Page 3 of 3

Social Flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis)

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.

Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus)

The Tropical Kingbird is another common bird in all Costa Rica, and it can also be spotted in Colombia. 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.

Inca Dove (Columbina inca)

The inca dove is a small dove that forages mainly in the ground; it is very common in Ciudad Colón, along with the bigger White-winged Dove. They frequently perch in groups of three or four in branches, and groom each other with their bills. It has a scaled look, which helps them to camouflage in the ground, specially during the dry season when the grass turns yellow. Their iris is red and lacks any distinct orbital skin. In Costa Rica, there is a legend that essentially considered this species’ song a premonition of the death of a relative. Elders would say that if this dove was singing, then someone on the family would die. Due to this fame, they were hunted for much of the twentieth century by people who believed in the story. Nowadays, their song is very much melancholic, but the legend has not been carried on for the younger generations, so they no longer face this threat.

Black-cowled Oriole (Icterus prosthemelas)

The Black-cowled Oriole is one of three similar resident species in Costa Rica, the other ones being Spot-breasted Oriole and Streak-backed Oriole, however both of those have markings as their name indicate, while the Black-cowled has black chest and head, along with the back and wings. They look bigger than Tanagers due to their long tail. In poor light, they can be confused with the Baltimore Oriole, but the Baltimore is migratory (does not occur from May to September) and the Black Cowled is only frequently observed in the north plains and the Caribbean side (Baltimore turns up anywhere in the country during migration).

I personally have seen this species once at Fincas Bambuzal, Rio Frio, and also at Laguna del Lagarto Lodge, Boca Tapada. Adults shared the feeder with Honeycreepers, Tanagers and the Baltimore Oriole. All of them abandoned the feeder when the Toucans arrived, or when any bird sounded the “Hawk” alarm call.

Black-cheeked Woodpecker (Melanerpes pucherani)

This is medium sized woodpecker that can be found in the Caribbean and northern part of the country. The male has red back and top of the head, with a yellow patch in the front, while the female has whitish top of the head (nape). Both have black cheeks, which give this species its name. Other notable features are its black wings with white dots, black back with white barring, yellowish flanks with black barring and red belly, which gives the bird a very contrasty look. It’s call is a piercing chirrr, chirrr, chirrr that can be heard from afar and make identification of the species easier.

Like most woodpeckers, they make holes in trees for nesting, which are then reused by other species, hence their success can indirectly impact population sizes for other species. Many times the nests that they empty are reused by similarly sized birds to construct theirs, with Emerald Toucanets as one such example, but even some owls will make use of them. It’s not uncommon to see either the male or female inside the hole, with just the head out, watching out for potential predators as they keep their eggs or chicks safe inside. Something more peculiar is seeing these birds pecking at public lampposts made out of concrete, I have not yet deciphered why would they do that. On feeders, they like to eat papaya, but they will also catch small insects for food.

Green Heron (Butorides Virescens)

From what I have observed, the Green Heron shares some traits with the bigger Bare-throated Tiger Heron. Both maintain their necks coiled most of the time, and elongate them up to twice the size of their body when they are ready to attack. Both walk in a stealthy manner, not making a single sound, as they approach to unsuspecting prey. Both are startled easily and fly far away when you are too close. The differences are that the Green Heron is more likely to be found perching high up in the trees, and the obvious size difference; the Green Heron is pretty small, the size of a duck, while the Tiger Heron is bigger than a turkey. They stalk prey while wading in shallow waters using their long feet and toes or from the water edge, sometimes standing motionless for minutes until they launch their attach and grab their prey.