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.
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.
The White-bellied Woodstar is among the smallest hummingbirds like most woodstars, however it is colorful and conspicuous. The body is mostly green, with a white collar that joins a white line coming out of the eye. The gorget is metallic purple due to iridescence, so it looks dark sometimes. The black bill is long, thin and just slightly curved down. The vent and belly also show white plumage. It flies in a typical bee fashion, with smooth movements instead of the rapid bursts that larger hummingbirds do.
The Collared Inca is a large hummingbird, one we saw both at Rio Blanco Natural Reserve, and at Tatamá National Park. The bill is particularly long and thin, able to feed from deep flowers than other hummingbirds can’t. Its most striking feature is the black head with a white throat, and a body that mixes black, green and blue. The legs are light pink and it has some partially white feathers on the tail, which can be seen at times during flight. The female has less black and a lighter green coloration than the male, but size and shape are identical between both. The wing flapping speed of hummingbirds is so fast, that even at 1/1600 seconds of shutter speed, the wings are not entirely frozen.