Elegant Euphonia and friends

elegant euphonia

from dominic sherony’s photostream on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/9765210@N03/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

A few rays of sunshine cut through the rain and mist today to reveal a pair of Elegant euphonias in the mistletoe at the top of the guayabo.  The female is cute, but the male is a stunning jewel with its combination of powder-blue and tawny-orange.  This is only the second time I’ve seen this highland species, in exactly the same location in the garden, clambering around the mistletoe and giving little whistles that don’t seem as unmusical as Garrigues & Dean say.  The locals know them, despite their comparative scarcity, and call them caciquitas.  I managed to get a few photos, none of them, however, doing justice to the superb beauty of this bird. As you can see, Dominic’s does, however!

A second highland species and  close relative, the rualdo (some say dualdo), is the Golden-browed chlorophonia, a beautiful green and yellow little bird.  It is called common by the villagers, and they can all imitate its whistled call.  I, however, have yet to see it here in San Antonio.  The one I did see in bright sunlight at Bajos del Volcán was a true knee-trembler, to quote an old birding acquaintance, famous for his verbosity.  My neighbour, Víctor, found a male rualdo that had been stunned, perhaps against a window, just a few hundred yards up the road, and he kept it in a cage for a week or so before releasing it.  I visited it several times, but I regret not having photographed it.

The third family member from this area that I have seen and identified is the Tawny-capped euphonia.  It is generally found at rather lower elevations than the other two and is considered ‘common’ both by Stiles & Skutch and by Garrigues & Dean.  I count myself fortunate to have seen just one of these beauties, up a little higher at a village called Torito.

Elegant Euphonia in my guayabo

Male Elegant Euphonia in my guayabo tree some years ago.

The above are all birds that would really make my day, were I to see any of them at any time.  There are, however, two other euphonias that may with rather more justification called common and that have visited my garden with much greater regularity.  These are the Yellow-throated and Yellow-crowned euphonias.  In direct contradiction to the printed maps in Garrigues & Dean, the former, supposedly found on the Pacific side, is much the more regular of the two species here.  I have only occasionally seen the Yellow-crowned, which purportedly roams both the Caribbean and the Pacific slopes.  The very similar White-vented euphonia, which is the only other euphonia that ought also to be present in this area, according to the literature, has also appeared, both here in San Antonio as well as at nearby locations such as San Rafael, San Diego and the Guayabo National Monument. The Olive-backed euphonia is also listed as ‘common’ to 1000 m on the Caribbean and has also appeared at the latter locations, but we are perhaps just a tad too high for regular sightings here at 1200 m.

As a footnote, I mention that the bananas were in great demand today from all the usual suspects, including unusually large numbers of Baltimore orioles.  Tomorrow, however, I’ll be out there hoping for more caciquitas.

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