Despite our best efforts, birds continue to crash into our windows. Our guest, Stephie, had the happy idea of placing falcon stickers on the big windows and we are now careful also to close doors that cause views from one side of the house to the other. From time to time, however, birdies continue to become confused and bump into the windows. Recovery rate is now pretty good, however, and it has been quite a while since we have had a fatality.
Yesterday, a huge bang against the back window at 6.00 am during a thunderstorm made me fear the worst. From the magnitude of the sound, I imagined it would be a White-tipped dove (Leptotila verrreauxi). You can hear the rather mournful cooing of this beautiful species most mornings as pairs pick through the grassy areas of the garden. Because of the speed of its flight, this is the most likely fatality candidate if one hits the window.
Just last week it happened again but the bird made a complete recovery. In the hand, the blue orbital skin around the eye is an easy marker to exclude Gray-headed and Gray-chested doves (page 91 in Garrigues & Dean). In actual fact, I have not identified either of those two species in our area, though the Gray-chested (Leptotila cassini) is very likely here at some times of the year. The brown nape of this species should make it rather easier to identify.
However, the mighty thump in the thunderstorm belonged, to my great surprise, to a Bare-shanked screech-owl (Megascops clarkii). This is the commonest owl in our area, although it is found only from Costa Rica to northwestern Colombia, and then only in the highlands. It can be heard calling most nights in San Antonio, sometimes simultaneously with the calls of the Tropical screech-owl (Megascops choliba). For several years I was able to find a roosting pair in a nearby higueron, but unfortunately that tree became a storm victim several months ago.
This individual was very stunned and looked a goner at first. My CPR for birds is very basic and I’m sure totally unscientific. It does seem to bring results, however, so I blew repeatedly over several minutes into the rusty face of the owl and he continued to show movement. I took him to the table in the ranchito, off the ground away from ants or other predators, and there he soon righted himself. He stared balefully at his surroundings for a good twenty minutes before finally flying off. This was a mature bird but the ‘horns’ were not at all conspicuous, even close up. My photo attempts failed miserably, but here’s a pic of an immature that was rescued a long while back by the Turrialba Volcano park guards, who live next door. No horns in sight!