The Gray-crowned Yellowthroat is a member of the Warbler family. Its body is generally yellow, with a small black mask and gray crown in the male, features which are much smaller in the female. They have a longer tail and thicker bill than the other Yellowthroat species that occur in the country. The Gray-crowned Yellowthroat is resident and occurs throughout most of the country, while the Masked Yellowthroat is confined to a very small territory in San Vito, and the Olive-crowned Yellowthroat is only found on the caribbean lowlands and mid elevations. The Common Yellowthroat, on the other hand, is a passage migrant, seen from mid October to early April, with some individuals spending the whole winter in the country.
A recent split from the Plain Wren, all three species held this name because of the lack of most field marks when compared with most other wrens. Along the Cabanis’s which can be found in the northwest region of Costa Rica, the Canebrake Wren occupies the Eastern portion (Caribbean), and the Isthmian Wren is found in southern region of the country. These small birds have a brown eye with white supercilliary, brown upperparts with the tail showing black stripes. The underparts are grayish to white. Like most wrens, the Cabanis’s is an avid songbird. Its song is complex, consisting of a variety of high notes and chirps that give away their presence. Even so, they are difficult to locate as their main habitat is dense forest edges, where they jump from branch to branch, camouflaged by the leafs and branches of bushes and trees.
The Olive-backed Euphonia is very peculiar among the family of euphonias. Most euphonias are blue and yellow, but the Olive-backed has green and brown tones in the underparts, with olive in the back and a small yellow patch on the nape. In a lucky sight, I witnessed a parent feeding small pieces of banana to a juvenile, which agitates the wings very fast to get some food. Interestingly, the juvenile was near banana in the feeders, but instead of grabbing their own pieces, it preferred the pieces that the parent was giving him / her.
The Red-winged Blackbird is the most common on the plains of Guanacaste and Alajuela, to the northern part of Costa Rica; it is also found on the Caribbean lowlands, in Rio Frio. Their song is unmistakable and has a metallic quality. Males display a red-orange patch on the shoulder, which contrasts nicely with an otherwise black body. They perch on grass in open plains and even on electricity wires to deliver their song.
The Variable Seedeater is very common in Costa Rica, whenever there is grass either on lots or at the edge of roads. On the Caribbean side, the male is almost entirely black and looks pretty similar to the male Thick-billed Seed-Finch, but is smaller in size; on the pacific side, the male has white belly and rump. The female is drab brown, also very similar to the female Thick-billed Seed-Finch, but smaller and with duller colors. The juvenile has similar coloration to the female. In terms of behavior, it is common to see this species jumping into the air in an acrobatic fashion and then just fall in the same perch, which is part of the mating display of the male trying to attract nearby females.
The Melodious Blackbird is not very distinctive, with an entirely black body, bill and eyes. Although the plumage is black, it can look blueish under the morning light in the rain forest. I have probably seen this species a bunch of times, but wasn’t aware of it, as it can be confused with the Great-tailed Grackle and the Groove-billed Ani. It is pretty common around the country, and can be found on almost any habitat. It is relatively big when compared with tanager species that are found in the same habitats as this bird.
The House Wren is very common throughout Costa Rica, found in many habitats from plantain crops to open pastures; indeed as its name implies, they frequently approach homes and even construct their nests under the ceilings. It almost has not distinctive features, being brown overall with very fine barring on the wings. Its song is high pitched and composed of a great variation of chips and whistles, a delight to hear such a complex melody. They usually jump from one place to another very rapidly, not remaining in a single place for long.
This sparrow has a very peculiar song. It starts with a pair of very high and a lower note, just about a second apart, and the pair is repeated a few times. Then it starts to do a third note, and repeats it many times, in an accelerating fashion, until it stops and becomes silent. Then the song starts again. It is found in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica, in areas of dense vegetation cover. Its underparts are gray, while the upperparts are olive in color. It has two black stripes on its head, one on each side, separated by a gray stripe on the center. It also has a black line that passes through the eyes and almost reaches the neck.
The Baltimore Oriole is a colorful, migratory bird that can be seen all around the country during migration season. With such bright orange body and black head and wings, the male almost looks like a very poisonous beetle, but no bird species is poisonous to the extent of my knowledge. The female is duller, and does not have a black head as opposed to the male. The juvenile bird is even duller or pale when compared with both adults, though in low light it can be confused with the adult female.
This species comes from North America during late autumn and winter to escape the harsh, cold weather and find the abundance of the Costa Rican Tropical Rain Forest every year. I have seen it in various places, including Ciudad Colón, Río Frío, Sarapiquí and now Boca Tapada, where a lot of individuals were feasting on the fruit that the lodge administrator puts on the feeders. They can be seen fighting for the best feeding spots with Tanagers and Honeycreepers.
As most warbler species, the Yellow Warbler moves very fast and frantically while foraging in small trees, giving out its characteristic “chip” song, which it repeats at length. It is very difficult to keep the bird in focus as it moves from place to place. It becomes a very common sight near home during September and October, when they migrate to the south, and during March and April when they return back to North America. The eye is deep black, which contrasts very nicely with the bird´s all-yellow body.