Taxonomy Update: 2020

If you are looking for something to keep you amused during quarantine, this probably
won’t fill that bill. However, even in these crazy times, the American Ornithology
Society’s North American Classification Committee (NACC) continues its mission to
update the taxonomy of North American birds, and it is my duty to report its decisions.
There are two new English names for Costa Rican birds. These changes were made last
year by the South American Classification Committee (SACC), and so are already
included in eBird and Merlin. The NACC adopted these changes this year.
1) The Paltry Tyrannulet is now officially called Mistletoe Tyrannulet. It’s scientific name
has been changed from Zimmerius vilissimus (which is now Guatemalan Tyrannulet) to
Zimmerius parvus.
2) The Checker-throated Antwren (Epinecrophylla fulviventris) is now Checker-throated
Scientific name changes (In order as presented in Garrigues and Dean’s 2nd edition):
Canivet’s Emerald – Cynanthus canivetii
Coppery-headed Emerald – Microchera cupreiceps
White-tailed Emerald – Microchera chionura
Blue-tailed Hummingbird – Saucerottia cyanura
Snowy-bellied Hummingbird – Saucerottia edward
Sapphire-throated Hummingbird -Chrysuronia coeruleogularis
Blue-chested Hummingbird – Polyerata amabilis
Charming Hummingbird – Polyerata decora
Blue-throated Goldentail – Chlorestes eliciae
Chestnut-backed Antbird – Poliocrania exsul
Dull-mantled Antbird Sipia laemosticta
Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner – Dendroma rufa
White-crowned Manakin – Pseudopipra pipra
White-shouldered Tanager – Loriotus luctuosus
Comb Duck (listed as a rarity in the back of the guide) – Sarkidiornis
For the further edification of anyone who has not fallen asleep by now, the remaining
changes made by the NACC have to do with changing the linear sequences within
groups. For example, in Garrigues and Dean’s second edition, Selasphorus scintilla,
Scintillant Hummingbird, comes before Selasphorus flammula, Volcano Hummingbird. In
future editions, that will change.
To see the complete report of the NACC, you may visit

(Article content and photo below from SBVC ‘Taxonomy Tsar’, Jo Davidson).

Les Oiseaux du Costa Rica: Final

Part III of bird photos from notre bon ami (our good friend/nuestra buen amigo) Jean-Philippe Theilliez. Jean-Philippe has returned to France. We wish him a speedy return.

All photos taken in Costa Rica except the Great Jacamar, which was taken very near…in Panama.

FYI: Note the detail in the Turkey Vulture’s beak. That big hollow space houses the most sophisticated and efficient olfactory (smell detecting) organ in the entire animal kingdom. Turkey Vultures can smell death from several miles away. Their close cousin, the Black Vulture, relies more on their eyesight.

Far From the Madding Crowd? Birding in San Vito, Costa Rica

Notice the four people in the photo below. Two of them are birding and two of them are whimsically making a statement on the importance of social distancing. Which two are the closest together? CORRECT! The two that are making a point of staying a meter of two apart. The other two that are just birding? They’re already several meters apart…without even trying.

The point is…If you’re worried about social distancing, get outside and GO BIRDING! If you’re not worried about social distancing, get outside and go birding! (Feel free to replace ‘birding’ with ‘nature exploring’)

This coming dry season, we will very likely see a tsunami of foreign tourists coming to Costa Rica. Many of them have been stuck inside their homes, staring at the walls. When the travel barriers are lifted, these folks will look around and say, ‘Hmmm, I need a vacation. Where should I go on vacation? Where is a safe, healthy place to visit that doesn’t look anything like the four walls of my house? COSTA RICA!’

Tourism will return my friends…oh yes, it will return. If you are one of those wall-starers or know of any, the San Vito Bird Club and Coto Brus tourism welcome you.

(photo courtesy of Alison Olivieri)

It’s Time to Play: What’s…My…Hypothesis!

This could be fun.

First of all, what is a hypothesis? The traditional definition of a hypothesis is–an educated guess; or a guess made upon observations. A theory, on the other hand is also known as a ‘hypothesis that has grown up’. A theory is much more than a guess. A theory has behind it not only observation but much testing and statistical data. For a theory to become fact the data must go through significant and extensive review. The data must be tested by other experts in the same field. The numbers must be crunched in an unbiased manner. In the scientific world, even after a theory has become fact it is always subject to further testing and review as new data is discovered. Contrary to what you may have heard about a certain global climate theory, the science and scrutiny is NEVER done. Fine; so back to What’s…My…Hypothesis.

