The national bird of Costa Rica is the Clay-colored Thrush, perhaps my favorite decision for a national bird of any country’s.  The Yigüirro, as it is called in Costa Rica, was declared Costa Rica’s national bird on 3 January 1977.  But why choose the Yigüirro at all in a country teeming with iconic and flashy birds like macaws, motmots, toucans, and tanagers?  This question is especially relevant considering that the bird is so bland that its scientific name is Turdus grayi, which, translated by someone who doesn’t speak Latin, means Gray Thrush.*

According to the website Costa Rica:

The clay-colored thrush was chosen as the national bird for several reasons. Due to its wide range and tendency to live close to humans, it is well known and therefore mentioned in many of Costa Rica’s folk songs, short stories and novels. The males are also cherished for their exquisite song; during mating season, they serenade potential mates with an unmistakable tune.

Common, widespread, confiding, and given to beautiful song – it is surprising that more countries haven’t chosen the Clay-colored Thrush as their national bird!  And how beautiful is their song?  Take a listen here.  The Yigüirro sounds to me like an American Robin after voice lessons, though I do think that going so far as to call their song “exquisite” is a bit too much.

The Clay-colored Thrush is the perfect example of a bird that has achieved national bird status not by being showy, huge, ferocious, or any other superlative.  The Yigüirro is, at the risk of anthropomorphizing, simply a nice bird with a good personality.  People, especially Costa Ricans, seem to appreciate that.

*As we learned in the comments the bird was actually named for “Mr. G. R. Gray, a young ornithologist” by Prince Bonaparte.

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.