A very happy New Year to all of our San Vito Bird Club members, family and friends.

Please continue to follow our activities and please remember to send us your bird photos for our Photos of the Week (POW) feature.

You may send photos (and also pay your 2017 SVBC membership dues) by following the links on our SVBC homepage.

I hope 2017 is a great year for all of you!

And as always, your donations are appreciated.


Prospero y feliz ano nuevo a todos de nuestras San Vito Bird Club amigos, miembros y familia.

Y por favor…continua a enviar sus fotos por Fotos de la Semana (POW) contesta.

Y ustedes puenden pagar sus duedas aqui en el website.

Espero que 2017 es un ano magnifico!


Greg Homer/President SVBC


Helen LeVasseur with Greg Homer, photo by Jo Davidson

Pale-billed Woodpecker and Alexander F. Skutch — Foto Diarist

Local Club member and frequent photo contributor Gail Hull of Finca Cantaros recently published an interesting look at one of our most dramatic woodpeckers here, the Pale-billed Woodpecker. To see the full post and photos, click on the link after “via” below the excerpt.

I was walking in our forest on a hillside trail in mid-November and suddenly heard the characteristic drumming, just two loud knocks in rapid succession, of the impressive (14½” or 37 cm) Pale-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus guatemalensis). This is not a common sound, but coincidentally just two weeks earlier I had heard the same distinctive drumming […]

via Pale-billed Woodpecker and Alexander F. Skutch — Foto Diarist

Who are “The Taxonomists” (and what have they been up to lately)?/¿Quiénes son “los taxonomistas” (y qué han estado haciendo últimamente)?

After reading a previous article on this site about name changes for some of our Costa Rican birds, you are probably either cursing taxonomists or wondering who they are and what they do. Although we can’t help you control the first reaction, we can at least shed a little light on the second.

A taxonomist is a scientist who classifies organisms into various categories. Carolus Linnaeus developed the taxonomy for animals in 1758, and we are still using his system of seven levels today: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, species. As science and methodologies become more advanced, researchers find new information (through DNA testing, for example) that may change a species’ place in the taxonomic structure.

In the case of birds, researchers submit their proposals for taxonomic changes to the American Ornithology Union. The North American Classification Committee (NACC) for North and Middle American Birds is a group of taxonomists within that organization. NACC members review every proposal and determine which have sufficient merit to warrant actual changes to the taxonomy. Those changes are published once a year. We sometimes may be a bit perplexed by a name or classification change, but now at least we know that actual science is behind each decision.

Here are the changes to English and scientific names approved this year for Costa Rican birds:

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




(From SVBC Taxonomy reporter Jo Davidson)


Después de haber leído un artículo previo en este sitio sobre los cambios de nombre de algunas de nuestras aves en Costa Rica, usted estará probablemente maldiciendo a los taxonomistas o preguntándose quiénes son y qué es lo que hacen. Aunque no podemos ayudarle a controlar la primera reacción, podemos al menos ayudarle con la segunda.

Un taxonomista es un científico que clasifica organismos en varias categorías. Carolus Linnaeus desarrolló la taxonomía para animales en 1758, y aún estamos utilizando su Sistema de siete niveles hoy: Reino, Filo, Clase, Orden, Familia, Género, Especie. Conforme la ciencia y los métodos avanzan, los investigadores encuentran nueva información (a través de pruebas de ADN, por ejemplo) que puede cambiar el lugar de una especie en la estructura taxonómica.

En el caso de las aves, los investigadores envían sus propuestas para cambios en la estructura taxonómica a la American Ornithology Union (Unión de Ornitólogos Americanos). El North American Classification Committee (NACC) (Comité de Clasificación de América del Norte) para aves del norte y del centro de América es un grupo de taxonomistas dentro de esa organización. Los miembros del NACC revisan cada propuesta y determinan cuales poseen suficiente mérito para provocar cambios en la taxonomía. Tales cambios se publican una vez al año. Ocasionalmente puede que un cambio de nombre o clasificación nos deje perplejos, pero al menos sabemos que es la ciencia la que está detrás de cada decisión.

Aquí están los cambios en inglés y nombres científicos aprobados este año para aves en Costa Rica: Plain Wren ha sido dividida en tres especies separadas.

• Isthmian Wren (Cantorchilus elutus) (Soterrey de Panamá)

• Cabanis’s Wren (Cantorchilus modestus) (Soterrey Chinchirigüí)

• Canebrake Wren (Cantorchilus zeledoni) (Soterrey de Zeledón)

El Gray-necked Wood-Rail es ahora Gray-cowled Wood-Rail. Mantiene su nombre en español (Rascón Cuelligrís).

