Ten High Mountain Specialties from Costa Rica
Mountains are a boon for birding. Although marching up and down and up and down can be a literal pain, the feathered rewards come in the form of super cool local species that rarely or never make it down to lower elevations. At least that’s the case for Costa Rica. The montane forests of Costa Rica and western Panama are home to at least 50 species of birds that live nowhere else except for one or two that also occur in northwestern Colombia. Bird the high elevation habitats of the Talamancan Mountain Range and the regional endemics rule. For example, of the 60 or so species of birds that I saw last weekend in the upper, 2,500 meter reaches of the Dota Valley, 40 or so were highland endemics. Here are ten of those special species:
This yellow-eyed bird is a Volcano Junco. Although it does occur on a few volcanoes, a more accurate name would be “Paramo Junco”.
No, not a Eurasian Blackbird. This is a Sooty Thrush, a common species high up there in the mountains.
This smart looking bird used to be known as a Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager. Recently, the “bush-tanager” part was changed to “Chlorospingus”. This is one of the more common species in high elevation habitats.
The Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher is sort of like a Phainopepla that took a vacation in Costa Rica and stayed for a million years.
The White-throated Mountain-Gem is one of the few hummingbird species that live up there.
Black-billed Nightingale-Thrushes can hop around at your feet.
Finally, some color! Happily, the Flame-throated Warbler is common.
The Yellow-thighed Finch is also common. This bird is basically a brush-finch with yellow boots.
Don’t let those big, imploring eyes fool you. Like other pygmy-owls, the Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl is a pint-sized terror.
If you hear something that sounds like an Eastern Whip-Poor-Will, it’s a Dusky Nightjar.
But wait, what about the Resplendent Quetzal? Isn’t that a high elevation endemic too? Nope, in addition to Costa Rica and western Panama, the good old R. Quetzal also lives in cloud forests in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Nevertheless, despite it refusing to let Mike or Corey see it, Costa Rica is usually a good place to find one.
This one was showing its crazy colors at the La Georgina trails.
Since most of these pictures were taken at a place called Myriam’s Cafe and Cabins, I have to give a shout out to those very birder friendly people.
Any place that displays a sign like this should win a prize.