Mistaken id: Golden-crowned warbler (Basileuterus culicivorus)


Quebrada La Loca on its way to the Río Reventazón


Quebrada La Loca, living up to its name

The Quebrada La Loca, one of the two mountain streams that pour down through San Antonio, is a trickle at the moment, but the images above show what can happen when the rains come.  This is the section just above the forested area that is so productive for birdwatching.

On the way to the Quebrada yesterday, the doctor’s bottle-brush trees held me up because they were full of hummingbirds, ten or more of at least three different species.  Rufous-tailed were of course the most numerous, and they were the ones doing the pursuing of other species, a hopeless task since the latter refused to be driven away.  Violet-crowned woodnymph was one species, but I also had brief glimpses of a species with a long post-ocular stripe (probably Purple-throated mountain-gem) and a female with a spotted belly (more belly than breast!).  I shall return later in the week and hope to confirm.

However, this quick trip down to the Quebrada brought a new warbler species to the San Antonio list, the Golden-crowned warbler (Basileuterus culicivorus). But it also brought the horrible realisation that I have been claiming, since March, that we have Three-striped warblers here near the Quebrada.  Now, however, I know why what I thought were Three-striped warblers had such a very yellow breast!  Because of the gloom of the late afternoon in the forest it’s not easy to be sure of the identification.  A pair of small all-yellow warblers with tail often cocked and constant wing flutters roamed around the last few rows of trees before the Quebrada, and then finally allowed a good look when they descended to the trees above the river bank.  Their constant motion made it additionally difficult, but the give-away is the constant clicking sound they make.  It’s the Golden-crowned warbler!  I have seen the species before, but never here at home, I thought.

Here are photos of the two species for you to compare:

Golden-crowned warbler, but where is the golden crown?

Three-striped warbler

Three-striped warbler, but where are those damn stripes?

As you can see, the crown stripes are really not very helpful, especially if you’re mostly looking at the bird from below, as in Karel’s shot of the Three-striped warbler.  Of course, the very yellow breast of the Golden-crowned separates them immediately, but a novice like me has trouble working from just the illustrations in the guides.

Sitting quietly on the forest floor for a few minutes can often bring dividends, and today’s biggest surprise was a solitary Olive-striped flycatcher (Mionectes olivaceous).  Life bird! Big deal, you say.  This is a supposedly common bird on the Caribbean slope, and it’s really just a drab and very quiet and inconspicuous little chap, but it was high excitement for me.  A true knee-trembler, as a veteran US birder in northern Mexico once exclaimed.  The white spot behind the eye and the streaked breast made identification fairly easy, even though I had only a rather brief glimpse in the shade of the forest.

Yes, a wonderful day, but now I have to rescind the Three-striped warbler that I have sought so long!

Any help with photos of today’s featured birds will be much appreciated, especially the Olive-striped flycatcher.

3 thoughts on “Mistaken id: Golden-crowned warbler (Basileuterus culicivorus)

  1. Hi Paul, in 2009 a made three uggly pictures of a three-striped.They were not in my selection but I will enclose them now hereby.I have no Golden-crowned.If you nannot open them please let me know. A+

    Karel Straatman tel fixe 04 94 67 87 48 Portable 06 86 69 79 66

    Date: Sun, 19 May 2013 02:44:37 +0000 To: karelstraatman@hotmail.com


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