El Three-striped Warbler es ahora Costa Rican Warbler (Basileuterus melanotis) (Reinita Costarricense).

El Blue-crowned Motmot es ahora Lesson’s Motmot (Momotus lessoni). Mantiene su nombre en español (Momoto Coroniazul).

El Green Violetear es ahora Lesser Violetear. Mantiene su nombre en español (Colibrí Orejivioláceo Verde). Solo los nombres científicos de las siguientes especies han cambiado.

• Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) (Pardela Blanca Común) es ahora Ardenna creators

• Wedge-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus pacificus) (Pardela Colicuña) es ahora Ardenna pacifica

• Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus) (Pardela Sombría) es ahora Ardenna grisea • Short-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris) (Pardela Colicorta) es ahora Ardenna tenuirostris • Dusky Antbird (Cercomacra tyrannina) (Hormiguero Negruzco) es ahora Cercomacroides tyrannina

• Tawny-crowned Greenlet (Hylophilus ochraceiceps) (Verdillo Leonado) es ahora Tunchiornis ochraceiceps

• Lesser Greenlet (Hylophilus decurtatus) (Verdillo Menudo) es ahora Pachysylvia decurtata

Referencias (inglés): http://www.wildbirds.com/Identify-Birds/Bird-Taxonomy http://www.americanornithology.org/content/aou-committee-classification-and-nomenclature-north-and-middle-american-birds Referencias (español): https://listaoficialavesdecostarica.wordpress.com/lista-oficial/ https://listaoficialavesdecostarica.wordpress.com/lista-oficial/lista-oficial-online/

(Desde Jo Davidson; especialista de taxonomia por SVBC.)

What Was That Name Again?/Qual es su nombre otra vez?

We have new names for some of our familiar Coto Brus birds.

  1. Next time you see a Blue-crowned Motmot be sure you call it a Lesson’s Motmot.
  2. When you see a Plain Wren in Coto Brus, call it an Isthmian Wren. But if you’re up in Guanacaste, call it a Cabanis’s Wren and call it a Canebrake Wren when you’re birding over on the Caribbean coast.
  3. The Three-striped Warbler still has three stripes but we must now call it the Costa Rican Warbler.
  4. When you spot a Green Violetear hummingbird, you’re now actually looking at a Lesser Violetear.

More to come on WHY these changes occur. Stay tuned.

(From SVBC Taxonomy reporter Jo Davidson.)


Tenemos nombres nuevos de algunes aves de Coto Brus.

  1. El Motmot capa azul; ahora es el Lesson’s Motmot.
  2. El Plain wren? Ahora es el Isthmian wren aqui en Coto Brus; pero en Guanacaste es diferente—es el Cabanis’s wren y en el lado Caribe es Canebrake wren.
  3. El Reinita de tres rayas, toda via tiene tres rayas pero su nombre es el Costa Rican Warbler.
  4. Y el colibri Green Violetear—ahora su nombre es Lesser Violetear.

Porque los cambios? Mas vience pronto. Gracias.

(Desde Jo Davidson; especialista de taxonomia por SVBC.)IMG_2892.JPG

After the Storm/Después de la tormenta

We’ve had some very powerful and dramatic storms lately in San Vito, storms generating massive amounts of energy; energy enough to snap big branches off of trees and even knock over sizeable rain forest trees.

Should we look at this storm damage as a bad or negative thing? Absolutely not! One reason a tropical rain forest is so vibrant and diverse is because of this damage. A rain forest, you see, never gets too comfortable; never reaches a state of stability.

Instability and change are a constant part of a rain forest ecosystem. Storms, landslides and other natural environmental events do isolated damage, yes, but in so doing, opportunities are created for new plant species to join the club. Plant diversity follows damage; and bird diversity too!

Rain forest trees have a very shallow root system. It doesn’t take much to knock one over; and when a rain forest tree is knocked over a ‘light gap’ is created. This ‘light gap’ permits sunlight to reach a patch of ground where the full sun may not have shone in many years. Sunlight, as we all know, is how plants make their living, through photosynthesis.

Here is how a rain forest ‘light gap’ works; many rain forest seeds lay dormant until a ‘light gap’ appears and the sunlight warms and shines on them. Some rain forest trees grow to no more than a few meters and then stop growing until a ‘light gap’ appears and they are finally bathed in sunlight. Then, stand back boy…those little trees quickly shoot up to canopy height.

