Northern Bentbill

Who bent my bill?

This week’s bird-banding at CATIE, Turrialba,  was the first in a while for me.  The location was Cacao, which is pretty heavily forested and always seems to yield a few surprises.  Today brought two birds that were new to me, the Northern bentbill (Oncostoma cinereigulare), a tiny flycatcher that became an instant favourite of mine, and the Kentucky warbler (Oporornis formosus) , well-known in the Eastern U.S.  We also had another Long-billed gnatwren (Ramphocaenus melanurus) who was quite vocal about his capture.  This time I managed to get a decent photo at last, and so I include it.

Long-billed gnatwren strikes a pose

Although all three of these birds are rated fairly common to common, I added two to my life list.  Now I must always smile when I think of the Bentbill, such a cute little fellow with his eye-ring and ruffled crown.  He wears a slightly bemused expression that is somehow tinged with sadness.  Who bent my bill?, he seems to be asking.  Stiles & Skutch say that this little bird does not pair and is “solitary even in breeding season”.  This may explain his glum look.  Here it is again.

Norther Bentbill still glum

When I first saw him in the net, I thought it was the Paltry tyrannulet (Zimmerius vilissimus), a bird I see regularly at home in San Antonio and whose slightly downturned single-note call I have recently come to regognise with some degree of success.  By the way, Stiles & Skutch call this bird the Mistletoe tyrannulet, a much more appropriate and less demeaning name, I believe.

The Kentucky warbler has a classically beautiful look that at first may bring to mind the Common yellowthroat.  It’s one of a group of four warblers, genus Oporornis, that stay fairly close to the ground.  All four migrate through Costa Rica, though the Connecticut warbler (Oporornis agilis) is only casual, and I have not yet seen MacGillivray’s warbler (Oporornis tolmiei) here yet either.  Ale did the banding of the guy from Kentucky and here’s a shot showing how she manipulates the bird in the hand.  She makes it look easy, but it’s actually a fairly difficult procedure when done correctly with minimum possibility of damaging the bird, which may easily become stressed.

How to handle a warbler

I imagine the Kentucky warbler falls more easily into the nets since it prefers to keep fairly low.  Here he is being photographed after banding at the Cacao location.

Kentucky warbler at the Cacao location

Final photo of the day is of the beautiful and not often seen skulker, the Black-throated wren.  This is a very dark wren endemic to Central America (Nicaragua, Costa Rica and western Panama).  It is common in some places, but Stiles & Skutch still have the note ‘Nest undescribed?’ and are not sure of its breeding times.  We should check our records here at CATIE regarding brood patch on any banded females.

Black-throated wren ready to fly

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