Here’s how we play. Send me (see address below) your birding/natural history hypothesis. Based upon your observations and deductive reasoning, share your hypothesis or hypotheses (plural). Feel free to copy the template below and paste it into an email. Your hypothesis can be very brief and based solely upon something you have observed or even just wondered about.

Here are a couple of examples:

Hypothesis #1:

This what I have observed: Whenever I find a mixed flock of birds, there always seems to be a woodcreeper moving about and calling somewhere in the middle of that mixed flock.

This my hypothesis: Different species of birds often flock together in a loose affiliation. I believe they flock, both above and below a woodcreeper, because woodcreepers are both active and noisy and make for an obvious target around which to flock.

Hypothesis #2:

This is what I have observed: Leaf-cutter ants will travel relatively great distances to harvest leaves from citrus trees.

This is my hypothesis: Chemicals or odors found in citrus leaves could serve as a deterrent to unwanted pests down in the Leaf-cutter Ant nest. Or maybe they just make the place smell better, like one of the things you hang on the rearview mirror of your car.

Have fun with this. I will post some of the more interesting hypotheses on this website in the coming days. Who knows? Maybe your hypothesis will some day grow up to become an actual THEORY!

Please keep your observations to natural history topics, birding if possible. Here is the template:

This is what I have observed:

This is my hypothesis:

Send to:

Streak-headed Woodcreeper, courtesy of Jo Davidson

Bird Jumble #3: Answers

Congratulations to the gifted, speedy and powerful Dorothy MacKinnon for solving Bird Jumble #3! Here are the jumbles and the answers:

The Challenging 3:

an ox nipples = Plain Xenops

cop mom on too = Common Potoo

darkest amity = Masked Tityra

The Easier 3:

one pig = pigeon

law owls = swallow

bitter nuns = sunbittern

The Local Name 3:

daring loon = golondrina

orangest = sargento

boob = bobo

We may be able to squeeze out ONE MORE jumble…in a couple of days.

Green Honeycreeper and Silver-throated Tanager photo courtesy of somebody with a camera.

Pigeons and Doves of San Vito: ID by Call

You’re all getting plenty of exercise, right? Walking and birding and gardening and home projects. Good! Keep it up, San Vito Bird Club members.

About 3 years ago following one of our Bird Walks (when you all were pretty much a captive, coffee-drinking audience) I delivered a brief tutorial on the calls of our local Pigeons and Doves. Following the tutorial, I promised deliver it again ‘…some day.’ That day has come.

All seven of these birds are easier to hear than to see. And they each have a distinctive call or song. See how many you can identify by song when you’re out and about.

White-tipped Dove, photo courtesy of Helen LeVasseur

Bird Jumble #2-Answers/Plus, Bird Jumble #3…Extravaganza!

Once again, here are last week’s Bird Jumbles followed by the answers:

large reactants = Scarlet Tanager

a noodle pro = Oropendola

bison poll = Spoonbill

a big drifter = Frigatebird (isn’t that one elegant?)

quick color user = Squirrel Cuckoo

camel cat wars = Scarlet Macaw

taco tune = Toucanet

porn guy died = Ruddy Pigeon

And the tie-breaker: chocolaty hurdler = Clay-colored Thrush

Hope you had some fun with this one.

Now…for Bird Jumble #3-Extravaganza!

Below you will see 3 jumbled bird names in three separate categories:

Challenging (tough ones)–Easier (but not easy)–Local Names (local bird names jumbled)


#1. an ox nipples

#2: cop mom on too

#3: darkest amity


#1: one pig

#2: law owls

#3: bitter nuns

Local Names:

#1: orangest

#2: boob

#3: daring loon

Good luck and have fun!

photo courtesy of Alison Olivieri

Bird Jumble #2

Here’s your next challenge; Bird Jumble #2. Again, rearrange the letters below to make the name of bird that can be found within an hour or two from San Vito.

Following those jumbled letters, the parenthesis lets you know how many words there are in the solved puzzle.

  1. large reactants (two words)
  2. a noodle pro (one word)
  3. bison poll (one word)
  4. a big drifter (one word)
  5. quick color user (two words)
  6. camel cat wars (two words)
  7. taco tune (one word)
  8. porn guy died (two words)

Tie Breaker: chocolaty hurdlers (three words)