So when you hear that ‘CRAAAACK’ sound out in the forest…don’t despair; its just part of the natural cycle of diversity.

Also, my horticulturist friend and SVBC member Dave Janas, gets real jazzed when branches and trees fall down. This gives him the opportunity to go out and search for rare and seldom seen canopy epiphytes…like orchids!

Hemos tenido unas cuantas tormentas fuertes y dramáticas últimamente en San Vito, tormentas que generan cantidades masivas de energía; suficientes para separar ramas grandes de los árboles e incluso traerse abajo algunos cuantos árboles del bosque lluvioso.

¿Deberíamos ver los daños de estas tormentas como algo malo o negativo? ¡Absolutamente no! Estos daños son una de las razones por las que el bosque tropical lluvioso es tan vibrante y diverso. Un bosque lluvioso, verá, nunca está muy cómodo; nunca llega a un estado de estabilidad.

La inestabilidad y el cambio son constantes en el ecosistema del bosque lluvioso. Tormentas, deslizamientos y otros eventos de origen natural provocan daño aislado, sí, pero al hacerlo, se crean oportunidades para que nuevas especies vegetales se unan al club. La diversidad vegetal viene después del daño; ¡al igual que la diversidad de aves!

Los árboles del bosque lluvioso tienen un sistema de raíces muy superficial. No hace falta mucho para hacerlos caer; y cuando un árbol del bosque lluvioso cae, se crea un “claro de luz”. Este “claro de luz” permite que la luz del sol llegue a zonas del suelo a las cuales el sol no había alcanzado en muchos años. La luz del sol, como todos sabemos, permite a las plantas vivir, a través de la fotosíntesis.

Así funciona un “claro de luz”; muchas semillas de árboles del bosque lluvioso “duermen” hasta que un claro aparece y el sol las ilumina y calienta. Muchos árboles crecen solamente un par de metros y luego dejan de crecer hasta que aparece un claro y finalmente son alcanzados por la luz del sol. Entonces, mantenga su distancia por favor…esos pequeños árboles se disparan rápidamente a la altura del dosel.

Así que cuando usted escuche ese sonido de “CRAAAACK” en el bosque lluvioso…no se desespere; es solo parte del ciclo natural de la biodiversidad.

Además, mi amigo horticultor y miembro del SVBC, Dave Janas, se siente animado cuando las ramas de los árboles caen. Esto le da la oportunidad de salir a buscar epífitas raras y difíciles de observar… ¡como las orquídeas!


The Solitaire/El Solitario

[An essay from SVBC Members and regular visitors Jeff Worman and Denise Dausey]

While on the every-other-Saturday San Vito Bird Club bird walk (this one near Campo Dos y Media), my husband Jeff and I were surprised hear the haunting lyrical call of the Black-faced Solitaire; puzzling since we were a good 4000 feet below the Solitaire’s natural environment.  We were soon immensely troubled to discover that the song came not from the forest but from a cage suspended from a nearby porch.  While making his urgent calls, the Solitaire flitted about the cage, frequently crashing into the walls in a vain attempt to escape.  As you can imagine, this caged beauty was a very disturbing sight for a group of naturalist/birders such as ourselves.

Simply opening the cage door and releasing the Solitaire was not the answer.  One, we didn’t want to anger the “owner” and two, the Solitaire would quite likely not survive in an environment other than its much cooler natural montane habitat.

For those who feel compelled to keep a caged bird in the home, we implore you; please enjoy the beauty of your native birds in the wild where they belong rather than imprisoning them against their will, unable to live out their lives as nature intended.  In addition, please consider initiating a discussion with those who keep caged birds in their homes so that they might give some thought to appropriately releasing these beautiful creatures to enjoy the freedom they deserve.  Thanks for listening – – – Jeff Worman and Denise Dausey


[Un Ensayo de SVBC miembros y visitantes regulares Jeff Worman y Denise Dausey]

Durante una sabatina caminata para pajarear del Club de Pájaros de San Vito (esta cerca Campo Dos Y Medio), mi esposo Jeff y yo nos sorprendimos al escuchar el inquietante y lírico llamado del Solitario Carinegro (Jilguero); desconcertante dado que estábamos unos buenos 4000 pies [1200 m] debajo del ambiente natural del Solitario. Pronto nos sentimos severamente atribulados tras descubrir que la canción no venía del bosque, sino de una jaula colgada en un corredor cercano. Mientras hacía su desesperado llamado, el Solitario revoloteaba dentro de la jaula, chocando frecuentemente contra sus paredes en un vano intento de escapar. Como usted podrá imaginar, esta belleza enjaulada fue un inquietante avistamiento para un grupo de naturalistas/pajareros como el nuestro.

