The Olive-throated Parakeet is a resident species of the northern and Caribbean regions of Costa Rica. Like most other parrot species in Costa Rica, its plumage is green overall, with blue flight feathers that are barely noticeable when the wings are folded. The upper side of the tail feathers look brownish, and the throat has a somewhat dark olive color as the name suggests. A member of the Aratinga family, it only shares its habitat with Crimson-fronted Parakeet, which is larger and has conspicuous red patches on the should section of the wings, visible both in flight and with folded wings. They are usually seen in groups, cracking fruits with their beaks, producing a characteristic sound.
The Purple-throated Mountain-gem is a striking hummingbird, where the male has a brilliant, iridescent throat the turns purple. The crown also changes color, from dark purple to metallic blue, all due to the angle of light that is hitting it. The upperparts are mainly green, although the belly is gray and the chest has a broad metallic green band as well. The female is similar but has a cinnamon belly, chest and throat, which does make it look very contrasty and eye catching. Both sexes have a white postocular line that reaches down and back almost to the neck. They are mostly seen in mid elevation cloud forests. The iridescence in hummingbird means that there is something different about each picture, even of the same individual.
The White-throated Crake is a member of the Crakes family of birds, which dwell inside deep foliage and swamps. They are frequently heard, but not easily spotted, as the dense tangle of leafs and twigs cover them completely. It is said that their call resembles and egg that is being fried, hence its Costa Rican popular name, “Huevo Frito”. The juveniles are grey, and even more difficult to spot. One very interesting behavior of this bird is that they go out of the foliage very cautiously, and if a predator seems to be nearby, they cross the trail running very rapidly, and then hop into the air, putting a lot of effort to fly, something they are not very adept at.
The Slate-throated Whitestart is part of the Myioborus genus that includes also the Golden-fronted and Collared Whitestart or Redstart, as are called sometimes. It is a varied genus of warblers that are present in all of the American continent, in different species. In Costa Rica, the Slate-throated is also found along with the Collared species, although here they are called Redstarts instead. They forage very actively on the ground or low in the bushes, flashing their tail to frighten insects that are then caught in the air. Their upper parts and throat are dark grey, while their underparts are yellow in the south, and red on the northernmost part of their range. It also shows a dark red crown that’s difficult to see unless in good light.
The Rufous-throated Tanager is very peculiar, with a mottled body all around, a pattern that is only broken by the black head and rufous throat. The pattern is composed of dark feathers with orange lining on the back and wings, and light yellow feathers with black spots of different shapes on the belly. In terms of body shape, it is very similar to the Silver-throated Tanager, which they shared the feeder at Doña Dora’s restaurant in Cali.
The Purple-throated Woodstar bears some resemblance to the White-bellied Woodstar, even though they do not belong to the same genus. Their flying behavior is more like a bee, in that they move swiftly and without sharp turns like most hummingbirds do. As they fly over, they do sound like bees. They are also pretty small, like most woodstars. It does not have the glittering green body of the White-bellied; instead, the back is a duller green color, and the belly is olive with orange feathers covering the legs and white vent. A white ring almost surrounds completely the neck. The female has a white-gray throat, while the male has an iridescent purple throat (as the name would suggest) that looks rather dark from some angles.
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 Yellow-throated Toucan is the bird most people think of when we say toucan. It is one of the species that appears on books and tourism guides, the other one being the Keel-billed Toucan, which is smaller. I had heard the calls of these birds, but I did not know it was this toucan until I got close enough to see the birds. All Toucans have a feature in common: While they like to eat fruit and small amphibians, they also predate nests, either for eggs or hatchlings. Most other bird species in Costa Rica are fearful of any kind of toucan, and some of them react violently to their presence, in an effort to steer them away from their nests. Only big predator birds (like the Crested Hawk-Eagle) are known to predate on them.
I have observed an interesting behavior many times: Tanagers, Orioles and Honeycreepers were feeding peacefully on the feeder, but whenever a Toucan closed in, all the other birds flew away and stayed in a nearby tree, calling and calling loudly. As soon as the Toucan left, all birds returned to the feeder in frenetic mode, like food was going to end soon.
There are three species of Tiger-Heron occurring in Costa Rica, and they resemble each other, which means identification is difficult. All three birds are very big in size and not probable to be confused with other wetland birds. The first time I saw this species as on August 20th, 2017 in Rio Frío, Sarapiquí. At first my parents told me that they had seen a very big, barred bird walk past their home a few days before that, but they could not describe the bird detailed enough to identify it. The sighting was a great treat for the day.
Tiger-Herons are found on swamps and rivers, where they stalk fish from the edge or shallows. They move very slowly and silently to ensure prey don’t even notice their presence. They also stay motionless for quite some time, waiting for the prey to be in short range, before sending their long beaks in lightning fast action as a spear. The long neck provides plenty of muscle power, as well as the possibility to grab prey from a distance. This species can also forage outside the water environment, something I have witnessed a lot of times at my parent’s home, where they walk looking for prey through the farmlands.
The Silver-throated Tanager is a bright yellow bird with a white throat (despite being called silver), and wings that are black with green linings. The back of the bird is barred in yellow and black. They like to eat fruit and will come to the feeders without hesitation. In Colombia, it sometimes can be confused with the Golden Tanager, however the latter is a paller shade of yellow and does not have a white throat. In Costa Rica, this species is more commonly seen in mid and high elevations.