Biggy and Smally: Woodpecker Messenger Service

The smallest woodpecker in Costa Rica, the Olivaceous Piculet, is no bigger than a warbler!  This very charismatic, big-bird-in-a-small-bird’s-body is often seen tap-tap-tapping on a slender dry twig looking for bugs.  The tapping sounds the Piculet makes have given it the local name of the Telegraph Bird.

The biggest woodpecker in Costa Rica, the Pale-billed Woodpecker, (probably the model for beloved cartoon character ‘Woody Woodpecker’) is over a foot long.  Normally, the Pale-billed Woodpecker is identified by it’s robust and very loud two-note rap…’TOCK-TOCK’…but recently I discovered the actual call of the Pale-billed Woodpecker.  To my surprise the Pale-bill’s call sounds very much like one of those old electric Morse Code devices with the key!  Click on the ‘Listen’ button in the lower right corner of this eBird page.

https://ebird.org/species/pabwoo1

If you’re an old Boy Scout or Girl Scout, listen carefully–maybe IT IS an actual Morse Code message coming from the Pale-billed Woodpecker.  What message might they be sending us?

(images from eBird)

combo

 

 

 

 

Swainson’s Thrush: ‘Hello, I Must Be Going’

Go outside for a minute or two and then come back in and finish this article…go on, really.

 

OK, now you’re back.  There is a very good chance you saw, or more likely heard, a Swainson’s Thrush or two while you were out there.

During late March and early April, here in Coto Brus, it seems like someone has opened up a giant firehose; and from that firehose has come a mighty river of Swainson’s Thrushes (see below).

This Swainson’s Thrush visit with us will be a fairly brief one however; for the Swainson’s Thrush is a passage migrant through Costa Rica.  They have been wintering in South America and are now anxiously heading home to North America where they will build homes and raise families.

Listen for them.  You’re likely to hear their flutey, thrush-like musical trill.  Also, you may hear my favorite of their calls, which I call the ‘Dripping Faucet’ call.  Here it is.  Click on Listen (lower right) and then select the third recording from the top:

https://ebird.org/species/swathr

During this time of year I am always reminded of that wonderful Groucho Marx song, ‘Hello, I Must Be Going.’

Hello, I must be going
I cannot stay
I came to say
I must be going
I’m glad I came
But just the same
I must be going.

combo

Trogon Songs of San Vito

This time of year our two most common Trogons–the Gartered Trogon (yellow) and the Collared Trogon (red)–spend a good portion of the day singing their songs of territory and romance.

The Gartered Trogon…with its yellow belly, blue head (male), green back, and bright eye ring…sings a high-pitched single tone call, about three notes per second, usually while perched on a horizontal branch.

The Collared Trogon…with its red belly, green head (male) and white stripe separating the two…sings out with a plaintive 1-3 note call; lower pitched and slower in cadence.  Again, the Collared Trogon usually does this while perched on a mid-canopy horizontal branch.

I am including two YouTube links to these beautiful birds giving their calls.  Hope you get to hear these two Trogons and even see them in or near your own neighborhood.

Birds on the Move/Las aves en movimiento

ESPANOL SIGUE

Female Flame-rumped Tanager, a new record for Costa Rica. Photo by Pepe Castiblanco

On a sunny morning in early November, Pepe Castiblanco and I went to look for a bird that had never been recorded in Costa Rica until it was discovered in October. Most followers of this website know Pepe but, in case you do not, he is a birder, natural history guide, musician, raconteur, photographer, baker, restaurateur and co-owner – with his wife Kata Ulenaers — of a nearby B&B.

Pepe’s friend, Juan Abel, who is dashing and works at the Organization for Tropical Studies as a forest guard, found this bird – a Flame-rumped Tanager – on his finca, consorting with a group of Cherrie’s Tanagers. He called some friends, extraordinary birders, to come take a look and so it went. Because this is private property, the search becomes a question of permission. We were grateful to have a chance to go look and got lucky with the bird.

Juan and his wife Ruth have a large, enthusiastic dog that lunged through the door as we pulled into the driveway. Before we were able to get out of the car, the dog clipped one of Juan’s sons’ legs, sending coffee dribbling all over its back, and climbed into the car onto my lap. It was an auspicious start.

We walked around the house, through a guava orchard. The trees look odd because each round, fat fruit is sequestered in a bag to stymie insects and birds. The Abels have chicken coops and banana feeders and a ring of old trees around their farm. We saw four Rose-breasted Grosbeaks taking the sun in a pine tree and heard woodpeckers and Slaty Spinetails churring from the woods.

After a bit, Hafjeth Abel, 19, joined our search party while he fed the chickens, steering us away from making hopeful glances at their banana feeder. The group of tanagers we were after apparently does not frequent the feeder but hangs around the other side of the property near the forest edge. Over we went and suddenly they arrived, sputtering and squeaking, with the Flame-rumped female in plain view, perched for Pepe’s camera. Two Yellow-billed Caciques came out of the forest — an uncommon sighting as they are more often heard than seen.