Simplemente abrir la jaula y liberar el Solitario no era la respuesta. Primero, no queríamos hacer enojar al “dueño” y, segundo, el Solitario probablemente no iba a sobrevivir en un ambiente distinto a su (mucho más frío) hábitat montano natural.

A aquellos que se sientan forzados a mantener un ave enjaulada, les imploramos; por favor disfrute de sus aves nativas en su ambiente natural – en donde pertenecen – en lugar de aprisionarlos contra sus voluntad, incapaces de vivir su vida como la naturaleza dispuso. Además, por favor considere comenzar una discusión con aquellos que tengan aves enjauladas en sus hogares de forma que tengan oportunidad de pensar sobre liberar apropiadamente estas bellas aves para que disfruten la libertad que merecen. Gracias por escuchar – – – Jeff Worman y Denise Dausey


Happy Holidays! Felices Fiestas!

(Sigue en español)

Happy Holidays to All!

We hope you enjoy our beautiful 2015 Holiday Card — a unique greeting created by SVBC Communications Committee chair, Harry Hull.

To one and all, we extend very best wishes for warm and wonderful holidays and a good New Year to come.

From 2015’s Executive Committee:

Alison Olivieri, Greg Homer, Lydia Vogt, Fred Schroeder & Harry Hull

Click image to view full size. If viewing this on the SVBC website, then click the back arrow on your browser to return to this post.

Click image to view full size. If viewing this on the SVBC website, then click the back arrow on your browser to return to this post.

Those interested in seeing more ‘mandalagraphs’ can visit Harry’s photo blog at mandalagraphs.com

Felices fiestas a todos!

Esperamos que todos ustedes disfruten nuestra nueva tarjeta 2015 especialmente creada por miembro Harry Hull.

Esta tarjeta es una manera única y hermosa de extender nuestros mejores deseos de unas felices fiestas y prosperó año nuevo.

Comité Ejecutivo del 2015:

Alison Olivieri, Greg Homer, Lydia Vogt, Fred Schroeder & Harry Hull

Si quiere ver mas ‘mandalagraphs’, vaya al sitio web de Harry: manadalagraphs.com.

A Birder’s Bird

A guest “Viewpoint” written by Greg Homer, a birder’s birder who has led many trips to Costa Rica over the years. Greg and his wife Helen are our newest members. . . . .

It’s possible — even probable — that in the entire history of the world no non-birder has ever uttered the phrase “Ooh look, a Thrushlike Schiffornis!”.  But this wonderful creature, described by field guide author Richard Garrigues as “. . . a non-descript olive-brown bird . . . ” and somewhat more generously by the great Alexander Skutch as ” . . . not brightly colored”, is most definitely a joy to behold when seen by a birder.

Greg Homer, on deck at his new digs near the Wilson Botanical Garden.

Greg Homer, on deck at his new digs near the Wilson Botanical Garden.

Toucans, motmots, most parrots and many tanagers fall into a category of birds often referred to as Charismatic Avifauna (C.A.).  These birds are so colorful and/or charming that both birders and non-birders alike stop what they’re doing to give them a look. It’s extremely easy to love a Bay-headed Tanager or Fiery-billed Aracari.

But the Thrushlike Schiffornis most certainly does NOT fall into the C.A. category.  Not only is the Thrushlike Schiffornis non-descript and not brightly colored, it does not live a particularly exciting or charismatic lifestyle (at least not to all of us non-Thrushlike Schiffornises).  The terms ‘sluggish’ and ‘secretive’ and ‘solitary’ are often used to describe its behavior.  The song of the Thrushlike Schiffornis is unlikely to ever become a Top 10 ringtone.  And, on top of all that, there is the name — to me, ‘Thrushlike Schiffornis’ sounds more like a medical diagnosis than a bird.

“Mrs. Hartoonian, we have the results back on that culture we did on your eye.  You have thrushlike schiffornis.”

 “Is that bad?”

“Well, it isn’t good; but these days it is treatable with antibiotics.”

