The Ornate Hawk-Eagle is one of the most sought-after birds in Costa Rica due to its elegant appearance and striking name. Juveniles are dull brown with white head and belly, while adults have a barred belly, black crest and chestnut sides of the face and throat. Its most flamboyant feature is the big crest that adults have. It also have feathered legs. Its preferred environment is the forest, where it catches a variety of prey, including big arboreal birds like the Great Currasow. It is most usually seen circling high on the sky, where it is difficult to identify in silhouette, however their vocalizations give them away easily.
Stripe-tailed Hummingbirds are distinguished from other hummingbirds by its rufous wing patch, although that characteristic is shared with the Blue-tailed (rare in Costa Rica) and Black-bellied Hummingbirds. It has a white vent and tail underside, along with the outer two feathers of the tail being white on the upperside. The male shows a dark blue patch on the throat which continues until the chest. During flight, the wings look almost entirely rufous, with only a lining of green feathers on the shoulders. The female has a white throat and chest. Both sexes resemble the Coppery-headed Emerald, although the latter is smaller.
The White Ibis is, well… entirely white in plumage. When spotted from a distance it can resemble a Great Egret, Cattle Egret or Snowy Egret, however the pink legs and face, along with the long, skinny downcurved bill is diagnostic. The tips of the wings are black, although that is only visible during flight. The juvenile has brown upperparts, and the neck is striped in brown and white, with gray legs and a darker bill. It is found in ponds and marshes in Guanacaste and the northern area of the country; also along the pacific coast of Costa Rica. Given its habitat, they usually wade in the shallow waters and mudflats, where pick small crustaceans and fish, just like Egrets do.
The Blue-and-white Swallow is very similar to the Mangrove Swallow, given that the Mangrove’s upperparts are green but may look blueish under certain lighting conditions, and they share the white underparts and long black wings and tail. It is distinguished by having black undertail coverts, and the fact that Mangrove Swallows are for the most part encountered in coastal areas, while the Blue-and-White can be found almost anywhere in the country. Like other swallows, they readily perch in cables to rest. They also like to construct their nests in human made structures like roofs.
The American Oystercatcher is the only species that reaches Costa Rica, out of 12 species that compose the family Oystercatcher family. They are all very similar, mainly varying in terms of their plumage color. The American species has a brown-gray back, white underparts, pink legs and black head. The eye is yellow with surrounding orange orbital skin, and the bill is large and slim, orange in coloration, which is used to grab and eat shellfish. The inner plumage of the wing is also white, and is shown during flight, or also during displays when wading in the shallow water.
Due to their peculiar look, they are easy to identify among flocks of migratory birds, which normally are composed of gulls, terns, plovers and sandpipers, but are not as abundant during migration and any of those families. They are among the largest of such migratory bird groups. They prefer mud and salt flats that are exposed and shallow, where they can wade to grab prey. They feed by either severing the muscles that enable the mollusks to close tight, hereby getting the meaty interior out, or by grabbing the entire body with the shell, and hitting it against rocks to slam it open.
The Coppery-headed Emerald is one of the few species of birds that are true endemics of Costa Rica, meaning only found in this country. The male is mostly green, with the copper hues on the head that can only be seen in the appropriate light and angle. The female has grey underparts and lacks the copper colors on the head. Both have a black downcurved bill, which help with identification versus similar species like the Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, with which it shares the brownish-red rump. They are one of the tiniest species of hummingbirds in Costa Rica. They are seen in the mid to high elevations, in places where there is high humidity, but specially in the Cinchona and Vara Blanca zone.
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 Yellow-bellied Seedeater seems to be a bad name for a species that has a white belly. In a true seedeater fashion, it is found eating seeds from the grass. Its upperside is gray, with a darker head. Its pale bill is short but very strong, enabling it to crack bigger seeds. It shows some dark patches on the flanks and on the separation of throat and chest.
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.
The White-browed Spinetail was the only species of Spinetails we ever saw in Colombia. It inhabits the paramo at Nevado del Ruiz, at an altitude of 4,200 meters above sea level. Its body coloration is composed of brown back and head, gray belly, chest and throat, and a gray supercilliary on top of the black eye. With this colors, it might look very dull and uninteresting, however it is an amazing fact for this little bird to withstand the lack of oxygen and low temperatures of this elevation, specially during the night.