The new tanager comes with some confusing taxonomy. It has three common names: Flame-rumped, Lemon-rumped and Yellow-rumped. And two scientific names: Ramphocelus flammigerus and R. icteronotus plus a subspecies indicator like this: Ramphocelus flammigerus icternotus. You can consult the authority of your choice, but the Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica follows the American Ornithologists Union checklist so this one is being presented to the Rare Records Committee as Flame-rumped Tanager, Ramphocelus flammigerus.

Maybe another one will join it or show up elsewhere. We will try to keep ourselves updated and report back from time to time.

Juan Abel, standing back row center, found a new bird for Costa Rica in October 2017. Also pictured Pepe Castiblanco, standing right. Photographer unknown.

ESPANOL AQUI
Una mañana soleada de noviembre, Pepe Castiblanco y yo salimos a buscar un ave que nunca había sido registrada en Costa Rica, hasta que fue descubierta en octubre. La mayoría de quienes siguen este sitio web conocen a Pepe, pero en caso de que usted no lo conozcan, él es un pajarero, guía de historia natural, músico, anecdotista, fotógrafo, panadero, restaurador y co-propietario – con su esposa, Kata Ulenaers, — de un B&B de la localidad.

El amigo de Pepe, Juan Abel, quien es gallardo y trabaja para la Organización para Estudios Tropicales como guarda, encontró esta ave, Flame-rumped Tanager, en su finca, compartiendo con un grupo local de sargentos. Juan llamó a unos amigos, pajareros extraordinarios, para que vinieran a ver. Dado que esta es una propiedad privada, la búsqueda se convierte en una cuestión de permiso. Tuvimos la suerte de tener la oportunidad de ir a observar y encontrar el ave.

Juan y su esposa, Ruth, tienen un perro grande y entusiasta que se lanzó a través de la puerta mientras nos parquéabamos. Antes de que pudiéramos salir del carro, el perro atrapó una de las piernas de un hijo de Juan, echándose el café sobre el lomo, y se encaramó en el carro hasta llegar a mi regazo. Un prometedor comienzo.

A guava, bagged to exclude insects and birds. Photo by Alison Olivieri

Caminamos por la casa, hasta llegar a una plantación de guava. Los árboles se ven extraños porque secuestran su fruto en una vaina, para protegerlos de aves e insectos. Los Abels tienen gallineros y alimentadores de aves, y un anillo de árboles viejos alrededor de su granja. Vimos varios Picogrueso Pechirrosado (Calandrias) tomando el sol en un pino y escuchamos carpinteros y Arquitectos Plomizos en el bosque.

Después de un rato, Hafjeth Abel, de 19 años, se unió a nuestra búsqueda mientras alimentaba las gallinas, alejándonos de echar miradas esperanzadas al alimentador. Aparentemente, el grupo de tangaras que estábamos buscando no frecuenta el alimentador, sino el otro lado de la propiedad, cerca del lindero del bosque. Fuimos ahí y llegaron, chillando y revoloteando, con la hembra Flame-rumped a plena vista, en una posición privilegiada para la cámara de Pepe. Dos Caciques Picoplata salieron del bosque, una observación entraña, ya que frecuentemente se los escucha más de lo que se los ve.

La nueva tangara viene con una taxonomía confusa. Tiene tres nombres comunes: Flame-rumped, Lemon-rumped y Yellow-rumped; dos nombres científicos: Ramphocelus flammigerus y R. icteronotus; y un indicador de subespecie: Ramphocelus flammigerus icteronotus. Usted puede consultar con la autoridad de su escogencia, pero la Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica sigue el listado de la American Ornithologists Union, así que esta especie está presente en el Comité de Registros Raros como Flame-rumped Tanager, Ramphocelus flammigerus.

Quizá otra se le unirá o aparecerá en otro lugar. Trataremos de mantenernos al tanto y reportarle de cuando en cuando.

SVBC ANNUAL MEETING TAXONOMY FOLLOW-UP

(This article courtesy of SVBC Taxonomy Tsar, Jo Davidson)

Thanks to all of you who attended the recent San Vito Bird Club annual meeting. This post provides the basic information and links to some excellent resources that were included in the presentation on Taxonomy.

TAXONOMIC UPDATES 2016

Plain Wren has been split into three separate species.

  • Isthmian Wren (Cantorchilus elutus).
  • Cabanis’s Wren (Cantorchilus modestus)
  • Canebrake Wren (Cantorchilus zeledoni)

Gray-necked Wood-Rail is now Gray-cowled Wood-Rail

Three-striped Warbler is now Costa Rican Warbler (Basileuterus melanotis).

Blue-crowned Motmot is now Lesson’s Motmot (Momotus lessoni).

Green Violetear. is now Lesser Violetear (Colibri cyanotus).

Only the scientific names of the following species have been changed.

  • Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) is now Ardenna creators
  • Wedge-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus pacificus) is now Ardenna pacifica
  • Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus) is now Ardenna grisea
  • Short-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris) is now Ardenna tenuirostris
  • Dusky Antbird (Cercomacra tyrannina) is now Cercomacroides tyrannina
  • Tawny-crowned Greenlet (Hylophilus ochraceiceps) is now Tunchiornis ochraceiceps
  • Lesser Greenlet (Hylophilus decurtatus) is now Pachysylvia decurtata
LINKS TO RESOURCES:
 
Official List of Birds of Costa Rica –
Online Excel file including Order, Family, Scientific name, English name and Spanish name(s). This will come in very handy if you post information or inquiries to the AOCR Facebook page (link below).
 
Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica (AOCR)
Dues are 10,000 colones per year, for which you receive their newsletter, access to monthly seminars, and discounts on products and tours.
 
Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica (AOCR) – Facebook
This is truly a worthwhile group to join. If you don’t currently “do” Facebook, you may want to set up a profile just to access this incredible resource. In addition to truly wonderful pictures and details about our Costa Rican birds, there is much information on events and conservation efforts throughout the country.
 
American Ornithological Society (AOS) –
This is the group responsible for the annual taxonomy changes, which are actually published in July, not March. You will find the yearly supplements under “Publications and Checklists.”
 
Atlantic article on Taxonomists
Lighthearted and informative!
 
Rebecca’s e-mail address –
For those who did not have a pencil ready.
If any of you have questions regarding taxonomy issues, please e-mail them to the following address: jo@induna.us

Pigeons and Doves of Coto Brus: ID by Song

Pigeons and Doves of Coto Brus: Identification by Song

Bird Name Description Song
Short-billed Pigeon Upright, reddish-brown. 4-5 syllables long. Think, ‘dos tontos son’.
Ruddy Pigeon Similar to previous; a little darker. Think, ‘what’s the matter’; sometimes ‘hey, what’s the matter’.
Scaled Pigeon Big and stocky, thick neck. Scaly neck and chest, light-colored. Deep pitched ‘wooo-oo-hoo’. The baritone of pigeons.
Pale-vented Pigeon Light-colored pigeon; soft colors on head, dark bill. Think ‘here we goooo’ or maybe ‘what the hell’.
White-tipped Dove Our most common dove. White head and white tips on tail. Sad sounding ‘wooooooooh’. Grey-headed Dove looks and sounds similar.
Ruddy Ground-Dove Little guys; light-colored head, reddish-brown body. Two distinct notes; think ‘woo-HOOT, woo-HOOT’ repeated several times.
Blue Ground-Dove Male is actually BLUE! Female brown. Single note ‘BOOP’.

(Scaled Pigeon photo courtesy of Luis Fallas)

SVBC-luisfalas-561849389208-scaledpigeon-R

Identifying Coto Brus Woodcreepers: Appearance and Song/Como identificar los Woodcreepers de Coto Brus: apariencia y canción

  1. Our most common woodcreeper./Nuestra woodcreeper lo más común.–Streak-headed Woodcreeper.  (All photos from SVBC members)
  2. streakySong/cancion

2. The closely related Spotted Woodcreeper with a very different song./Muy simlar, es el Spotted Woodcreeper con una canción muy diferente.

spotty

3. The remarkable Brown-billed Scythebill./El woodcreeper increible; Brown-billed Scythebill.

Scythey.png

4. The very active Olivaceous Woodcreeper./El Woodcreeper con mucho energía; Olivaceous Woodcreeper.

olivaceious

http://www.hbw.com/ibc/sound/olivaceous-woodcreeper-sittasomus-griseicapillus/solitary

5. The Wedge-billed Woodcreeper./El Wedge-billed Woodcreeper.

wedgy

6. The very similar Plain Xenops. El Plain Xenops, muy similar.

xenops

 

Bird Report: Tropical Mockingbird

Mimus gilvus: Tropical Mockingbird.

Mimus gilvus: Tropical Mockingbird.

A Tropical Mockingbird, Mimus gilvus, has been spotted on the grounds of the Catholic church in downtown San Vito by Wally Barton. It is slightly larger than a thrush, predominantly gray on the back with white bars on blackish wings, white below, white patches in the wings and tail.

Historically this interesting species has had a discontinuous two-part range from Mexico to Honduras and then in northern South America, however, in the 1930s an introduced population was found in Panama. This might explain its occurrence here. The Birds of Costa Rica by Robert Dean and Richard Garrigues suggest this species is becoming established in Costa Rica where breeding pairs have been reliably found in Siquirres and Limon for many years. Reports of sightings have come from disparate locations like Bagaces, Arenal, San Isidro de General and Cartago and a breeding pair has been seen in La Union de Sabalito for the past five years. Closer to home, one or two of them have been visiting feeders near the San Vito Hospital and these (or this individual) may have taken up residence in the church yard.

They like open habitats with trees and shrubs so town parks and gardens are ideal. Readily visible, they often perch out in the open on telephone/electric lines or tops of bushes and trees.

Eating a small lizard!

Eating a small lizard!

Mockingbirds eat insects, small vertebrates and fruit. Their song is unmistakable: a long musical series of repeated phrases. Apparently, unlike Northern Mockingbirds, they do not mimic other species.