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.

Purple-throated Mountain-gem (Lampornis calolaemus)

The Purple-throated Mountain-gem is a striking hummingbird, where the male has a brilliant, iridescent throat the turns purple. The crown also changes color, from dark purple to metallic blue, all due to the angle of light that is hitting it. The upperparts are mainly green, although the belly is gray and the chest has a broad metallic green band as well. The female is similar but has a cinnamon belly, chest and throat, which does make it look very contrasty and eye catching. Both sexes have a white postocular line that reaches down and back almost to the neck. They are mostly seen in mid elevation cloud forests. The iridescence in hummingbird means that there is something different about each picture, even of the same individual.

Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager (Anisognathus igniventris)

Don’t get confused by the name, this is not the Scarlet Tanager, which incidentally has very bright red colors. The Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager is just unbelievably handsome. It has a dark body which can look blueish under the right light. The belly is a deep scarlet color, although some subspecies may show different shades of this red. It also has a red patch on the ear, and two blue patches, one in the shoulder and the other on the rump. Just as its name, it is a very elegant bird, specially when set against a contrasting green background. It shares the same genus with the Blue-winged and the Lachrymose Mountain-Tanagers, however I really find this species to be pinnacle of beauty. We saw them at about 3,000 meters above sea level, during our visit to Termales del Ruiz.

Lachrymose Mountain-Tanager (Anisognathus lacrymosus)

The Lachrymose Mountain-Tanager bears some resemblance to the Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, however they differ in a key feature: The Lachrymose has blue upperparts, and that includes the back, wings, tail and nape, while the Blue-winged has black upperparts. Also the yellow underside aren’t as bright on the Lachrymose on the subspecies that we observed at Termales del Ruiz, which is above 3,000 meters over sea level. Other subspecies range from yellow to deep orange underparts. Their diet is mainly composed of berries and fruits, although some insects do form part of it.

Buffy Helmetcrest (Oxypogon stuebelii)

The Buffy Helmetcrest is a hummingbird species that’s native to the Nevado del Ruiz Paramo and is found on a really limited range, being endemic to Colombia. Since they live at altitudes above 4,000 meters above sea level, where oxygen content is low and temperatures are close to 0 degrees celsius, they can’t flap their wings as fast as other hummers, and they prefer to perch on branches while they drink a flower’s nectar, which helps them conserve previous energy. There are four species of Oxypogon, each one inhabiting the paramo region of a different peak. Frailejones flowers are among the common energy sources for them.

Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager (Anisognathus somptuosus)

This is a rather large bird for a Tanager, but its colors are very contrasty against the dark green background. It has a yellow throat, chest and belly, with black mask and back, a blue patch on the shoulder, and blue wings and tail. They readily come in groups to fruit feeders, sharing space with other tanagers and honeycreepers. It bears some resemblance to the Lachrymose Mountain Tanager. At first sight might resemble a flycatcher due to the yellow belly, but its behavior is nothing similar. Interestingly enough, this bird would perch on the branch before going down to the fruit feeder, but would not perch back when leaving the feeder. There is only one opportunity each time to snap a 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.