The Spotted Antbird is part of the family of birds that usually follow army ant raids, grabbing insects that flee from the ants. Their backs have an orange color, along with the wings which are also patterned with black. The head of the male is dark gray, while in the female it has a brown coloration. The chest features spots of black on a white chest, and then the underside is light gray. It is rather small when compared with other antbirds. I found a group of five males that were singing at the edge of the trail in Observatory Lodge during the afternoon, along with three Bicolored and one Ocellated Antbird. That was quite a show as they jumped from one place to another on the ground.
The American Oystercatcher is the only species that reaches Costa Rica, out of 12 species that compose the family Oystercatcher family. They are all very similar, mainly varying in terms of their plumage color. The American species has a brown-gray back, white underparts, pink legs and black head. The eye is yellow with surrounding orange orbital skin, and the bill is large and slim, orange in coloration, which is used to grab and eat shellfish. The inner plumage of the wing is also white, and is shown during flight, or also during displays when wading in the shallow water.
Due to their peculiar look, they are easy to identify among flocks of migratory birds, which normally are composed of gulls, terns, plovers and sandpipers, but are not as abundant during migration and any of those families. They are among the largest of such migratory bird groups. They prefer mud and salt flats that are exposed and shallow, where they can wade to grab prey. They feed by either severing the muscles that enable the mollusks to close tight, hereby getting the meaty interior out, or by grabbing the entire body with the shell, and hitting it against rocks to slam it open.
This probably is the best named species of euphonia in Costa Rica. Just as the Olive-backed Euphonia, the Elegant Euphonia is very peculiar since it is not blue and yellow like most other euphonias. Instead, the male has a deep orange belly with blue back and wings, dark blue throat and light blue hood, and a very small orange patch on the front of the head, which the female also shares. The female is green overall, but with the light blue hood. Both male and female are gorgeous, a great sight for any birdwatcher.
The Amazon Kingfisher is a mid-sized kingfisher, larger than the other green kingfisher species, but smaller than the Ringed and Belted Kingfishers, which are overall blue in color, the smaller to inhabit Costa Rica. It is very similar to the Green Kingfisher, however the Green is larger and lacks both the white spotting on the wings and the white outer feathers of the tail. Like most species of Kingfishers, it is found close to any wetland habitats, where they can catch small fish and crustaceans. The male featured in the pictures below frequented a small stream of water, which had risen due to recent heavy rains, about 100 meters from my parent’s home. It would perch on the fence wire and stay motionless for minutes at a time, only balancing as the wire would start to move upon landing on it.
The Red-ruffed Fruitcrow is a large bird belonging to the Cotingidae family. It does resemble a crow in overall body form, but it sports a brilliant red-orange throat and an orange chest and belly that’s very distinctive, even inside the darkness of the forest they inhabit. Although arboreal, they do come to the ground to eat fallen fruit. Another endemic bird of Colombia. We saw this bird in Yarumo Blanco SFF, in Pereira, where it is actually abundant and not so afraid of people. It came to ground a few times and seemed to be comfortable with us being around.
The Rufous-collared Sparrow is a common sight in the Central Valley of Costa Rica and the surrounding mountains, and it is also common in the regions of Colombia that we visited. It can be seen hopping in the grass, on the lookout for small worms and insects. They are not shy at all of people and will enter houses and buildings looking for food that may lie on the floor. The Juvenile lacks the Rufous collar around the neck and back. Common does not mean any less fascinating, and the “Comemaiz” is one of those common birds in Costa Rica that has more than one trick down its sleeve.
As is usual in Hummingbirds, the Fiery-throated Hummingbird shows iridescence in its plumage, by refracting light that hits in different angles and intensities. The result is a colorful plumage that changes with every so slight movement, and in the case of the Fiery-throated, it transforms into a rainbow of color. The challenge for any photographer is to obtain a picture of this active bird with the glowing yellow-red throat and blue chest. Getting that in-flight with natural light as the hummer approaches a flower with acrobatic movements is a matter of luck. To beat the odds, it is recommended to visit places like Paraiso Quetzal Lodge in Cerro de la Muerte, where these hummingbirds are abundant and have become used to people being around with their cameras. At times you can see tens of these birds in garden; they will often fight with one another and pass over your head at high speed. Other times they will perch in an almost catatonic state, ideal for classic portrait pictures.
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.
The Bat Falcon is colorful, combining orange underpants, white neck, and blue/grayish head and wings. In juveniles, the throat is buffy instead of white. Like its names implies, it mostly hunts bats, which forces them to be crepuscular in nature; it can also be seeing hunting small tanagers and swallows. As many other Bird of Prey, the female is a lot bigger than the male. It is among the smallest bird of prey in the world. It likes to perch in exposed branches in open spaces like in the picture below.
The Collared Aracari is very similar to the Fiery-billed Aracari, but the upper part of the beak does not have the green-yellow-red coloration found on the Fiery-billed, and the ring around the belly is darker; also the ranges do not overlap, with the Fiery-billed Aracari seen in the Central and South Pacific, and the Collared Aracari seen in the Caribbean and the Northern Pacific. Both the Fiery and Collared Aracaris have a bright red rump, which differentiates them to the Yellow-throated and Keel-billed Toucans, which have white rumps. The juveniles have a very similar coloration, however their beaks and chest are duller in appearance, and overall the plumage is fluffier. The Collared Aracari is known in Costa Rica as the Gangster, as they always come in groups, bullying other birds that may be at food sources.