White-throated crake appears in person

White-throated crake

No longer invisible

The White-throated crake (Laterallus albigularis) is surely one of  the most frequently heard of the Costa Rican crakes and rails, but like most of the its coreligionaries it rarely allows itself to be seen.  I certainly had never caught more than the merest glimpse of one before last week (Jan. 19), so imagine my surprise when one was caught in the nets of CATIE’s bird banding programme.  The second surprise was the sheer beauty of the bird with its rufous breast, black-striped belly, green bill and red eye.

White-throated crake headshot

White-throated crake has red eye, green bill

At 15 cm (6″) it’s just a tiny fellow really, no bigger than a pewee, though considerably plumper.  This one was quite silent during the banding process and the photo session and didn’t make the churring sound for which it is famous.  Upon release it dropped down immediately into the nearest wet grass.  We were in cerca viva (live fence) but with considerably less vegetation than usual because of some recent pruning operations.

The crake’s capture rounded off a nice week’s banding, with beautiful weather finally returning to the Turrialba area.  Two days previously, we had an Indigo bunting (Passerina cyanea) and a Blue grosbeak (Passerina caerulea) among our customers at the mixed café and poró site.   This gave a great opportunity for comparing bill sizes but Alejandra had to steer clear of both these bills!

Indigo bunting immature male

Indigo bunting immature male packs a hefty bill

These finches (I imagine they are such) were new to me in this area.  The buntings was a non-breeding male that showed a good deal of blue in the plumage, but the grosbeak, as you can see, was a female with the typical cinnamon wing bars and heavy beak.  

 

Blue grosbeak female

But I’m not called a Grosbeak for nothing!

I attach the full list of the week´s bandings below but must mention a recent duck sighting.

The report of Ruddy duck (Oxyura) at the CATIE lagoon turned out to be true because, although we couldn’t find it, a visiting tour guide reported the presence of nine individuals at Casa Turire not far away on the reservoir.  You won’t find this species in the Costa Rican bird guides, but it is a known adventurer and surely must appear with some frequency at places like Caño Negro.  I knew it first from the United States where it was very common in many areas, but back in the nineties (I think) it began appearing in Britain and I was able to find it, nesting even, at the reservoirs at Greasbrough Dam, Yorkshire, near my boyhood home.

And now the bird banding list.

White-throated crake, Rufous-tailed hummingbird, Paltry tyrannulet, Common tody-flycatcher, Ochre-bellied flycatcher, Dusky-capped flycatcher, White-throated flycatcher, Gray-crowned flycatcher, Tennessee warbler, Chestnut-sided warbler, Northern waterthrush, Olive-crowned yellowthroat, Gray-crowned yellowthroat, Indigo bunting, Blue grosbeak, Thick-billed seedfinch, Variable seedeater, Yellow-faced grassquit, Blue-black grassquit, Yellow-throated euphonia

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