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Friday, January 11, 2013

Some of Costa Rica’s Most Common Bird Species

Bird Watching in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of the top destinations in the world when it comes to bird watching. Enthusiasts and ornithologists (those scientists who specialize in studying birds) will not be disappointed when it comes to the diversity of the bird species in Costa Rica. Although it is a small country, 894 bird species (source) have been recorded (including the Cocos Island), in which they show spectacular plumage especially to bird watching experts and avifauna enthusiasts.

Here are some of the bird species that you will commonly see in Costa Rica, especially at Rainforest Adventures (both the Atlantic and Pacific parks).

Cattle Egret

A cattle egret with its neck retracted.
The Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) is a small white heron commonly found in pastures and roadsides. It is a white bird adorned with buff plumes in the breeding season. It nests in colonies, usually near bodies of water and often with other wading birds. The nest is a platform of sticks in trees or shrubs. It is more at home foraging in grass than in water. This species maintains a special relationship with cattle, which extends to other large grazing mammals. The cattle egret removes ticks and flies from cattle and consumes them. It also follows cattle, horses, and even tractors to catch the insects they stir up.

(More about the Cattle Egret on: All About Birds, Wikipedia)

Black Vulture

Southern American Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus brasiliensis), Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
The Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus), also known as the American Black Vulture, is a large soaring bird. It has broad wings with large whitish patch at tip, a short, square tail, and a black body. It has a dark-gray and wrinkled head without feathers. It flaps its wings rather frequently while it soars. The Black Vulture is mainly a scavenger, feeding on carrion. But it will occasionally eat eggs or kill newborn animals as well. Its keen eyesight helps when hunting for a meal. Otherwise, it will follow other vultures that have a more keen sense of smell. Its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses, since it doesn’t have a syrinx (the vocal organ of birds).

(More about the Black Vulture on: All About Birds, Wikipedia)

Turkey Vulture

A flying Turkey Vulture
The sight of a large, soaring bird with its wings raised in a V-shape and making wobbly circles, is the Turkey Vulture, in which it scans the grounds detecting the gases produced by the beginnings of the process of decay in dead animals. The Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) is a scavenger and feeds almost exclusively on carrion. These birds ride thermals in the sky and use their keen sense of smell to find fresh carcasses. They clean up the countryside one bite of their sharply hooked bill at a time, and never mussing a feather on their bald red heads which resembles that of a male wild turkey, thus the name, complete with its dark plumage.

(More about the Turkey Vulture on: All About Birds, Wikipedia)

Royal Tern

Royal Tern
The Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus)has a red-orange bill and a black cap on the top of its head during the breeding season, but in the winter the cap becomes patchy. It lives on the coast and is only found where there is salt water. They tend to feed near the shore, close to the beach or in backwater bays, where they dive into the water from heights near 30 feet in pursuit of small fish such as anchovies, weakfish, and croakers. They usually feed alone or in groups of two or three, but on occasion they feed in large groups when hunting large schools of fish.

(More about the Royal Tern on: Wikipedia)

White-collared Swift

White-collared Swift
The White-collared Swift (Streptoprocne zonaris) is a very large swift. It is gray-black overall with blue gloss on breast and back, and a very distinct white collar. Its bill, legs and feet are black. This bird can fly strong and fast, as the rapid shallow wing beats followed with long glides. It soars on thermals and updrafts, ranging many miles daily to feed, eating insects such as beetles, bees and flying ants, which are caught in-flight. It builds a saucer nest of mud, moss and chitin, placed on cave ledges. These nests are usually found behind a waterfall. And this noisy swift has a screeching “chee-yar!” call, which may be given in chorus by a flock.

(More about the White-collared Swift on:, Wikipedia)

Barn Swallow

A flying Barn Swallow
The Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) is the most widespread species of swallow in the world. With its glistening cobalt blue above and tawny below, it darts gracefully over fields, barnyards, and open water in search of flying insect prey. What sets it apart from other swallows is its deeply forked tail that streams out behind. Barn Swallows often cruise low, flying just a few inches above the ground or water. True to their name, they build their cup-shaped mud nests almost exclusively on human-made structures.

(More about the Barn Swallow on: All About Birds, Wikipedia)

Tennessee Warbler

Tennessee Warbler (Vermivora peregrina) at Savegre Lodge, Costa Rica
The Tennessee Warbler (Oreothlypis peregrina) has long wings, short tail and a thin, pointy bill. The breeding male has olive back, shoulders, rump and vent. The flight feathers are brownish-black. It has a slate gray neck, crown and eyeline. The underside is a gray-white. A dainty warbler of the Canadian boreal forest, it specializes in eating the spruce budworm. Consequently its population goes up and down with fluctuations in the populations of the budworm.

(More about the Tennessee Warbler on: All About Birds, Wikipedia)

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Male, Immature Male and Female Chestnut-sided Warblers
No other warbler combines a greenish-yellow cap, a white breast, and reddish streaks down the sides. Thus among its relatives, the Chestnut-sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica) is very unmistakable in appearance especially in its summer plumage. It sings a series of high whistled musical notes, usually accented at the end, which is often described as "pleased, pleased, pleased to MEECHA."

(More about the Chestnut-sided Warbler on: All About Birds, Wikipedia)

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican in flight
Despite being the smallest among the other species of pelican, the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is still a large one, as compared to other birds. It is found along the ocean shores and on only a few inland lakes. It is also unique among the other pelicans, being the only dark-plumed, and also the only one that plunges from the air into the water to catch its food. Like all pelicans, this species has a very large bill, with a gular pouch on the bottom for draining water when it scoops out prey.

(More about the Brown Pelican on: All About Birds, Wikipedia)


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