Readers’ wildlife photographs

Reader Robert Lang continues his photodocumentation of Costa Rica:

Continuing January’s Costa Rica trip. I shot a lot of birds, so am dividing them into groups. A few months ago we had hummingbirds. Coming up in a while, water birds. But today: passerines, raptors, and everything else.
At the Monteverde Biological Reserve, the tiny Bananaquits (Coereba flaveola) vied with the hummingbirds for access to the feeders.
Our naturalist/guide got very excited when we saw a Black-Faced Solitaire (Myadestes melanops); apparently, they’re somewhat less common than some of the other birds of Monteverde.
The Clay Colored Robin (Turdus grayi) is the national bird of Costa Rica; surprising because it is uniformly brown and ordinary-looking. (No, the genus name is not based on its color. Turdus are thrushes, like the American Robin.) Why not something more spectacularly colored, like the toucan or quetzal? According to our guide, they wanted the national bird to be one that can be seen all over the country.
The Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) was a fairly common sight.
As was the similarly yellow-breasted Social Flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis). They and the Great Kiskadee are both members of the Tyrannidae family, the “tyrant flycatchers.” (Oh how the dinosaurs have fallen, if this is what passes for a tyrant these days. Someone needs to Make Dinosaurs Great Again.)
Another yellow-breasted bird was the quite small White-Collared Manakin (Manacus candei). This one was cute and neat on his branch, but when he hopped down to wash up in a puddle, ended up just a bit bedraggled.
The Montezuma Orependola (Psarocolius montezuma) is a large bird with a bright yellow tail, but the most striking thing about it is its nest; they build long, pendulous nests in colonies, typically in tall, isolated trees.
There were two types of grackle: the Great-tailed and Nicaraguan. Only the guides could tell them apart. The Nicaraguan grackles (Quiscalus nicaraguensis) were some of the noisiest birds, whose call is a long, descending siren-like whistle.
The Great-Tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) looks pretty much the same, but its tail is, I guess, something to be proud of.
There are several types of toucan, which are iconic birds of the rain forest, but we only ever saw them from a great distance (like this one, shot with an iPhone held up to a spotting scope) or glimpsed in heavy leaf cover. This one appears to be the Chestnut-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus swainsonii).
Also seen only from a distance, the Lineated Woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus), similar to the Pileated woodpeckers of North America.
A Yellow-Headed Caracara (Milvago chimachima) found something tasty washed up by the riverside.
And the cleanup crew: Black vultures (Coragyps atratus), on the Pacific side:
And a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) on the Caribbean side.
The most impressive forest birds were the motmots, which have “paddles” descending from their tails. First, a Rufous-Capped Motmot (Baryphthengus ruficapillus):
And last, a completely rufous bird, the Rufous-Colored Motmot (Baryphthengus martii):


  1. rickflick
    Posted August 9, 2016 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Beautiful birdlife. Costa Rica is on my bucket list.

    • bluemaas
      Posted August 9, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      O ! and on mine, too, rickflick: on my bucket list, too !

      And whilst its national bird may seem nondescript, to me it is gorgeously … … all – brown ! and all over the country. I had not known of this specific robin before so, thank you Mr Lang, for informing us of it; I am going (to be able) to remember ‘clay’ as, instead, ‘gray – i’ as of Turdus grayi. And thank you for letting us in on all of these other fetching flying avifauna !


  2. Posted August 9, 2016 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Very nice, thanks for sharing these.

  3. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted August 9, 2016 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    This is a fantastic lineup of pictures! The white collared manakin is especially adorable. Thank you.

  4. darrelle
    Posted August 9, 2016 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Very nice! Love the Motmots. I’ve never seen them before.

  5. Posted August 9, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Great photos!

  6. Jeremy Tarone
    Posted August 9, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    We get Turkey Vultures here on Vancouver Island each summer. I’ve only seen them on the ground once, they looked ungainly, awkward and not terribly pretty but they are beautiful when flying.

  7. Karen Bartelt
    Posted August 9, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Lovely photos. Must go back!

  8. Mark R.
    Posted August 9, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Terrific variety of photos.

  9. Bernard Grossman
    Posted August 9, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Pictures brought back memories of birding in Costa Rica. I think that one bird is misidentified. The gray-headed,yellow-breasted bird labeled “Social Flycatcher” (sixth picture)is really a Tropical Kingbird. In spite of this, the Collared Mannikin is really neat.

    • bugfolder
      Posted August 9, 2016 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Ah, thanks for the correction! I’d been double-checking the IDs I’d brought back from the trip, but missed that one. (The naturalist sounded so confident.)

      • Paul Matthews
        Posted August 9, 2016 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        Beautiful photos that make me want to get back to Costa Rica! In addition to the Social Flycatcher/Tropical Kingbird correction, I think the first motmot is a Broad-billed Motmot (Electron platyrhynchum). In the “quibble” department, the second motmot’s English name is simply Rufous Motmot, and, due to some taxonomic lumping, the English name of the species formerly known as Chestnut-mandibled Toucan is now Yellow-throated Toucan, although it seems fine enough to still call the Central American subspecies Chestnut-mandibled.

    • John Harshman
      Posted August 9, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      I tried to turn one of the kiskadees into a social flycatcher, but I don’t think I can. The bills are just too big. Now why would two fairly distantly related species of tyrannids have almost identical plumage?

      Love the motmots.

  10. Posted August 9, 2016 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Spectacular! Thanks a bunch!

  11. keith cook + / -
    Posted August 11, 2016 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Yeah that was an excellent bunch, thanks.

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