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Some Beautiful Birds of Tortuguero

October 17, 2011

I know you’ve all been anxiously waiting to see pictures of the cool birds that I’ve been banding.  And I’ve been eager to take pictures of them.  But it is much harder than it seems it should be to get good pictures of birds in the hand, particularly here in Costa Rica.

First of all, just like anywhere, the bird isn’t interested in posing;  it wants to fly away and get on with its day.  So they flap their wings, and they turn their heads.  Plus there are issues with equipment.  My camera was giving me an error message for a while (it seems to work now),  plus the lens tends to fog up due to the humidity.  Plus some sites it isn’t safe to bring my camera unless I want to carry it with me constantly.  And the little camera that I borrowed from my dad often isn’t fast enough or doesn’t focus on the right spot.  Or it is just too dark in the jungle, or too rainy, or there’s just no time  because we are catching a lot of birds.  We record a lot more data here than I am used to at Canadian banding stations, and are more exact in explaining how we age a bird (not just by plumage, but specifying what plumage, or by feather shape, or moult limit, or….) so that makes the process a lot longer.

But here are some photos of a few of the species we are catching.  I apologise in advance for the poor quality of many of them, but they do the job.  (Also, please excuse the filthy fingernails and hands!  😉 )

Social Flycatcher

This guy is special because this species was my first Costa Rican lifer.  He actually was quite a social guy, as several of his friends came to express their displeasure that he was caught.  They have a hidden red and yellow crown patch.


Adult male Blue-gray Tanager

A handsome fellow.  They are quite common.  They also are quite the biters.

Wedge-billed Woodcreeper

What a little cutie.

Streak-headed Woodcreeper

We’ve caught several of these. I like them a lot; I think their brown tones are quite pretty.

We’ve also caught Northern Barred Woodcreeper, which are huge (about flicker sized.)

Another view of another Streak-headed Woodcreeper

Adult male Violet-crowned Wood-nymph

Unfortunately, hummingbirds can’t be held by their legs (aka in “the photographer’s grip.”)

the back view

We’ve caught quite a few kinds of hummingbirds, and I’ve had the chance to learn how to band them.  It’s isn’t hard but it is difficult to hold them still sometimes!

American Pygmy-kingfisher

Kingfishers also shouldn’t be held by their legs, but luckily this one lay still for a moment for me.

Young White-collared Manakin

Where’s the white-collar, you ask?  Well, only the adult males have them.  Plus they have black caps and yellow bellies.  The hatch-years and females are olive-green.

Here’s another one, but with a deformed bill.  Banding manakins is like trying to band an exploding blue ink pen.  They all seem to have eaten copious amounts of dark blue berries.

Male Olive-backed Euphonia

Male Passerini’s Tanager

Another biter.

Buff-throated Saltator

there’s the buff throat– although it’s really more peach-toned.  Buff is overused in bird descriptions.

White-breasted Wood-wren

If you look closely you can see it was moulting its flight feathers.

Worm-eating Warbler

He just wouldn’t hold still!

Up to now, all the photos have been of resident birds.  This guy is a migrant, freshly arrived from the southeastern United States.

Adult male Summer Tanager

Another North American migrant.  At one point we had an adult male, a hatch year male, and a female all at once, but attempts to get a decent photo of all three side by side failed miserably.

Some days we have been catching far more migrants than residents– a lot of Empidonax flycatchers (just Acadian and Trail’s so far), Eastern Wood-Pewees, Prothonotary Warblers, Canada Warblers, Catharus thrushes (Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked, and Veery)…

There’s also been many more awesome residents– Boat-billed Flycatcher, Bicolored Antbird, Variable Seedeater, Thick-billed Seed-finch, Bright-rumped Attila…

I’m currently at the Madre Selva field site, where there’s a whole new set of birds to see.  But up here in the cloud forest it seems to rain a lot (imagine that!) so again, photography is challenging.  But I’ll have some sort of pictures to share someday soon, I hope!

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Pamela permalink
    October 17, 2011 7:40 pm

    Beautiful birdies! Savannah says it is not good that some of them bite you. Good luck getting more photos. Do you ever have days off when you can do that?

    • October 18, 2011 5:48 pm

      I had one day off so far, but I had gone out with the turtle interns the night before, so I slept it, and it was a really hot morning, so by the time I was out trying to photograph birds all I could find was the leaf-cutter ants. I’ll have another day off later this month and I’ll try to get up earlier!

  2. October 17, 2011 8:23 pm

    YEAH!! I am insanely jealous right now. Erica and I met in Panama studying those male white-collared manakins. Feisty little buggars.

  3. Ed Golem permalink
    October 18, 2011 6:29 am

    Beautiful photos and descriptions. I am looking forward to more of the same.

  4. Jennie Frances permalink
    October 18, 2011 2:12 pm

    That was worth waiting for. I feel bad for the birdie with the deformed bill. How does it eat? What beautiful birds. The male blue grey Tananger is pretty. Sorry they are biters.

  5. October 18, 2011 5:51 pm

    I’m pretty sure they eat berries, and it didn’t seem unhealthy otherwise, so it must find a way to get them into its mouth– and they would swallow them whole normally. I don’t think an insect-eater with a bill like that would survive.

  6. October 19, 2011 8:26 am

    I like the Blue-Grey Tanager, he is pretty. I believe I was a Scarlet Tanager in Girl Guides, is this the Boy Scout version of that? 😉

    The hummingbird is quite lovely too.

    Do you keep any stray pretty feathers?

  7. Jennie Frances permalink
    October 19, 2011 6:11 pm

    I meant to mention that I noticed a “picture” on a clients wall before I saw this and it is a sea turtle painted on a large blue green bird feather and it has Costa Rica written on one side. This ladies grandson brought it back for her. I can’t say we have any bird feathers here to compare it too – perhaps a large Raven feather. It seemed wide for its length. Very interesting anyway.

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