Torrent Tyrannulet (Serpophaga cinerea)

The Torrent Tyrannulet is a very small flycatcher; few other flycatchers are smaller like the Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher. The Torrent Tyrannulet inhabits river and torrents in the highlands of Costa Rica, which commonly feature rocks in and alongside the stream. It is rather dull, with overall white to gray body but black wings, tail and face. They catch insects in the air using acrobatic motions. They usually perch on rocks instead of branches, which means they are found close to ground or water level. While spooked easily by an approaching person, standing or sitting motionless for a while allows them to become used to a person’s presence, resulting in natural and even curious behavior. One such time, a bird perched on branch at a distance where my lens would not even focus (less than 2.2 meters away), and would look at me, like it was trying to decipher what I was.

Amazon Kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona)

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.

White-capped Dipper (Cinclus leucocephalus)

Five species of birds compose the Cinclus genus, all of which have a very unique characteristic: They dive underwater to catch small fish and invertebrates, along with their eggs and larvae. They are most commonly found along river banks and fast flowing streams. Being able to swim underwater, they bear adaptations for this purpose. For instance, their bones are solid to reduce buoyancy, while the feathers are dense and covered in oil that repels water, which has two effects: Maintaining the body dryers, and capturing a small layer of air around its body. The White-capped Dipper in particular is dark gray on the upper side, white on the underside and shows a white cap that goes well with its common name.

Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata)

The Torrent Duck is very special and one of the highlights of our trip to Colombia. They are only found living in the high courses of rapid flowing streams, with lots of rocks that serve as anchorage and resting places for them; most other ducks prefer calm waters and lakes to spend their time. This duck chooses a spot downstream for resting during the night, and at the morning it swims upstream against the strong current, until it finds a preferred feeding area. It then begins a cycle: Either the male or female mount guard from a comfortable rock, while the other feeds in a small pool or river region that has light current. When the food is gone, they both jump to the current and get dragged downstream until they reach the next feeding area, where again one of them mounts guard while the other one feeds. This is very unique behavior, one we could observe from very close at Yarumo Blanco SFF.

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)

The Snowy Egret is a white bird, that can be confused with the Cattle Egret if not seen carefully, however Cattle Egrets have yellow bills and yellowish feathers on the neck. The Snowy has a black bill instead, with black legs that end in yellow fingers. Even if the name suggests otherwise, this bird is entirely at home in hot, humid climates like the coasts of Costa Rica. It is found in swamps, rivers and marshes, taking fish and crustaceans from shallow waters. Another interesting feature of this species is the longer feather barbs that decorate the chest, neck and rump of the bird, which are displayed mostly during the mating season.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

The Great Blue Heron is one of the largest birds that occur naturally in Costa Rica. They can be found in watery environments like rivers and ponds, even artificial ones like the one in Concasa, which has been visited by a juvenile bird almost every morning from January 2018 to March of the same year. The name is misleading though, as the blue is color is rather dull on this bird. The juvenile is mostly grayish, with a darker cap, yellow eye and lower mandible, and black upper mandible. The adult shows a light dull blue on the back and wings, with brownish neck and white cheeks, maintaining the dark cap and yellow eye, but the upper mandible changes to yellow. They stalk prey from the edge of water ponds and lakes, and launch a forceful attack as fish pass by, able to snatch fish of considerable size and swallow them in one go.

Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata)

The Muscovy Duck is a wild duck, but can also be found domesticated; I have seen them in Fraijanes (Alajuela), the University for Peace (Ciudad Colón) and La Sabana (San José), which are three parks you can visit either for free (La Sabana) or a small fee. The ones below are all domestic birds found in Concasa; there is a small lake where ducks usually stay. Domestic members of this duck species are very common in Costa Rica, obtained through crossing with the Barnyard duck. Crossed individuals come in a variety of black and white combinations, some even having entirely white plumage. Wild ducks are very nervous about people and don’t show almost any white on their plumage.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendroygna autumnalis)

The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is found in flocks taking residence around small ponds and lakes, becoming accustomed to people and relatively approachable. At dusk, they usually flock to the air, making circular trajectories and a lot of noise, and finally descending again into their watery home. Their calls are very high pitched and loud. Their necks are very flexible, so when resting, they normally turn their heads back and tuck they into the middle of their wings; they also like to stand up in one foot, with the other one hidden inside their belly feathers. Their bills are characteristically pink, as well as their legs. Juveniles are duller and have brownish bills instead. The Fulvous Whistling-Duck belongs to the same family and is very similar in shape, but has a different plumage coloration and gray bill and legs.

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

The Great Egret is a huge bird, measuring 1 meter from bill to feet. Its body is covered mostly on white plumage, with a bright yellow eye and bill, which is large and pointed, which helps to catch fish from rivers and ponds. Its long neck is most of the time coiled in an S-pattern. Its legs are black and very long, which helps to wade the shallow waters. Like most egrets, they inhabit the wetlands of Costa Rica, particularly at low altitude, and can be seen in rivers, ponds and small creeks. They stalk prey from the edge of shallow waters, standing still for minutes at a time while they observe their prey moving below the surface, and then launch their attack at the precise time to grab their prey.