, as they are specialized to live from 3,000 meters above sea level at higher. They are mostly seed eaters and take advantage of plants of the subparamo and paramo region. The male is gray in coloration, but sometimes looks blueish on overcast lighting. The female on the other side is streaked in a combination of brown, black and gray. While being a shy species, getting them at eye level is fairly easy, as the vegetation at such altitudes does not grow very tall, and due to the low oxygen content, they stay perched for long periods of time, presumably to conserve precious energy.

Great Thrush (Turdus fuscater)

The Great Thrush is virtually indistinguishable from the Glossy-black Thrush, as they both are black in coloration with orange bill and legs and a yellow eye ring. Both species have a large plump body, much larger than Costa Rica’s national bird, the Clay-colored Thrush. They are separated by altitude, with the Great Thrush inhabiting lower grounds below the Subparamo region. They hop on the ground in search of large insects to feed on, but when startled they take to the trees and hide within the branches.

Glossy-black Thrush (Turdus serranus)

The Glossy-black Thrush is virtually indistinguishable from the Great Thrush, as they both are black in coloration with orange bill and legs and a yellow eye ring. Both species have a large plump body, much larger than Costa Rica’s national bird, the Clay-colored Thrush. They are separated by altitude, with the Glossy-black inhabiting higher grounds in Subparamo and Paramo regions. They hop on the ground in search of large insects to feed on, but when startled they take to the trees and hide within the branches.

Eared Dove (Zenaida auriculata)

The Eared Dove is a relatively large dove, similar in size and shape to the White-winged Dove that we have in Costa Rica, but without the characteristic white on the wing. Its body is mostly grayish with olive tones on the back and wings, along with black spots. Its legs are red and the bill is short and a little bit curved down. An interesting feature is that it has some iridescence on the sides of the throat, which can be revealed when the neck is stretched out. They frequently forage on the ground, picking out seeds, but when flushed will look for branches high on the trees to remain safe. In some parts of South America, they are hunted down, yet their populations remain strong in numbers.

Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola)

A small bird that’s placed in the tanager family, the Bananaquit has a thin, down curved bill that helps it drink nectar from flowers and feeders, thus becoming a pollinator. It has a yellow belly and chest with dark gray upperparts, which suggests a flycatcher, but unlike that family, this bird’s diet is not concentrated on insects. It can’t hover like a hummingbird, so it is limited to extracting nectar from flowers where there is a perch available to support its weight. This small bird has a down-curved bill, which helps to drink nectar from flowers in rather hummingbird-like fashion, without the hovering of course.