My Girl The Month of May (Dion DiMucci): dubious id’s

Our toucans continue to terrorise the local flycatchers

Our toucans continue to terrorise the local flycatchers

Several local friends were horrified to learn that the beautiful Keel-billed toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratos) loves to eat the nestlings of smaller birds.  A pair are currently nesting in a huge higuerón tree overlooking the Quebrada La Loca.  This week they again ransacked a kiskadee nest in my garden, extracting, this time, a very large nestling.  The poor kiskadees are powerless to stop them, despite the aid of a pair of Social flycatchers whose nest was also robbed and partially destroyed just a few weeks ago.

Collared araçari, a latter-day pterodactyl.

Collared araçari, a latter-day pterodactyl.

A lone Collared araçari (Pteroglossus torquatus) sitting in a thin tree by the roadside coming back from San Diego was a little unusual because this is only the second time I have seen it reasonably close to my house.  Where there is one of these, there are usually more, but not this time.

All photos in this post are courtesy of Kevin Bartlett, a compatriot of mine now living in Belgium, but a good friend of Costa Rica.   Check out all of Kevin’s fantastic photos at

Migration seems well and truly over, but the month of May always brings some surprises and this year is no different.  Some hummingbird species that are usually absent from my garden seem always to pop up in this first post-nesting period.  Neighbour Wiet in San Rafael continues to report interesting hummers, for example Green-crowned brilliant (Heliodoxa jacula).  This species should be easy to find here at this elevation, but I have still never seen a single one.  Wiet has lots of White-necked jacobins (Florisuga mellivora), much outnumbering the resident Rufous-taileds, at her feeders, while I have had at least a couple (at bottle-brush trees) plus several sightings of Green hermit (Phaethornis guy), which generally prefers thicker forest.  The male jacobin has a beautiful combination of blue and white and its larger size further distinguishes it from the Rufous-tailed.  A small hummingbird with a rufous tail and a white collar has given me brief glimpses lately, and I fancy it to be the Scintillant hummingbird (Selasphorus scintilla).  According to distribution maps, it should be found here but I have never made a positive identification close to home.  Violet-crowned woodnymph (Thalurania colombica)  has also appeared again, though down the hill at San Diego. On the other hand, the Violet Sabrewing (Campylopterus hemileucurus), usually a frequent visitor, has not been here for what seems like a very long time.


Male Scintillant Hummingbird, rufous-tailed but tiny and light-coloured on first impression.

Three small swifts twittering overhead this week were not the usual White-collared swifts (Streptoprocne zonaris) that appear with almost every rainstorm.  I am at a loss to know species the little ones are.  Someone needs to tell them to slow down so we can get a good look at them.  I have to assume Vaux’s swift (Chaetura vauxi), on the basis of usual geographical distribution.

Right next to the house, I spent a good half an hour looking at a perched elaenia that never moved.  It had a slightly bushy head but never looked like a typical Yellow-bellied elaenia (Elaenia flavogaster), which I see every day.  However, I have been wrong before with this one because the Yellow-bellieds sometimes have the crest lowered, and so I hesitate to call this one the Lesser elaenia (Elaenia chiriquensis).  A problem that I have with these two is that I cannot for the life of me see the pale wing patch noted by Richard Garrigues (The Birds of Costa Rica) on the Lesser elaenia.

Lesser elaenia, definitely, but no wing patch in this shot.

Lesser elaenia, definitely, but no wing patch in this shot.

Kevin’s photos reminded me of another sighting that gave me problems  two weeks ago.  This was at the edge of thick forest down at Chalo’s cabin in San Diego.  I thought I got a good look at a small bird peeking under leaves, sometimes almost upside down, but not perching for more than a second in any one spot.  Tawny-crowned greenlet (Hylophilus ochraceiceps) ! I said gleefully, never having seen one in my life.  Unfortunately, Kevin has a photo of one but both he and Richard Garrigues are not fully sure that it isn’t a female Plain antvireo (Dysithamnus mentalis).  Of course, I’ve never seen the damn antvireo in my life before either!  Where do they hide, anyway?  There are at least 28 different species of antbirds in Costa Rica, of which I have seen a grand total of 3, and only 2 in the Turrialba area.  Actually, Wiet did report a Barred antshrike over at San Rafael, same elevation as here and similar habitat.  All the rest of them avoid San Antonio and environs like the plague.  Anyway, here is Kevin’s photo:

Tawny-crowned greenlet or Plain antvireo?

Tawny-crowned greenlet or Plain antvireo?

So now I’m not sure about the greenlet either, especially since I did NOT see the pale iris that the greenlet is supposed to have.  I did see the belly and breast very well, which seemed a sort of darkish, streaky yellow.  And yes, it had a tawny crown!  Ah well.



4 thoughts on “My Girl The Month of May (Dion DiMucci): dubious id’s

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s