Costa Rica has 10 trogon species, but when you’re in the Turrialba area you’re really only going to be concerned with 4 of them, two with yellow bellies and two with red bellies. Of course, the Resplendent Quetzal is also one of the aforementioned ten species and can be found on the upper slopes of the Turrialba Volcano, specifically at La Lorena and at Bajos del Volcán. I’ll omit it from discussion here because the spectacular male and the grey-bellied female are sufficiently distinctive to preclude any identification problems.
The yellow-bellied species are the Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus) (see Karel Straatman’s photo of a male above) and the Black-throated Trogon (Trogon rufus). The more common of the two is certainly the Gartered Trogon, formerly known as the Violaceous Trogon, but, assuming you can exclude red-bellied species, you need to see clearly the bill colour (yellow in the Black-throated) or, in the case of the male, the colour of the orbital ring around the eye (yellow in the Gartered). The green head of the Black-throated male may appear all dark in thick forest and thus is not always definitive. Karel’s second photo shows a male Black-throated and, as you can see, the really definitive field marks are the yellow bill and the blue ring around the eye. In the Turrialba area, we can eliminate the very similar Black-headed Trogon (the third yellow-bellied species), which is found almost exclusively in Guanacaste, the dry northwestern part of the country.
In our area, I usually think first of the Gartered Trogon, simply because I have seen it much more often. Down at his San Diego cabin this week, Chalo Porras found as many as 4 individuals. Its call note is a very loud and distinctive kyew, kyew, kyew …, as Garrigues and Dean so aptly describe it, and I heard a pair making quite a racket yesterday when I went to check out my San Diego patch. Here’s one of Chalo’s photos from this week:
And now for the red-bellied species. The guide books show 6, not counting the Quetzal, but you’ll be relieved to know that only two of them feature on our area’s checklists. These are the Collared Trogon (Trogon collaris) and the Slaty-tailed Trogon (Trogon massena), with the former being much the more common. Distribution maps indicate the possibility of seeing either the Orange-bellied Trogon or the Lattice-tailed Trogon, but neither of these figure on local checklists. I have seen a male trogon (at nearby Torito) with a suspiciously orange-red belly, but, lacking conclusive evidence, I still had to assume that it was another Collared Trogon.
Here’s Richard Garrigues’ pic of the red-bellied trogon that you most likely will find near here:
Note the dull eye with no orbital skin, excluding all other possibilities except the aforementioned Orange-bellied.
The final picture below, courtesy again of Karel Straatman, shows a male Slaty-tailed Trogon, a species that is recorded with some regularity at Rancho Naturalista in Tuis. Any trogon you see will be a real treat!
Trogons are great birds, I do love to see them. Around here, we see the black-headed trogon most often. It has a distinctive blue eye ring. They seem to be fairly curious and follow us around at times, but keeping behind a safety screen of leaves.