The Buff-tailed Coronet is among the most common hummingbirds in the areas of Colombia we visited. Its body color is green in general, with a scaled pattern on the belly, although the back can look reddish under the right light. The wings are brown and are long enough to cover the tail when folded down and perched. The white postocular spot is a defining feature, along with the buffy shoulders and white feathers that cover their feet, similar to the Booted Racket-tail. The bill is short and straight, entirely black. They like to perch for a few minutes in small branches, and when their feel their personal space is threatened by other individuals, they may put up a fight on the wing. Sometimes they perched alone, peacefully resting before flying again to drink more nectar, both from nearby flowers and from the feeders. It may not be the flashiest in terms of colors and anatomy, but it sure is beautiful to watch. In Rio Blanco Natural Reserve where we first saw them, they swarm in big numbers around the feeders, fighting each other and with other species.
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The Booted Racket-tail is simply a marvel of nature. It has a long tail, which is composed of bare rachises ending in a wide racket-like structure. At first glance, it can resembled the Long-tailed Sylph, but the tail’s shape is unmistakable once taken notice. The long, slim tail ending in a wide feather reminds me of a Motmot, albeit a very small one. Other than its most conspicuous trait, it has white feathers covering its legs, which explains why it is called Booted. The body is mostly green but iridescent like many hummingbirds, making it change in coloration with the view angle. The black bill is straight and short.
This is a medium-sized hummingbird that can be found in South America, specifically in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Males have a violet crown, while females have a green crown. It has iridescent plumage, like many other hummer species, which changes the color depending on the view angle and the angle of the light that bounces off it, giving away colors that look metallic and intense. In general it is green on the back and sides, white on the belly, chest and throat, and coppery in the upper tail. The bill is black, mostly straight and thin. The wings are brown, but glow blue when iridescent.
The Black-necked Stilt is a wader bird, meaning it walks in shallow waters, looking for small prey to snatch. It does not dive and is not usually seen swimming. The stilt has a streamlined body and extremely long pink legs, allowing it to wade in deeper waters than other, smaller waders found in Costa Rica like the Plovers and Sandpipers. It has a contrasting black and white body. When startled, they usually fly away in a wide circle and return to a similar place they were before.
The Tityras are peculiar bird species. In spanish, they are known as the “Pájaro chancho” or Pig Birds, because of their calls, which resemble a pig´s sound. The Black-crowned Tityra has mostly white body and a… black crown, hence the name. The female has brown face, while the male has black face instead. Both have black feathers in the wing linings. They make their nests by reusing a woodpecker’s hole made into a tree, and we even saw one woodpecker coming into the nest that the tityras were preparing. The female was going out of the nest after having deposited twigs that served as construction material, then landed just outside of the nest with more twigs. The male was not far away from the female and guarded the nest when she was not present.
The King Vulture is a really magnificent bird. The other three species are black in general, with different color of head and neck. The Black Vulture is commonly seen soaring around the country, but the King Vulture is not seen that often. However, when you see it, you are amazed. The juvenile is mostly black, with white underparts, while the adult is mostly white, with black wing secondaries and orange to red neck. Both have white irises, which contrasts nicely with the head colors. Immature adults retain some of the black feathers from the juvenile stage, showing an intermediate color pattern. The pink maw protrudes from the chest´s feather and is a very conspicuous feature, specially when the individual is full of eating meat. I am supposing that during hot days it helps to cool off by having it outside of the feathers.
The White-necked Jacobin is a pretty big hummingbird, that likes to move pretty fast around feeders and flowers, making it difficult to follow for in-flight pictures. Its color pattern is unmistakable among Costa Rica hummingbirds and glows in good light. The belly is white, while the head is metallic blue and the rest of the body is green; if seen from behind, the white patch on the neck can be spotted. They are territorial and won’t be afraid of putting a fight with other hummingbirds that approach the feeder they are visiting. The female is not nearly as colorful, but it is beautiful as well.
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.
Mangrove swallows are interesting in that they are not only found inside the mangrove forest, but in the whole river ecosystem. We did see a few of these birds inside the mangrove. They were flying by the boat very rapidly like most other swallows, which made in-flight pictures very difficult. Still pictures were better, as the birds perched in huge numbers on dead trees. They are distinguished from other swallows by their white underparts (up to the throat) and metallic green upperparts, only similar to the Blue-and-white Swallow, however the latter species is found throughout the country and not just on the coast; also it has blue upperparts instead of green.
The White-collared Manakin is a really exotic bird. The way you find it is by the crackling sound that they make when flapping their wings. It is amazing to see the displays of males jumping from one branch to another, trying to impress females. The combination of bright-red legs, olive rump, yellow underparts, white collar and black cap and wings results in a colorful bird, not easily confused with other birds. As is often the case in birds, the female is olive in coloration, making it more difficult to spot inside the canopy. It is common in the Caribbean, although in the Pacific there is an “equivalent” species, the Orange-collared Manakin, which has essentially the same size and behavior, just differs in the color of its throat as its name my imply. A wonderful pair of bird species to see indeed.