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.
Bellbirds are very unique birds, not easily confused with any other bird species in Costa Rica. As the name implies, the male has three protuberances on the faced called “wattles”, which by itself puts them in a category of their own. The head and throat are white, with a chestnut body, a color combination that is unlike every other bird in the country. The female is olive, with yellowish underparts that have red stripes; it could be confused with a Flycatcher, however it is a log bigger in size than the Boat-billed Flycatcher. Bellbirds in Costa Rica display altitudinal migration patterns and hence can be seen in coastal areas like Golfito, and mountainous areas like San Ramon. Males are found actively calling during the breeding season, which starts on March and ends by July. Juveniles resemble the females, but would try to sing with varied degrees of success, as they learn from their parents the delicate art.
The White-collared Seedeater is very similar in shape to the common Variable Seedeater, and the male particularly resembles the Pacific race of the latter species. As with most seedeaters, the female is brown, but with a lighter color than other species. The male has a wide white collar around the neck, while the Pacific race of the Variable Seedeater has a thin line that does not join in the back of the neck and shows a black throat. The White-collared has wing bars, which no other seedeater in Costa Rica posses. Both species can be readily found in open pastures, where they share their main habitat and compete for food, specially grass seeds. Seedeaters tend to not gain the attention of most birders, but I believe this is the most beautiful seedeater species that we can see in Costa Rica. This individual stood on the fence wire as we drove through Boca Tapada; the picture was taken from the car window.
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 Acorn Woodpecker is one of Costa Rica’s largest species, only topped in length by the Lineated and Pale-billed Woodpeckers. The funny-looking pattern on its face earns it the local name “little clown”, with a conspicuous red crown, and a black and yellowish-white mask that cover the face and throat. The iris is almost white, and the bill is black. While the back and wings are entirely black, the chest has black and white streaking, and the belly is white. The female can be identified by a small black patch on the front of the crown, whereas the male’s crown is entirely red. Their inhabit the highlands, particularly Cerro de la Muerte (Buenavista) and Cordillera de Talamanca, where they are very common. Their call display is also very showy when compared with other Costa Rica woodpeckers, swinging their body from one side to the other while giving their calls away.
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 White-line Tanager has strong dymorphism, with the male being black with a small white line on the shoulder, and the female being entirely rufous. They normally forage in pairs, which helps in identifying them. Males can look very much like Scarlet-rumped Tanagers when the rump is not visible, but the bill is gray instead of blueish. The female is also similar to the Scarlet-rumped, however it has no marks and a black bill. They also approach fruit feeders but are more wary than Scarlet-rumped preferring to forage in the dense vegetation.
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 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.