And get this. . . in my copy of A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica by F. Gary Stiles and Alexander Skutch (first edition 1989), the Thrushlike Schiffornis isn’t even called a Thrushlike Schiffornis.  Back then it was listed as a “Thrushlike Manakin . . . which may possibly be a Thrushlike Mourner.”

When I was a kid back in the citrus belt of California, family, friends and neighbors used to look at me, smile and then tell my parents, “Well, there’s a face only a mother could love.”  And so it goes for the Thrushlike Schiffornis — a bird only a birder could love.

Wilson Walk Washout!

The Bird Walk scheduled for last Saturday, Nov. 2, was rained out — the first time this has happened since we began leading regular bird walks years ago. With all the rain we get annually in San Vito, it’s surprising this doesn’t happen more often!

Raining, pouring and heading your way. (Photo by Michael Olivieri.)

Raining, pouring and heading your way. (Photo by Michael Olivieri.)

We will reschedule for this coming Saturday, Nov. 9 and hope for better luck.

In the meantime, it might be fun to start listing the species that are visiting your bird feeders. Migratory species that spend the spring and summer in North America are back. Species like Baltimore Orioles, Summer Tanagers and Tennessee Warblers all readily come to fruit feeders so you should be seeing them regularly now.

Spending a few minutes each morning jotting down the birds on your bananas will sharpen your ID skills and, if we start a little competition, might encourage getting more feeders into action.

Here’s my list from the weekend, a total of 15 species including 7 tanagers (Blue-Gray, Golden-hooded, Silver-throated, Cherrie’s, Summer, Speckled and Palm), 2 toucans (Fiery-billed Aracari, Emerald Toucanet), 1 saltator (Buff-throated), 1 euphonia (Thick-billed), 1 honeycreeper (Green), 1 woodpecker (Red-crowned), 1 thrush (Clay-colored), and Blue-crowned Motmot,

We’ll be waiting for your list, so send it along by clicking here to contact us!

Birding from the Canopy Tower

On a recent Bird Walk at the Wilson Botanical Garden, our group of 10 climbed the Canopy Tower to look for returning migrants. Although we did not see any of those, we did see two Masked Tityras, spotted by Caroline Torres.

Masked Tityra. Photo by Mark W. Eaton.

Masked Tityra (Photo by Mark W. Eaton)

I’m not sure why but these birds always give me a jolt of surprise. Maybe it’s the incredible white plumage or perhaps it’s the bright pink orbital skin around the eye and face? Being close to them in the canopy was a thrill as their size is often diminished when they’re seen – typically high in the trees — from the ground. Here, on the Tower, we had the chance to view them at slightly lower than eye level, allowing us to experience them as striking-looking, big, white flycatchers.

When the Tower was inaugurated in May 2011 (click here to read more about this event), we decided to keep a list of all species seen and/or heard in the immediate vicinity. On our recent visit we added add two new ones to the Canopy Tower Bird List: Laughing Falcon (heard not seen) and Spot-crowned Euphonia.

Laughing Falcon (Photo by Alison Olivieri)

Laughing Falcon (Photo by Alison Olivieri)

The falcon’s resonant, slightly eerie call is described by F. Gary Stiles and Alexander F. Skutch in A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica, as “. . . . a long, rhythmic series of loud, hollow notes with somewhat the quality of a child’s shout.”  The local name of this raptor, Guaco, is synchronous with its call so once you learn and hear it, you can be certain it’s a Laughing Falcon. It is well known that this bird of prey’s favorite food item is any kind of snake so they are cherished by local people and those of us who wish they would visit often and eat their fill.

Our female Spot-crowned Euphonia perched quite close to the Tower, affording some of the group excellent looks at her distinctive field marks of rufous forecrown and belly. Identifying this species is easy if you are prepared to do a little work with your field guide. The males are the only euphonia with yellow spots on the crown patch but, if you are looking from below, it is often easier to identify the female. This is a puzzle where the range maps in the Garrigues and Dean field guide (The Birds of Costa Rica) really come in handy. You’ll quickly see another species with similar markings on the female, Olive-backed Euphonia, but a glance at the map will tell you the Olive-backed is found on the Caribbean side and Spot-crowned is the bird you see here.

To date we have 67 species on this list and 10 birders have contributed sightings. If you are curious and would like a copy, don’t hesitate to contact us. Likewise, please let us know if you see or hear a species we are missing.

Thanks to Caroline Torres, Roni Chernin, Jeff Wick, Barb Barton, Judith and Joe Ippolito, Donna and Tony Pagano and their surrogate grandson Rolando for joining us on this walk.