House List: Chestnut-headed oropendola and Brown-hooded parrot

The November rains are now definitely here, but I merely have to look out of the window to enjoy my birdwatching hobby here in San Antonio de Santa Cruz de Turrialba.  One unexpected visitor was a Green heron (Butorides virescens), whether attracted by the rain or the ponds, I don’t know.  

Migration proper is almost over but many migrants stay over for the winter, and so I can look forward to seeing warblers in the guayabos right through until April.  Yellow, Tennessee and Golden-winged warblers are the most common at the moment, but Black-and-white and Wilson’s are also around.  The Golden-winged (Vermivora chrysoptera) is the subject of a current census study and needs to be reported.  The individuals I have seen in San Antonio this year have been immatures.  I still cannot completely solve the problem of the house windows, and a beautiful Silver-throated tanager (Tangara icterocephala), a species not often seen here at the house, was the latest victim.

I always consider the House List to be the most important piece of information, both for me personally and also for our birdwatching hobby in general.  After all, nobody else keeps that information.  I’m convinced that it’s important to be able to share it with local, national and world-wide data bases but it’s not always to easy.  Perhaps the best bet is to use ebird as a data centre, so I’m working on that, though I haven’t yet figured out the best way to do it.  Daily, weekly, monthly, or annually?  Maybe some reader of this blog could advise me.

My local patch here in San Antonio continues to give me immense pleasure, even while I have wonderful access to CATIE’s bird-banding programme.  I missed what would have been a life bird for me last week, when I was absent in Panama to renew my visa.  Huge numbers of birds ran into the nets, including, for the first time, an Olive-striped flycatcher (Mionectes olivaceus).  According to Stiles & Skutch, this bird is a common breeding resident at middle elevations on the Caribbean slope, but it is not listed as having been seen at CATIE on any of the available sources.  In the photo (courtesy of Fabrice De Clerck), you can see the olivaceus, on the right, together with our in-house and very similar mionectes, the Ochraceous Flycatcher.

Olive-striped flycatcher (right) compared with the Ochre-bellied flycatcher

I am currently working on updating CATIE’s own list which is about three times the length of my own house list, but the last two week’s major excitement has been the addition to the latter of the Chestnut-headed oropendola (Psarocolius wagleri) and the Brown-hooded parrot (Pionopsitta haematotis).

Brown-hooded parrot - looking for jocotes?

Brown-hooded Parrot – looking for jocotes?

The little flock of 9 parrots, which are about the same size as our locally common chucuyos (White-crowned parrot [Pionus senilis]), stopped in the guayabos, higuerones and eucalyptus only briefly and I was unable to get a good photograph.  The picture above is courtesy of Richard Garrigues.  The red patch in the wings was prominent, as was the  eye-ring, but I could find no red ear-mark on any of the birds and so pronounce them all or mostly immatures.

The Chestnut-headed oropendolas (two at least), by contrast, have now been here for almost two weeks.  They fly in with a large flock of our common Montezuma oropendola (Psarocolius montezuma) to eat bananas at the feeder.  Curiously, the larger Montezumas seem to stand politely by while the Wagleri get first bite.  The Chestnut-headed is a handsome bird; with its head casque (Skutch’s term) extending upwards from their beaks, they look rather like the medieval Norman knights in the Bayeux Tapestry.  I hope they will stay permanently but fear that when I run out of bananas they will head back to Guayabo National Monument.  Here’s my not very wonderful photo:

Chestnut-headed Oropendola first-served

I have seen both these species before at the Monument, which is less than 5 km distant.  The oropendola seems to be at its altitude limit here in San Antonio, while the parrot also prefers lower-lying areas.  Both species are said to prefer forested environments, so perhaps our area is experiencing regrowth of forest, to some extent at least.

My wife volunteers at the small library being established just below the Monument and was with friend Ree Strange Sheck, long-time CATIE worker and donor ( of the library to the village of Guayabo, when a Striped cuckoo (Tapera naevia) paid a call.  This is another supposedly common bird of deforested areas that I have never seen.  My wife wants credit for this one and is gleeful to have finally seen a bird that I haven’t, but Ree was the person who got this great photo.

Striped Cuckoo at Guayabo Library

Juan Espino Blanco Reserve’s White-faced monkeys have put in a lot of appearances in San Rafael and Verbena, while a large troupe of Howler monkeys has frequented Torito and Bonilla recently.  A tamandua was a visitor to the bird-banding programme at CATIE last week, and to my surprise I have discovered that the Arca de Noé bar in Santa Cruz at the Guayabo turn-off has a resident kinkajou.  This big-eyed nocturnal animal, locally called martilla, eats bananas above the liquor bottles every night just after dark, while the locals enjoy their Pilsen with Giovanni’s excellent bocas.  The salchichas are particularly delicious.

On a final note, I will add that the Long-tailed silky-flycatchers (Ptylogonis caudatus) have now been here for a good month while Yellow-bellied elaenias, usually so common, have gone into hiding.  The Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias) has been out of sight for a few days now, despite regular checks.

4 thoughts on “House List: Chestnut-headed oropendola and Brown-hooded parrot

  1. Hey, Paul – It seems only fair that if you’re seeing “our” warblers, you should send that Striped Cuckoo or an Oropendula up here for a season. How about some international trade?! 🙂



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