Welcome White-winged Doves!

We have been waiting for quite some time for these angelic-looking birds to show up in our beloved southern zone and it appears our vigil might be over.

White-winged Doves. Photo by Jim Zook

First, a pair was spotted in September near La Union de Sabalito by Jim Zook who was on the job doing bird counts for Stanford University. Shortly thereafter, one was found by Randall Jiménez Borbón, a Pajarero Del Sur member and Detectives de Aves teacher, in his garden in Linda Vista just south of San Vito on the road to Ciudad Neily.

In the Stiles and Skutch Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica (published in 1989), they were considered a ‘. . . locally abundant permanent resident in dry Pacific NW, south to Jaco.’ In more recent times, they are described as ‘. . . common resident in northern Pacific and across the Central Valley . . . ‘ by Garrigues and Dean in the second edition of The Birds of Costa Rica. You can see the trajectory; it was just a matter of time.

They are pretty easy to see if you are expecting them: Garrigues describes them as “. . . commensal with humans. . . ” and goes on to say they favor open areas and are often seen feeding along roadsides. They look a lot like Mourning Doves except for the white band down the length of the wing – this is easily seen at rest and a lovely display in flight. Further, Mourning Doves have long, tapered tails and black spots on their wings, both of which are lacking in the Whities.

From November to May, our resident populations are joined by migrants from the southwestern US. The entire range goes from Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in the US; throughout Mexico and down through Central America to western Panama, as well as throughout the Caribbean islands.

Breeding season is January to March, so we will try to keep an eye on the Sabalito pair. And, meanwhile, keep a sharp eye out as they may turn up at your house any day now!

Bird Walk Report: White-ruffed Manakin Lek

Looking for manakins. Photo by Harry Hull.

Looking for manakins. Photo by Harry Hull.

This story comes under the category of “Things That Go on While You’re Doing the Laundry” because we know now — thanks to Colleen Nell and Dave Janas — White-ruffed Manakins are dancing in a nearby forest! On Saturday, June 20, Colleen and Dave led us to a mossy log along the Rio Java Trail that these tiny black and white birds have chosen as a ‘lek’ in the OTS Las Cruces forest.

What, actually, is a lek? Well, it’s a little bit like a Single’s Bar but far more enchanting: leks are arenas where males display competitively to entice visiting females to have sex. (Several kinds of birds, including hermit hummingbirds, cock-of-the-rock, grouse, birds of paradise and pihas, as well as some fish, butterflies, moths and orchid bees use leks.)

We were not lucky enough to see the manakins do their thrilling displays but most of us saw them flying around and we saw two predators in the area — likely attracted by the goings-on — a Double-toothed Kite and a Roadside Hawk.

Thanks to the technical know-how of Harry Hull, you can see a short video of a full display from the Cornell Ornithology Lab’s Macaulay Library collection, by clicking here. This opens a video player in a separate tab/window in your browser where you can play the video by clicking on the “go” arrow. (Close that tab/window to return to this post.) In the clip, two males with bulging ruffs compete for the attention of a female. Both males do the “Butterfly Flight” that Colleen described as part of the display and then they dance in step on the log. Finally, as the female waits, both males, one after the other, do a stupendous aerial dive that ends with a flip and a loud mechanical wing flap!

Hiking the Rio Java Trail, Front left Dave Janas, Intern Norman Liu, Alison Olivieri. Photo by Harry Hull.

Hiking the Rio Java Trail. Front, from left, Dave Janas, Intern Norman Liu, Alison Olivieri. Photo by Harry Hull.

We are grateful to W. Alice Boyle who made this video (and more) in the course of her research on this species in Costa Rica in March 2009. Our guide Colleen worked as a field assistant for Megan Jones at Rara Avis on this very project. Colleen is currently at work on her PhD dissertation at the University of California Irvine. Dave Janas, well known to SVBC bird walk participants, will start working at Las Cruces/Wilson Botanical Garden as the staff horticulturist on July 1.