Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher (Phainoptila melanoxantha)

The Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher is one of the four species in a unique family around the world, with the Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher being the only other species to be seen in Costa Rica. The male shows a combination of yellow rump, chest and undersides, with gray belly and vent; its throat and head it black, as well as it tail and wings. The Female has a gray throat with a black cap, olive chest, wings and tail. Their shape is similar to other Costa Rica thrushes, as they look rather plump when compared with the Long-tailed. Although Flycatchers by name, they prefer to eat fruits, specializing in berries that are abundant in the highlands; indeed their range is restricted to Guanacaste, Tilaran, Central and Talamanca Cordilleras. They are endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama, thanks to the fact that the Talamanca Cordillera stretches out into Panama.

Band-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata)

The Band-tailed Pigeon has an overall dull coloration, with gray upperparts and purplish underparts and head. A white band on the nape, iridescent green patch on the back of the neck, red eye ring and yellow bill distinguish it from any other pigeon or dove in Costa Rica. They inhabit the highlands, sharing habitat mostly with the Ruddy Pigeon, but the latter has an entirely different body color, hence they should not be easily confused.

Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)

The Hairy Woodpecker is a common inhabitant in Costa Rica’s highlands. It is the same size as the Black-cheeked Woodpecker (which only inhabits the Caribbean lowlands), and hence smaller than the Acorn Woodpecker (which does occur on the highlands). It resembles both species by having black wings, but the face patterns is very different to them, with black and white stripes and just a small reddish patch on the nape. They also lack the barring and streaking that the Black-cheeked and Acorn show on their underparts. Normally woodpeckers are seen, well… pecking at wood, but we saw this individual pecking at the ground, which seemed pretty unusual. It was also totally unconcerned with our presence; a whole group of 15 people could get to within two meters and it would still not fly away. That’s when I decided to follow it around, trying to get a close up portrait, and this was the result.

Torrent Tyrannulet (Serpophaga cinerea)

The Torrent Tyrannulet is a very small flycatcher; few other flycatchers are smaller like the Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher. The Torrent Tyrannulet inhabits river and torrents in the highlands of Costa Rica, which commonly feature rocks in and alongside the stream. It is rather dull, with overall white to gray body but black wings, tail and face. They catch insects in the air using acrobatic motions. They usually perch on rocks instead of branches, which means they are found close to ground or water level. While spooked easily by an approaching person, standing or sitting motionless for a while allows them to become used to a person’s presence, resulting in natural and even curious behavior. One such time, a bird perched on branch at a distance where my lens would not even focus (less than 2.2 meters away), and would look at me, like it was trying to decipher what I was.

Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)

The Acorn Woodpecker is one of Costa Rica’s largest species, only topped in length by the Lineated and Pale-billed Woodpeckers. The funny-looking pattern on its face earns it the local name “little clown”, with a conspicuous red crown, and a black and yellowish-white mask that cover the face and throat. The iris is almost white, and the bill is black. While the back and wings are entirely black, the chest has black and white streaking, and the belly is white. The female can be identified by a small black patch on the front of the crown, whereas the male’s crown is entirely red. Their inhabit the highlands, particularly Cerro de la Muerte (Buenavista) and Cordillera de Talamanca, where they are very common. Their call display is also very showy when compared with other Costa Rica woodpeckers, swinging their body from one side to the other while giving their calls away.

Large-footed Finch (Pezopetes capitalis)

The Large-footed Finch is large in comparison with most other species in the finch family. They prefer to stay on the ground, and at first might resemble small chickens due to their common behavior of scratching the leaf litter for food with their legs. Their overall color is olive, with a gray head and black face; also note the black strips running from the face to the back of the neck. Their main habitat is the highlands at Central (Volcan Barva, Cerro Buenavista) and Talamanca cordilleras. It delivers a song at intervals, composed of high-pitched whistles.

Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus gracilirostris)

This small bird inhabits the highlands in Costa Rica. Its plumage is drab like most of the birds in its family, but its song is melodious, flute-like with a metallic quality. The belly and face are gray, with the upperparts being brown. While this colors are very similar to other birds in its family, it is identified by the black bill and the brown collar around the throat that separates the face from the belly. It perches in the understory of oak forest and can be found also hoping on the ground or through trails, in places where light is scarce. With enough patience, they will perch at eye level and remain motionless long enough for a good picture.

Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher (Ptilogonys caudatus)

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.

Sooty Thrush (Turdus nigrescens)

The Sooty Thrush is a bird similar to the Clay-colored Thrush, the national bird of Costa Rica, but with black plumage. The bill and feet are a striking bright orange, with a light blue iris featuring an orange eye ring. It can be found in the highest mountains in Costa Rica, either flying between trees, or hopping in the ground in typical thrush fashion. Its song is delivered in intervals and has a metallic, harsh quality. In Colombia, there are two species very similar to the Sooty Thrush, one called the Great Thrush and another one called the Glossy-black Thrush, however both have dark irises and yellow eye rings, and look plumpier than the Sooty.

Collared Redstart (Myioborus torquatus)

I saw this little bird for the first time at the reserve called “Locos por el bosque”, which translates to “Crazy for the forest”, located in Coronado, San José. A single individual perched on a wire fence, which separated the trail from the forest area. It inhabits the mid elevation forests in Costa Rica, including the San Gerardo de Dota area, where this picture was taken. It is locally known as “Men’s friend”, due to its behavior of following people through the trails as they hike the area, potentially looking for the insects that are flushed by them. Their upperparts are entirely black, with the exception of a small red-brown crown. The face is bright yellow, featuring a black iris. The upperparts are entirely yellow, except for the underside of the tail feathers, which are white.