The Tennessee Warbler is a difficult bird to identify, given how many warblers have a yellowish plumage. The best tell-tale sign is the dark stripe through the eye and the bright supraciliary. A little more difficult to see is the white feathers on the underside of the tail. Unexpectedly, it arrived to the fruit feeder at my home in San Bernardino. At first I thought it was a female Red-legged Honeycreeper, because in lowlight the warbler looks greenish, but its behavior is different, and it would never vocalize, while the honeycreepers vocalize rather frequently, specially when having quarrels over pecking order.
The Rufous-tailed Jacamar is an exotic bird found on both the Caribbean and South Pacific rainforests of Costa Rica. Its shape and bright colors make it resemble a very large hummingbird, but it does not fly like one. The long bill is useful to catch bigger insect and tossing them against a branch to kill them. Both the belly and underside of the tail is rufous, while the chest, back and head is blueish-green. The male has a white throat, while in the female the throat is buffy. It likes to perch in higher branches to deliver its song, a series of piercing notes that accelerate to the end.
The Gartered Trogon is another relative of the Resplendent Quetzal, being part of this conspicuous family. To distinguish from other similar yellow-bellied trogon species occurring in the country (Black-throated and Black-headed), look for the yellow orbital skin in the male and fine barring on the wings in the female. The blue throat of the male can look deceivingly black inside the forest, and in juveniles might not be bright enough yet to be noticeable. Also the Black-headed is bigger to the Gartered, while the Black-throated is the same size. The pattern on the underside of the tail, likely to be seen as the birds perch relatively high, can also be a telltale sign, with the Black-headed lacking any barring on the undertail. A metallic green back completes the look of the male, while the female is duller, with gray head and back.
The Rufous-naped Wren is a commonly seen bird close to people’s homes at urban towns in the Central Valley, in Costa Rica; the House Wren is smaller and more common in the countryside, and the Rufous-naped is more colorful, with its black and white pattern on the back and the whitish underside. Compared to that, the House Wren is featureless. Rufous-naped Wrens are very noisy, usually found in pairs or small groups that climb to roofs. I have seen them build their nests under the roof or even in metal doors.
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.